The Last Starfighter: Review of a classic 1980s Sci Fi Flick

14 October 2023
"The Last Starfighter" stands as a quintessential piece of science fiction cinema that has etched itself into the annals of the genre's history. 

Released in 1984, this film offered a unique blend of classic sci-fi tropes, cutting-edge special effects for its time, and a heartwarming coming-of-age story. As a science fiction enthusiast and analyst, delving into the world of "The Last Starfighter" provides an exciting opportunity to explore its intricacies, dissect its themes, and uncover the behind-the-scenes details that contributed to its enduring appeal.

This comprehensive analysis will embark on a journey through the cosmos of "The Last Starfighter." We will begin with a concise plot synopsis, introducing the narrative's key elements and characters. 

Following that, we'll conduct deep dives into the central characters, including the protagonist, Alex Rogan, and his alien companion, Grig. We'll then explore the film's thematic layers, discussing concepts such as video games as gateways, the Hero's Journey, the age-old battle of good versus evil, and the rich diversity of alien life portrayed.

Plot Synopsis of The Last Starfighter

"The Last Starfighter" unfolds in the quiet, suburban setting of a trailer park, where we are introduced to our protagonist, Alex Rogan. A young man with dreams bigger than his rural hometown, Alex finds solace in playing the arcade game "Starfighter." Little does he know that his exceptional skills at the game will soon catapult him into an intergalactic adventure.

The plot takes a dramatic turn when Centauri, a mysterious stranger, arrives and reveals that "Starfighter" is more than just a game; it's a recruitment tool used by the Rylan Star League to identify talented individuals capable of piloting starships to defend the galaxy against the evil Ko-Dan Empire. Alex's life is irrevocably altered as he leaves behind Earth to train as a starfighter, leaving his loved ones behind.

As Alex undergoes rigorous training and confronts the challenges of becoming a true starfighter, he forms a deep bond with his alien navigator, Grig. Together, they embark on a perilous mission to save the Rylan Star League and protect the galaxy from the Ko-Dan threat. The narrative explores themes of heroism, destiny, and the transformative power of belief in oneself.

the last star fighter film poster

Character Deep Dives

Alex Rogan (The Protagonist)

Alex Rogan, portrayed by Lance Guest, is the beating heart of "The Last Starfighter." He begins as a seemingly ordinary teenager, dreaming of escaping the confines of his trailer park life. His character undergoes a profound transformation throughout the film. Alex's journey mirrors the Hero's Journey archetype, as he transitions from an everyday youth into the savior of the galaxy.

Analyzing Alex's character development is pivotal in understanding the film's thematic depth. His courage, determination, and innate piloting abilities are revealed as he accepts the call to adventure. This transformation resonates with audiences, as it represents the universal theme of personal growth and self-discovery.

Grig (The Navigator)

Grig, the alien navigator played by Dan O'Herlihy, serves as a fascinating counterpart to Alex's character. Grig is a member of the reptilian species known as the Kodan, and his loyalty and camaraderie with Alex demonstrate the film's underlying message of unity and the power of collaboration.

Examining Grig's character allows us to delve into the film's exploration of diversity and the breaking down of barriers between different species. His witty and wise persona provides both comic relief and a profound sense of mentorship, enriching the narrative with his unique qualities.

As we continue to dissect these characters, we'll uncover the layers of depth and symbolism that contribute to the enduring appeal of "The Last Starfighter." These character analyses serve as the foundation for a deeper understanding of the film's themes and motifs.

the last star fighter ship front view

Sci-Fi Tropes & Themes of The Last Star Fighter

Video Games as a Gateway

One of the most intriguing aspects of "The Last Starfighter" is the concept of using a video game as a recruitment tool for a cosmic war. This theme explores the idea that seemingly ordinary activities, like playing video games, can have profound consequences. The film prompts viewers to consider the potential of virtual worlds and gaming as gateways to extraordinary adventures. 

Calling fans of Tron...

Hero's Journey

The Hero's Journey, a storytelling archetype pioneered by Joseph Campbell, is prominently featured in "The Last Starfighter." Alex Rogan's transformation from an ordinary teenager to a galactic hero follows the classic stages of the Hero's Journey, including the call to adventure, trials and challenges, and the ultimate return as a changed individual. Analyzing these stages in the context of the film enhances our understanding of the protagonist's character arc and the broader narrative structure.

Good vs. Evil

The age-old battle of good versus evil is a recurring theme in science fiction, and "The Last Starfighter" is no exception. The film vividly portrays the conflict between the Rylan Star League, representing good and order, and the malevolent Ko-Dan Empire, symbolizing chaos and tyranny. This thematic element reflects broader societal concerns and serves as a commentary on the eternal struggle between forces of light and darkness.

