Director: Nick Castle
Screenplay: Jonathan R. Betuel
Starring: Lance Guest, Dan O’Herlihy, Catherine Mary Stewart, Robert Preston, Kay E. Kuter, Barbara Bosson, Norman Snow, Chris Hebert
Country: USA
Running Time: 101 min
Year: 1984
BBFC Certificate: 12

In 1982, Tron was released and revolutionised the blending of computer-generated imagery (CGI) with live-action footage. This didn’t result in an instant wave of CGI-assisted VFX films though. For one, Tron was only a marginal success at the box office and, secondly, it was a new and costly technique that wasn’t wholly realistic-looking.

However, a film shot around the time of Tron’s release but not released until 1984, due to the complex CGI and slow-rendering times of the era, raised the bar even higher. That film was The Last Starfighter. Like Tron, it wasn’t a huge success, in fact it made considerably less than that earlier film, only taking in $29 million in the US on a $15 million budget. However, it has since developed a cult following, even spawning an off-Broadway musical!

Now, I was the right age and target audience for The Last Starfighter on its release. Granted, I was too young to see it at the cinema (being only 2 at the time), but it would have still been doing the rounds on VHS and TV when I was a young lad. However, as far as I can remember, it passed me by.

In more recent years, however, I keep hearing it mentioned as a nostalgic favourite for many, so I’ve been keen to finally check it out. Coming to my rescue then are Arrow Video, who are releasing The Last Starfighter on UHD and Blu-ray in the UK. I got hold of a screener of the latter version and my thoughts follow.

The Last Starfighter centres around Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), a teenager stuck in a dead-end trailer park, who escapes his reality through a popular arcade game called “Starfighter.” Unbeknownst to him, the game is actually a recruitment tool for a distant alien civilisation facing a war against the evil Ko-Dan armada. After Alex achieves the highest score on the game, its alien creator, Centauri (Robert Preston), whisks him away to the planet Rylos.

Alex is initially reluctant to become a real-life starfighter pilot, but when a Ko-Dan assassin attacks his trailer park and the Rylos starfighter base is nearly obliterated, he’s determined to do what he must. Though his video game skills are impressive, piloting a real starship proves far more challenging. With the help of Centauri and his engineer Grig (Dan O’Herlihy), Alex trains to become a competent fighter on the job.

Meanwhile, back on Earth, a ‘Beta Unit’ (basically a robot-like clone) is put in place of Alex to avoid suspicion and put the Ko-Dan off his scent. This leads to plenty of comedy hijinx, as the Beta Unit struggles to maintain his charade, particularly around Alex’s girlfriend, Maggie (Catherine Mary Stewart).

Whilst I think having a memory of watching the film back in the day would have benefited my appreciation of The Last Starfighter, I still enjoyed my delayed initial viewing. Whilst I didn’t watch it back in the 80s, it did bring back fond memories of that style of filmmaking.

It’s a light and breezy film that’s easy to get swept up in, even if much of it feels familiar (there’s definitely a Star Wars flavour here, on top of the classic ‘Sword in the Stone’ narrative that inspired writer Jonathan R. Betuel to develop the script).

The film is refreshingly lean too. It doesn’t waste a lot of time with subplots or world-building, other than the odd splash here and there. This might make the film feel slight but, equally, it keeps things fast-paced and easy to watch.

Though the story and much of the dialogue can get a little corny, the cast does a good job with the material, giving a genuine charm to it all. Plus, Alex’s reactions to the crazy situations he sees himself in are refreshingly realistic – he quits as soon as he finds out how much danger he’s in, for instance. The way he’s turned back around also makes sense and feels relatively natural, even if what is happening is wildly far-fetched.

The VFX, as mentioned in my introduction, are incredibly groundbreaking. Tron may have beaten it to the punch in successfully blending live-action material with CGI but here it’s particularly impressive for the era, looking sharper and more realistic. Yes, quite a few shots look a little clunky but a lot of it still looks good today in a clean, simple fashion.

Whilst the VFX are groundbreaking, the set pieces feel a little underwhelming though, on the whole. Alex only fights a couple of small skirmishes and takes out a big ship fairly easily. This fits with the light tone of the film but those expecting an exciting, action-packed sci-fi extravaganza will be sorely disappointed.

