A favorite film from my youth comes to high def media. The Last Starfighter was a groundbreaking movie in special effects. While those effects look dated, the movie still rocks!
The Last Starfighter (1984, Blu-ray)
Directors: Nick Castle
Writers: Jonathan Betuel
Features: * Commentary * Featurettes * Image Gallery * D-Box * BD-Live
Lance Guest ... Alex Rogan / Beta Alex
Dan O'Herlihy ... Grig
Catherine Mary Stewart ... Maggie Gordon
Barbara Bosson ... Jane Rogan
Norman Snow ... Xur
Robert Preston ... Centauri
Chris Hebert ... Louis Rogan
John O'Leary ... Rylan Bursar
Portions of this review were taken from the HD DVD review "The Last Starfighter" written by DVDFuture writer, George
In 1984, "The Last Starfighter" took off from where the "Star Wars" series left off for me as a kid. There was the excitement that a video game was the key to becoming a fighter pilot in outer space. It was about dreams and having them come true, and about being a hero. To this day, I hold a fond view of "The Last Starfighter," and even remember having the comic when I was little. Now Universal has brought this sci-fi classic to high-def media by releasing it on Blu-ray disc.
To be honest, I cannot be a non-partial critic on this film, because it really is interwoven into my childhood. When watching it, I still laugh at the same parts that I did as a kid, like when Alex and Maggie are kissing, and younger brother Louis mutters, “Diarrhea!!” I still get caught up in Craig Safan’s epic score, and still cheer throughout the movie. But outside my biased gushing for a beloved film, I can give a quick synopsis of the plot.
Alex Rogan (Lance Guest, "Halloween II") is a young teenager that is tired of his life in the trailer park his family lives in. Left doing maintenance and mundane tasks, he feels he is missing out on something bigger. His only source of escape is his girlfriend Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart) and an arcade game. One night after missing a chance to have fun with his friends, Alex beats the game and breaks the record. Unfortunately, this achievement is tempered with the news that he lost his loan for going to college outside his small town.
That same night he is visited by a stranger, who promises Alex the change that he is seeking. Centauri (Robert Preston, "The Music Man") turns out to be an alien, and has recruited Alex to save the universe from the evil Xur and his Ko-Dan armada. While reluctant at first, Alex will soon learn that the threat to the aliens he has met is hitting too close to home. Faced with unspeakable odds, Alex, partnered with an alien named Grig (O'Herlihy), must defeat Xur and his warriors if his loved ones back home are to be saved.
"The Last Starfighter" will take you to a fantastical world with great characters, ground breaking (23 years ago) special effects, and a lot of space warfare. The special effects, mainly the computer models created, do look dated. But they also surprisingly work well, and scenes like the frontier, still hold up 23 years later. All in all, this movie is well worth seeing over and over again.
Film Report Card:
Entertainment Value: A+
Film Value: A+
"The Last Starfighter" is presented in 2.35:1 widescreen using the AVC MPEG-4 codec. The box indicated that this was a BD25 presentation, but the film is actually presented on a dual-layered BD50 disc consuming 34.0 gigs of disc space.
Universal heads back to the drawing board and provides a fresh, clean restoration of this 25-year-old film. The results are far better than the DVD, and the original HD DVD presentation, which was fairly good in its own way. The print is much cleaner, though a few specks of black and white dust sneak into the print on occasion. The image is significantly sharper, with finer details, better depth, striking colors and pristine black levels.
The encode shows no signs of compression flaws, but I did detect a faint hint of digital noise. The print also appears to have had DNR applied, which does remove some fine detail. While the film does suffer from a dated look, this BD presentation should bring a smile to the faces of most fans.
Audio choices are English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, English 2.0 Stereo with Spanish and French subtitles and English captions for the hearing impaired. Universal bumps up the TrueHD mix to DTS-HD, but the differences are negligible. The mix delivers on scenes with heavy surround use, but can be front-heavy when dialogue is used.
When Alex is in the Rylos base, I was hoping for a bit more envelopment from being supposedly in a large room full of people, but most of the sound originated from the front speakers. But there really shouldn't be too many complaints for this audio track, as it provides great range from the orchestral score, with resonant bass volumes, and crisp dialogue throughout.
Extras and Packaging:
This single-disc release comes packed in a blue elite case featuring the films' 25th Anniversary artwork. Extras are the same as the 25th Anniversary DVD release.
• Commentary -- Director Nick Castle and his production designer explain the movie in a commentary track. I listened to part of it, and there were some great tidbits mentioned, especially about the set designs.
• Featurette: Heroes of the Screen (24 minutes, HD) -- This retrospective featurette, made for the 25th anniversary, is a great addition for any fan. Several cast and crew members gather to discuss and recall memories from the production. It's a jovial experience packed with insight, and care. A must-watch.
• Featurette: Crossing the Frontier (32 minutes, SD) -- This featurette has Lance Guest hosting a look into how "The Last Starfighter" was made. It lasts for about 30 minutes and really gives you insight into how much effort was put into the computer graphics you see. You will see how the Cray Supercomputer was used to deliver revolutionary graphics for that time period.
• Promotional Material (SD) -- Also included is the theatrical trailer and teaser.
Universal's standard BD-Live web portal and D-Box decoding are available on the disc.
I really cannot recommend this film enough. Universal does a great job in upgrading the video and audio quality of a cherished film from my youth. This movie and "Flight of the Navigator" are some of my favorite sci-fi films from the 80’s. This movie is a definite buy!
Blu-ray Report Card:
HD Content: N/A
Recommendation: Highly recommended.
On BD and DVD: August 18, 2009.
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----R. L. Shaffer