Alien Life and Diversity

The movie introduces viewers to a rich tapestry of alien life forms, from Grig's Kodan species to the whimsical inhabitants of the Star League outposts. This theme of alien diversity underscores the importance of embracing differences and working together for a common cause. It also encourages viewers to reflect on the possibilities of encountering extraterrestrial life in the vast universe.

Trivia and Production Notes

The Groundbreaking Use of CGI

"The Last Starfighter" is renowned for its pioneering use of computer-generated imagery (CGI), particularly in depicting the starship battles and space sequences. At the time of its release in 1984, this film pushed the boundaries of what was possible with CGI, setting a new standard for special effects in science fiction cinema. Examining the film's CGI innovations and their impact on the industry provides valuable insights into the evolution of visual effects in film.

the last starfighter space ship

Casting Choices

The casting of "The Last Starfighter" played a significant role in shaping the characters and their on-screen chemistry. Analyzing the casting choices, including Lance Guest as Alex Rogan and Dan O'Herlihy as Grig, allows us to appreciate how these actors brought depth and authenticity to their roles. Moreover, understanding the casting process and decisions made by the filmmakers sheds light on the film's overall vision.

Soundtrack and Score

Craig Safan's musical score for "The Last Starfighter" is an integral part of the film's emotional resonance. The soundtrack not only complements the visuals but also enhances the audience's engagement with the story. Exploring the thematic elements in the film's score and its impact on the viewing experience showcases the importance of music in science fiction storytelling.

Legacy and Impact

"The Last Starfighter" left an indelible mark on both science fiction cinema and popular culture. Its legacy is multi-faceted, encompassing various aspects that continue to influence the genre and resonate with audiences:

Influence on Subsequent Science Fiction Works

The film's innovative use of CGI and its unique premise have left a lasting impact on subsequent science fiction works. It inspired a new generation of filmmakers and set a standard for the use of digital effects in storytelling. Many contemporary sci-fi films owe a debt to "The Last Starfighter" for pushing the boundaries of what is possible in the genre.

Cultural Impact and Fanbase

Over the years, "The Last Starfighter" has garnered a dedicated fanbase that continues to celebrate the film's characters, story, and its nostalgic value. Conventions, fan events, and fan fiction have kept the legacy of the film alive. This dedicated community showcases the enduring cultural impact of the movie and its ability to resonate with audiences across generations.

Remakes and Reboots - we all wish upon a star... fighter!

The enduring appeal of "The Last Starfighter" is evident in the persistent rumors of remakes and reboots. Hollywood has periodically expressed interest in revisiting the story, a testament to the lasting impression the film has left on the industry. Analyzing these efforts and their reception provides insight into the ongoing relevance of the original film.

Conclusion as to the utter awesomeness of The Last Starfighter

"The Last Starfighter" is a cinematic gem that has stood the test of time in the world of science fiction. This comprehensive analysis has taken us on a journey through the film's plot, characters, themes, and production, shedding light on what makes it a beloved classic.

From its humble beginnings in a trailer park to the vast reaches of outer space, the narrative of Alex Rogan's transformation from an ordinary teenager to a cosmic hero resonates with audiences of all ages. This coming-of-age story, coupled with the film's use of video games as a gateway to adventure, exemplifies the timeless appeal of "The Last Starfighter."

The deep dives into characters like Alex Rogan and Grig reveal the emotional core of the film and the power of camaraderie and mentorship. Their journeys, both individual and shared, are a testament to the film's ability to convey universal themes of self-discovery and unity.

Furthermore, "The Last Starfighter" explores classic science fiction themes, from the Hero's Journey to the eternal battle of good versus evil, all within the backdrop of a diverse and colorful galaxy filled with alien life forms. These themes provide layers of depth and richness that elevate the film beyond its surface-level entertainment.

In the end, "The Last Starfighter" reminds us that, like Alex Rogan, we all have the potential for greatness within us, waiting to be discovered. It invites us to embrace the unknown, to conquer our fears, and to believe in the power of our dreams—a message that continues to resonate with audiences, making it a timeless and beloved treasure in the world of science fiction cinema.


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About the author Jimmy Jangles

My name is Jimmy Jangles, the founder of The Astromech. I have always been fascinated by the world of science fiction, especially the Star Wars universe, and I created this website to share my love for it with fellow fans.

At The Astromech, you can expect to find a variety of articles, reviews, and analysis related to science fiction, including books, movies, TV, and games.
From exploring the latest news and theories to discussing the classics, I aim to provide entertaining and informative content for all fans of the genre.

Whether you are a die-hard Star Trek fan or simply curious about the world of science fiction, The Astromech has something for everyone. So, sit back, relax, and join me on this journey through the stars!
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