Whilst the space-set scenes can feel rather generic and underdeveloped though, the Earthbound scenes are actually quite effective, particularly when the Beta Unit enters the fray.

There’s plenty of comedy throughout, in fact, to keep things light. It won’t have you splitting your sides, as the gags are largely pretty goofy but there are a couple of chuckle-worthy moments. Other than a couple of mild swear words, a Playboy gag and one fairly gruesome death, the film is family-friendly, so one to share with your kids.

Overall then, whilst a little corny and over-familiar, The Last Starfighter has a charm and wholesome simplicity that make for a pleasurable watch. Put your nostalgia-tinted spectacles on and you’ll have a good time.

The Last Starfighter is out on 15th July in separate 4K UHD and Blu-Ray editions, released by Arrow Video. I watched the Blu-ray version and the film looks stunning, with a clean, sharp image and gorgeous colours. There are 3 audio options – stereo, 5.1 DTS-HD MA and 4.1. I opted for 5.1 for a change and thought it sounded fantastic.


• Brand new 4K restoration by Arrow Films from the original camera negative
• 4K (2160p) Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation in Dolby Vision (HDR10 compatible)
• Uncompressed 2.0 stereo, 5.1 DTS-HD MA and 4.1 audio
• Optional English subtitles for the deaf and hard of hearing
• Audio commentary with star Lance Guest and his son Jackson Guest
• Audio commentary with Mike White of The Projection Booth podcast
• Maggie’s Memories: Revisiting The Last Starfighter – interview with actor Catherine Mary Stewart
• Into the Starscape: Composing The Last Starfighter – interview with composer Craig Safan
• Incredible Odds: Writing The Last Starfighter – interview with screenwriter Jonathan Betuel
• Interstellar Hit-Beast: Creating the Special Effects – interview with special effects supervisor Kevin Pike
• Excalibur Test: Inside Digital Productions – interview with sci-fi author Greg Bear on Digital Productions, the company responsible for the CGI in The Last Starfighter
• Greetings Starfighter! Inside the Arcade Game – an interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance on reconstructing the Starfighter game
• Theatrical and teaser trailers
• Reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Matt Ferguson
• Illustrated collector’s booklet featuring writing by Amanda Reyes and sci-fi author Greg Bear’s Omni magazine article on Digital Productions, the company responsible for the CGI in The Last Starfighter
• Limited Edition slipcover featuring newly commissioned artwork by Matt Ferguson

* The Blu-ray version is the same but with a HD presentation, of course.

Lance Guest and Jackson Guest deliver one of the commentaries. It’s a fun track, with Lance having great energy and plenty of anecdotes to tell about the production. His son, Jack, wasn’t involved with the film but his inclusion adds a nice dimension, particularly as the film is directly aimed at a family audience.

In the other commentary track, Mike White breaks down the film in detail. He’s honest about some of its shortcomings and also points out its qualities. He also discusses the careers of many of the people behind and in front of the camera. It’s a valuable addition to the set.

Screenwriter Jonathan Betuel is interviewed. He talks for just under 10 minutes about his inspiration behind the story and how he developed it. He also describes his idea for a sequel. It’s a nice little piece.

Kevin Pike, the special effects supervisor, talks about his work on the film. He talks mainly about the vast range of jobs he and his team cover, to help you appreciate how much they do on a film.

Estil Vance talks about the Last Starfighter video game, the one in the film, the official one that was never made and the game that he helped create himself.

Catherine Mary Stewart reminisces about the shoot too. She has fond memories of it and this makes for a lovely piece.

Greg Bear talks about his experiences in being able to see the early CGI work on the film during the lengthy post-production stages.

Craig Safan talks about his work scoring the film. It was quite a challenging process as the VFX sequences weren’t ready for him to score to. He had to use his imagination there. He also talks about how he focused on character in his music in the film, as well as some of his inspirations behind the score.

I didn’t get a copy of the booklet to comment on that, unfortunately.

Overall, it’s a superb package that fans of the film and those after an 80s nostalgia fix would be advised to pick up.


Where to watch The Last Starfighter
The Last Starfighter - Arrow
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Editor of films and videos as well as of this site. On top of his passion for film, he also has a great love for music and his family.

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