Over Achiever (the Last Starfighter, 1984)
Alex Rogan is stuck in a dead end life. He, his mom and little brother live in a run down trailer park. He wants to take his girl friend Maggie and get out…but the options seem to be dwindling. His main outlet for his frustrations is a video game called Starfighter.
This leads to the most excitement the park has seen when Alex beats the game…but then it is back to real life. Until that night when Alex is visited by the video game maker. Calling himself Centauri, he invites Alex to join him on a short trip. Alex does not realize this will change his life forever.
The video game was actually a simulator that was meant to test potential pilots in an intergalactic war. Reluctant at first, Alex finds himself forced to put himself aside to help in something much larger than he.
The Last Starfighter is imaginative and fun, with a great cast of characters. Alex (Played by Lance Guest) is a likable dreamer, which is important as such characters can also come off as painfully whiny. Instead, you genuinely feel for him when his college goals seem crushed. Catherine Mary Stewart (Night of the Comet) is Maggie, who is more down to earth, not as worried about escaping the potential future of their small town life.
Centauri is one of those big idea pitchmen who is certain Alex is just what the Star League needs. He is brought to life by the great Robert Preston (Harold Hill in the 1962 version of the Music Man). Dan O’Herilihy is Grig, a jovial and kind reptilian co-pilot for Alex in their Gunstar.
Probably the biggest knock against the film is that it was made in the infancy of digital effects. Unlike Tron two years earlier, everything is not meant to look like a video game. Now, mind you, it looks like a late 90’s video game…so it was advanced for its time…but the purely digital spaceships look very low tech.
The Last Starfighter is certainly not the first story about a dreamer getting their wishes, but it is very successful at making it a fun ride. It is the humor and heart that allows it to overcome limitations such as severely outdated digital effects. The Last Starfighter is a minor science fiction classic.