Cult Movies

Cult Movie Essentials: The Last Starfighter (1984)

The Last Starfighter is one of the earliest films to make extensive use of computer graphics for its special effects. In place of physical models Director Nick Castle (who in a previous life played Michael Myers in Halloween) used 3D rendered models to bring this depiction of an alien intergalactic war to life.

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The story is simple and heavy on the wish fulfilment for those that grew up pumping 50p’s into arcade video games in depressing seaside towns. It is the story of video-gaming boy Alex, seemingly doomed to stay at his Trailer Park home all his life. Alex becomes the top player of Starfighter, an arcade game where the player defends “the Frontier” from “Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada”. After achieving his Best.Score. Ever. Alex is approached by the game’s creator, Centauri.

Ignoring the basic fundamentals of ‘Stranger Danger’ Alex steps into Centauri’s car, and finds himself recruited as a gunner for an alien defence force and whisked him off to another planet. Alex soon learns that the Starfighter game is actually a test to find skilled warriors to protect the Star League frontier against Xur and Kodan armada. Alex arrives at the planet Rylos but (perhaps not grasping the seriousness of the problem) he refuses the invitation.

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Alex goes back to the Trailer Park, because having your greatest fantasies come to life can be a little overwhelming. He then finds that he is being hunted by alien agents sent by Xur to kill him. He summons his old mate Centauri and learns that all the Starfighters have been murdered in a treacherous attack on the Rylos’ base. Feeling a tad responsible for this genocide, Alex and his partner Grig are the last chance to avoid the invasion of the cruel Xur.

Alright the story line is a bit derivative of Star Wars and the effects are on the croaky side but what it loses in those respects it more than makes up for its charm, warmth, and humour. It’s also a veritable cornucopia of scary alien faces, squelching syths and teenagers making out by a lake in very ’80s hair and makeup. The Last Starfighter is a secret gem that crams almost the entire Star Wars trilogy into one film, and is a delightful reminder of a time when family movies could repeatedly mention a young man’s Playboy collection.

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