Director: Randal Kleiser
Screenplay: Michael Burton and Matt McManus
Starring: Joey Cramer, Paul Reubens, Cliff DeYoung, Veronica Cartwright, Sarah Jessica Parker, Matt Adler
Year: 1986
Country: USA
BBFC Classification: U

Ah, Flight of the Navigator. One of those family adventure movies that, along with films like The Explorers and The Goonies very much defines memories of my childhood film viewing experience. A movie that’s arguably one of Disney’s lost gems, it’s getting a Blu-Ray reissue by Second Sight with a shiny new 4K scan and a slew of new bonus features to go alongside.

The story, for those unfamiliar, revolves around 12 year old David Freeman, a boy who is teleported 8 years into the future following an accident in a woods near his home. Having been presumed dead by his family for this time, he has to piece together what happened to him, as well as why he is being mysteriously drawn to an alien spaceship which crashed nearby and has been recovered by NASA.

Flight of the Navigator is still an absolute gem, 33 years after its original release. The story of David, displaced in time and in a world that is at once familiar yet alien, feeling utterly an outsider in his own family who have moved on since his disappearance, is as relevant today. This chunk of the narrative takes up the first half of the film and the emotional work is not scrimped on by director Randal Kleiser. Thankfully, at 89 minutes, the film breezes along to the titular Flight and turns in some groundbreaking VFX.

One of the first films to embrace CGI, following Disney’s success with Tron, as well as the ambitious The Last Starfighter, the morphing spaceship which David takes on a joy-ride for the remaining runtime may look crude against modern blockbusters, but it paved the way for more complex uses of computer animation thanks to its innovative uses of reflection mapping. The physical effects also hold up well with Max, the ship’s computer and the menagerie of aliens he has housed on board being brought to life through classic puppetry and animatronics.

It doesn’t hurt that the film is generally well acted all round, with Veronica Cartwright and Cliff DeYoung bringing gravitas to the roles of David’s distraught parents, and Joey Cramer hitting all the right emotional beats as David himself. A young Sarah Jessica Parker bubbles as the NASA intern who helps David, but it’s Paul Reubens who really impresses here as the voice of Max. Famous in the mid 80’s as Pee Wee Herman, Reubens initially brings an air of menace to the computer before unleashing his trademark madness as Max begins to absorb David’s personality.

Second Sight have done a fantastic job with the restoration here; both the picture and sound are far crisper than you will have experienced from multiple VHS and TV viewings back in the day. It’s a shame that we’re not getting a UHD release, but this Blu-Ray looks fantastic as is.

A charming and classic family sci-fi movie that holds up as well today as it did back in ‘86, Flight of the Navigator is well worth picking up for adults and kids alike.

  • Directing the Navigator – New Interview With Randal Kleiser
  • Producing The Navigator – New interview with Dimitri Villard
  • Playing The Navigator – New interview with Joey Cramer
  • Mother of The Navigator – New interview with Veronica Cartwright
  • Brother of The Navigator – New interview with Matt Adler
  • From Concept to Creation: The Special Effects of Flight of the Navigator – New interviews with Jeff Kleiser, Randal Kleiser and Edward Eyth
  • Audio Commentary with Randal Kleiser and Producer Jonathan Sanger
  • Reversible sleeve with new and original artwork
  • Rigid slipcase with new artwork by Rich Davies
  • 100 page soft cover book with Randal Kleiser s complete original storyboard, new essay by Kevin Lyons, original production notes, behind the scenes photos
  • Reversible poster with new and original artwork

Accompanying this new release is a slew of bonus features. While these are predominantly talking head interviews, they shed a good deal of light on the production and cover all angles from the films conception at Disney, through to the casting, VFX and release. It’s great to see so many of the cast and crew involved and the inclusion of some of the original test CG renders will be fascinating for VFX-philes.

Also included is a 100 page book that we unfortunately did not get to look at, as well as a hardcover slipcase and poster with new artwork for the film.

Flight of the Navigator
4.5Overall Score
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