Every avid gamer has dreamed at least once of a world where their favorite games were a reality. Whether that meant speeding through the futuristic world of Tron on a light cycle or blasting away the demonic characters of Doom as a space marine on Mars, this dream is what truly set the modern era of gamers apart and what makes the future of gaming and AR so enticing. However, for Alex Rogan, the main character of the cult classic, The Last Starfighter, a beat up space arcade game in the center of his mobile home community gave him just that and, in turn, a unique and highly devoted fan base was formed.
Although The Last Starfighter came out in 1984, a whopping seven years after the 4th episode of Star Wars was released, the whimsical and rather unique depiction of arcade games being utilized to vett individuals for an intergalactic army made this novel-turned-movie into an instant cult classic hit.
The story takes place in a small suburban mobile home community and follows the mediocre life of a teenage dreamer hoping to graduate high school and make a difference in the world. However, once Rogan’s dreams of going to a university in the city fail him, he turns to the one thing that keeps his mind preoccupied within his stagnant community–the arcade game, Starfighter.
Starfighter is a game in which you play as a member of the Rylan Star League defending ‘The Frontier’ from Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada. However, what Rogan does not know is that this little game is actually a recruiting machine for the Rylan Star League and the top scores across the universe are then used by Centauri, a slick Star League agent, to bring new Starfighters to Rylos to defend the multiverse by operating a spacecraft known as a Gunstar.
When Rogan beats the high score, Centauri appears and offers him a position in the Star League. From there, he is taken to Rylos only to find that Xur, the leader of the Ko-Dan Armada, is more than just another character in his favorite game but rather a cruel and merciless leader vowing to invade the Frontier (an array of satellites protecting Rylos and the other surrounding planets through a forcefield) when Rylos’ moon is in eclipse.
After seeing the live execution of an internal Ko-Dan Armada spy performed by Xur, Rogan decides home is a far better decision. However, he later uses a device given to him by Centauri to reach the Space League and return to fight alongside the other Gunstar recruits. From there, a story of robot clones, friendship, Zando-Zan assassins, and the massacre of countless brave recruits ensues and proves that ‘The Last Starfighter’ is certainly a movie that deserves a blockbuster remake.
So, why hasn’t this sci-fi cult classic been given the attention it so rightfully deserves from the Hollywood filmmaker community? Well, it has. In fact, Steven Spielberg and Seth Rogen, along with various other writers, actors, and filmmakers, have been fighting for the rights to the story for some time now. However, Jonathan R. Betuel (above), the writer of the original novel, has made it pretty clear to fans and filmmakers alike that his intellectual rights to the story and all remakes will remain in his possession.
Despite Betuel issuing his disdain towards a remake of the 1984 film, it is no surprise that thousands of people across the globe are begging for it to happen and perhaps this dream isn’t that far-fetched. With massive interest from more and more big names in the movie industry, the question isn’t whether Betuel will budge but when. The truth is that this movie deserves a remake and, although some of the original fans of movies such as this are sensitive when it comes to remakes of their childhood classics, the fans of The Last Starfighter have proven time and time again that their love for the original pales in comparison to their love for the plot itself. In fact, although countless individuals have tried to create spin-offs of the original story line to supercede the laws leaving this script in the hands of its original author, the tried and true fans of The Last Starfighter know deep down in their hearts that, without a Centauri, Grig, or Maggie, the story simply doesn’t work.
The reason for this all goes back to what truly makes The Last Starfighter such an impactful movie to the fans that grew up with it. Although the special effects were weak and the outfits and practical effects appear to be far outdated as of now, these elements were not what made the movie a cult classic in the first place. Unlike many other cult classics from this time that became so because of cutting edge videography and mind-melting fight scenes, The Last Starfighter remains one of those rare and simplistic times in which a movie’s plot outlives its videography, cast, and set. Basically, The Last Starfighter is the very definition of a movie that was ahead of its time.
What would the Last Star Fighter look like today? Perhaps we would see Rogan using a VR headset, Centauri driving a Tesla, Rylos claiming to be one of the exoplanets from Trappist-1, or maybe Alex would call Centauri on his T-Mobile unlimited plan when he wants to return to the Star League. No matter what the tiny modern culture details may depict, the plot of a boy dreaming of leaving his boring and dead-end existence and being given that opportunity in the form of his favorite game-turned-reality is certainly not something that can be determined as ‘outdated’. In fact, this is the exact thing that made films such as the Harry Potter series so fascinating and unique. Instead of depicting a character with a life fully fleshed out, they depicted the dreams of an individual longing for more and trapped in a world they don’t necessarily enjoy (within this, we are reminded of ourselves and our dreams of escaping reality, if even for a moment).
On top of this, if given the opportunity he so rightfully deserves, there would be no doubt that the incredible directing skills of Spielberg and his ties to the culture of the 80’s would suit this movie perfectly and give it the opportunity to become the box office hit it never had the chance to be so long ago (without the robots and explosions in every film like modern day directors such as Michael Bay would do). Furthermore, although the story in itself is expected to remain the same, we can only imagine how the technology of this modern world could significantly impact the plot and make it far more believable on screen for future generations.
Despite its lack of success in comparison to films such as the Star Wars franchise or even the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the plot is truthfully what sets this movie apart from the millions of remakes being created as we speak and allows it the true ability to stand on its own and retain pop influence without tampering with its original story line in the process. No matter what occurs, it is more than obvious that the fans of this cult classic are screaming for a modern take and are more than willing to see it be transformed into the film it truly deserved to be all along. The movie was not a cult classic due to the film itself but the way that its true fans were able to look past its flaws and dream of a film worth the plot that may finally be a possibility.
For now, we can continue to enjoy the original in all its glory and dream of the day when a revised version of The Last Starfighter will hit the big screen. Perhaps all Spielberg and Rogen need to do is perform a ‘Death Blossom’ on Butuel’s house to make it happen and, hey, you gotta do what you gotta do when the Rylan Star League depends on you.
Although no word has been said on who would play the characters in this new version, many names come to mind and maybe even a Centauri played by Patrick Stewart or an Alex Rogan played by Daniel Radcliffe are in the cards (one can only hope). Still, in the end, with Star Wars finally hitting the big screen once more and Mystery Science Theater 3000 planning a remake as well, it wouldn’t be that big of a surprise if the next in these intergalactic classic remakes yields the controls of a Gunstar with the multiverse’s safety on its shoulders.
The most important thing to keep in mind through it all is that the original will forever be the first and certainly continue to hold a special place in the hearts of its fans throughout it all. Although the countless adults who grew up watching the film dream of a day in which they can take their own children to the movies to see its magical plot on the big screen as they have with the Star Wars franchise before it, there’s nothing wrong with some ice cream and a movie night at home to show them the original in the meantime.
Until The Last Starfighter finally gets its warranted place in the remake trend of the 21st century, we can rely on cult classics, virtual reality, businesses embracing technology like custom business apps and AR headsets, the popularization of nerd culture, and the slight chance that a video game will take us far away to become a hero of an alien race to remind us of that feeling of wonder and excitement movies like this once gave us. In the end, the true fans will live on and, for all the new fans being made every day, we can rest assured knowing that there really is hope for all us kids lost in life wanting to make a difference in the world.