“I must congratulate you on your virtuoso performance, my boy. Centauri is impressed.” Those who instantly recognize those flattering words will likely hold fond memories of The Last Starfighter, director Nick Castle’s 1984 wish fulfillment sci-fi adventure about a teenage trailer park dweller who is recruited to fight in a genuine interstellar war against space aliens due to the incredible sharpshooting skills he has demonstrated in a video game. Though the film’s original theatrical run was modest, Starfighter has garnered a cult following through television, VHS, and DVD and has endured for three decades as a touchstone of Reagan-era nostalgia.
To celebrate the impending 30th anniversary of the movie’s release, writer Ryan Plummer has assembled an affectionate and informative behind-the-scenes history of The Last Starfighter, combing through books, articles, and DVD commentaries for details about the production. Included in the article are tidbits about the actors (including The Music Man himself, Robert Preston, who thoroughly enjoyed this final role), the screenplay (which struggled to distinguish itself from the films of the Spielberg/Lucas canon), and the movie’s then-novel use of computer-augmented effects (which proved versatile yet problematic). Also addressed, alas, are those deathless rumors of sequels, remakes, and reboots. On that last front, there may not be too much cause for concern. “In the initial release,” recalls star Lance Guest, “it didn’t make any money.”