The Last Starfighter is largely a distant memory for those of us who were too young to remember the original Star Wars releases (even if we are old enough to relish the thought of a new Indiana Jones). Although it was a solid sci-fi adventure for its time, does The Last Starfighter hold any promise as a remake, or should Hollywood leave well enough alone?
In the original, a young Alex Rogan lives in a trailer park and dreams of a better life while spending his spare time playing an arcade game called The Last Starfighter. One day he's visited by a strange man named Centauri who informs him that the game is merely training for an epic battle that will decide the fate of the universe. Eventually it is brought to light that Alex is the Last Starfighter, and the fate of Earth hangs in the balance.
There have been rumors and various investigations into the possibilities of a remake, which almost immediately raises the larger question -- what would a remake have to offer? The story itself is nothing remarkable, nothing so exceptional that it demands revisiting. What set the original apart in 1984 was the CGI -- outstanding for its time -- and perhaps a few sturdy performances (especially that of Lance Guest, and the last film role of the dapper Robert Preston). A remake could never be as earnest as the original, but perhaps that is where the charm would be found, as nothing else but nostalgia really remains. Is it enough to let the original movie stand, untainted by modern hands and modern minds?
Sure, The Last Starfighter is largely kitsch, but it’s also a lot of fun. I recently saw this film again on the big screen at a revival film house in Los Angeles, and the crowd was very involved, cheering on Alex Rogan in his mission, while still acknowledging the sillier moments, small things that would never be replicated (like the bulky outfits and awkward interactions between supporting characters). If it were to be remade, we might get better effects, but have we so truly run out of ideas that all we have left is repackaging and reselling childhood memories? The Last Starfighter may not have the fan base of Star Wars, or the nostalgia and glitz of Back to the Future, but as a sci-fi adventure film, it stands in a proud tradition.