On July 13, 1984, Universal debuted Nick Castle’s sci-fi action film The Last Starfighter. The Hollywood Reporter’s original review, headlined “‘Starfighter’ Summer Tonic for Youthful Sci-Fi Film Enthusiasts” is below:

The Last Starfighter is a combative sci-fi adventure that could prove a summer pick-me-up for young viewers whose minds are reeling from ideas of alien planets, military forces and intergalactic warriors. For others, this Universal/Lorimar production may be an all-too-familiar trek through familiar plot terrain and special effects magic.

Lance Guest plays a fresh high school grad who is a video game genius. Gast lives in a trailer park and strives for greater things. He wants to go to school, not just the local community college, but he doesn’t have the means. The best parts of his life are his boisterous girlfriend (Catherine Mary Stewart) and the escape time he spends racking up high scores in video games.

His fantasy of escaping the desolate trailer park comes all too true when a grinning Fedora lace Scalawag (Robert Preston) falls into his life and kidnaps him in his space truck to defend the frontier of the League of Planets. In short, Preston selected Guest as a starfighter because of his exceptional video game skills – tomorrow’s warrior is essentially today’s video kid. But Guest is also a practical young man, and he initially balks at what he believes to be a suicidal assignment.

As a matter of fact, The Last StarfighterThe most engaging moments of come from the everyday milieu of this film. Guest, as Matthew Broderick in war gamesStruggling with everyday responsibilities and annoyances, life in a single parent household is difficult, especially when Mom (Barbara Bosson) makes it through life as a waitress. Writer Jonathan Betuel has credit for investing a very human element in this film, an ingredient that too many sci-fi hardware presentations lack.

While the production design by Ron Cobb is decidedly first class and the art design by Jim Bissell (to whose credit the design for ET) Superior, The Last Starfighter does not score with excitement. This lack is perhaps due to the narrative. There is no overwhelming sense of urgency in the film. Although we side with Guest, the League of Planets he ends up fighting for does not find our sympathies. It’s just a weird looking group of space creatures versus an even uglier group. Aside from the smooth-talking Preton, these intergalactic goodies aren’t lovable enough to cheer for. Only one, Alex’s ship’s navigator Grig (Dan O’Herlihy), seems to have any recognizable personality at all.

The fight scenes are skillfully implemented by director Nick Castle, but they aren’t particularly exciting. Where The Last Starfighter Buoyancy is in his humor, in his perspective on life in the trailer park – that’s his greatest strength. — Duane Byrge, originally published July 9, 1984.

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