The Last Starfighter with John Serpico


John Serpico of ImprovBoston and True Tales of the Illuminati joins us to talk about one of his childhood faves: The Last Starfighter!

Image Description: A space car that is actually not modeled after the car from Back to the Future (because that wouldn’t come out for another year!) has just pulled up in the night time next to a neon sign for a trailer court.

Here’s John’s hazy summary:

"The movie revolves around a young man (let's call him Lance) who obsessively played a video game (called The Last Starfighter, I think) in his small town. I think he lived in an RV park, and everything in that RV park had this deeply 80s brown to it. If I remember right, it kind of looked like Zefram Cochrane's compound from Star Trek First Contact. So he played this game a ton, eventually beat it, and was then immediately recruited by a space military to pilot an experimental fighter in their war against some faceless enemy with a weird name like The Globs or The Zoms or something. I am deliberately not going to Wikipedia. It turns out that the video game was secretly a recruiting tool for this space military, and Lance is the best in... the UNIVERSE! So off he goes into space. On Earth, the space military replaces Lance with a robot so that his girlfriend and family don't know he's gone. Why the space military would send a robot instead of just having the guy write a note saying "A friend of mine in another state needs me and I'll be back in two weeks" I'll never know. Probably for the laughs. Anyway, the guy trains on how to fly the real fighter and his mentor is a dude that looks like The Thing from Fantastic Four. Eventually, it's time for the battle with The Blorps and eventually the guy has to hit a big red button and execute a maneuver called "The Death Blossom," which makes his fighter spin around like a gyroscope and shoot lasers wildly in every direction. Apparently you needed to search the galaxy for a person capable of deftly hitting a red button. Galaxy is saved, Lance goes home. Robot Lance... does... something? Starts a detective agency? Turns into a robot dog? Nods knowingly and fades away like a Jedi? Something like that. But yeah, The Last Starfighter."

Was he right? Sort of! We dive deep in this one, which turns out to be a rollercoaster of shifting opinions and film tones!

This was a pioneer of CGI! Annnnnd like most pioneers of tech, it looks really dated 35 years after the fact.

John says the movie doesn’t really make sense, and hated it upon rewatching, but Julia and Geoffrey talk him around into … not hating it? Maybe? Many of the lessons are surprisingly wholesome! Like:

1) You can play video games and still be a well-adjusted non-dork!

2) You can work really hard and then end up going off to have epic adventures and saving the earth, and your whole community could actually be supportive of this plan and even want you to be happy!

3) If you are a woman, maybe it is okay sometimes to not be forced into a caretaker role forever, and instead have some adventures of your own in space!

4) Younger siblings who see their older siblings’ decapitated heads will be totally fine and not traumatized by it!

(okay, maybe that last one is a stretch…)

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