The Last Starfighter

From Academic Kids

The Last Starfighter is a 1984 science fiction movie or its subsequent novelization that year by Alan Dean Foster, or a video game based on the movie. In 2004 it was also adapted as an off-broadway musical.

The movie was the first major movie to use extensive computer graphics to depict real objects in place of physical models.

The Last Starfighter is notable for having been the last film role of notable character actor Robert Preston before his death (as "Centauri"), in a lovable-con-man nod to his most famous role as Professor Harold Hill in The Music Man.

The United States Army, partly similar to the movie's premise, has released a free-share online game called "America's Army" in 2002. Players that register, and who agree to certain conditions, are allowed to have their play performance reviewed by real-life recruiters looking for potential enlistees. The game, however, was mainly designed to convince possible recruits to join the U.S. Army, not test them.

Plot summary

Missing image
CGI generated image from the film

Alex Rogan (Lance Guest) is a teenager living in a trailer park who becomes the best player ever at Starfighter, a stand-up arcade game that has him "defend the Frontier against Xur (Norman Snow) and the Ko-Dan armada." But the game itself is actually a training device; the night after he beats the game, an alien named Centauri recruits him as a gunner against the enemies mentioned in the game. Centauri takes Alex to the alien base on another planet to get inducted while Centauri gets his recruitment fee. While serving as a starfighter himself, he's replaced on Earth by a synthetic android known as a Beta unit. Alex refuses the recruitment the first time since he is a Terran whose world is not a member of the Star League. He feels no obligation to get involved in a war his planet apparently has no stake in. Reluctantly, Centauri brings him home.

Soon after Alex and Centauri have departed the Frontier base, it is destroyed in a sneak attack by Xur and the Ko-Dan. After arriving home, Centauri gives Alex a pager to summon him should he change his mind. Alex encounters his double, who has been having trouble with his role on Earth and the android tries to convince Alex to return to the base. Angered, Alex refuses and activates the pager to summon Centauri to remove the impostor. However, an assassin sent by Xur appears and attempts to kill Alex. After a cat and mouse chase, Centauri arrives and manages to kill the assassin, but gets seriously wounded himself. The Beta unit and Centauri warn Alex that more assassins are on the way, so Alex might as well become a Starfighter to at least have his ship's firepower at his disposal against the enemy.

With this new reality, Alex agrees to return only to find the base destroyed with only one experimental fighter left with one pilot, Grig (Dan O'Herlihy), to handle it. What's worse is that Centauri dies, leaving Alex alone on that world with Grig his only friend. They launch and encounter enemies, but Alex is having difficulty accepting the realities of actual combat and a disheartened Grig offers to take him home where he should live happily, until the Ko-dan inevitabally attack his planet. Faced with this stark situation, Alex finds the gumption to fight and gets the idea of hiding in the asteroids while the Xurian fleet passes, attack it from behind and destroy the Command Ship's communications turret to impair the fighters' fighting capability. Meanwhile, the Beta unit is destroyed successfully interrupting an assassin's transmitted warning that the last Starfighter is on duty, lulling Xur and the Ko-Dan into a false sense of security. Alex pilots and Grig navigates the advanced fighter and defeats the surprised Ko-Dan armada, with Xur escaping to fight another day. At the victory celebration, Centauri reappears having come out of what was actually his dormant regenerative state.

Alex returns to Earth again, but he reveals to his family and friends that he's been recruited to help rebuild and defend the Frontier, and this time his girlfriend Maggie Gordon (Catherine Mary Stewart) goes with him. The movie and the book end with Alex's younger brother Louis preparing to play the Starfighter game hoping to join Alex one day in the force.

Tagline: He didn't find his dreams...his dreams found him.

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