I have to admit I was wrong about The Last Starfighter. In one of my first articles on this website, I mocked that film and said that it was a bad movie with good music. A few years later, I gave it another chance and I discovered something remarkable that has completely changed the way I think about it.
It is an example of Cinematic Chiasmus!
The first half almost perfectly mirrors the second half, creating a wonderfully symmetrical film experience. Let’s find out just how wrong I was to dismiss this film as just another special effects-driven film by crossing the frontier and showing how The Last Starfighter is a cinematic chiasmus.
As with all my other articles in this category, let’s begin by showing the chiasmus in all its glory:
A. The camera moves away from a planet called Rylos and goes to Earth
B. Louis Rogan finds his older brother Alex playing the Starfighter arcade
C. Alex’s mom calls to Alex while his girlfriend Maggie leaves him
D. Alex looks up at the planet models hanging in his bedroom
E. Trailer manager Otis tells Alex to follow his dreams
F. Alex breaks the record on the Starfighter arcade
G. Alex and Maggie proclaim their love for each other
H. Alex gets rejected for a school loan and then meets Centauri and Beta
I. Alex goes to Rylos with Centauri, and soon regrets it
J. Louis and Maggie listen to Beta moaning under a blanket as he transforms into a double for Alex
K. Alex sees several Gunstar spacecraft and gets briefed by Ambassador Enduran
L. Xur scares Alex by showing a spy he caught and killed
M. Centauri takes Alex back to Earth
N. Xur kills almost all of the Starfighters after their hangar’s defensive guns are disabled
O. Centauri lectures Alex and leaves him with a communicator if he changes his mind
O. Beta tries to convince Alex to return, and Alex uses the communicator to call Centauri back
N. An alien nearly kills Alex, and Centauri is seriously wounded defending him
M. Centauri takes Alex back to Rylos
L. With his “dying” breath, Centauri convinces Alex to stay and fight
K. Alex enters a Gunstar as Grig briefs him on the controls (Note: K and J take place out of order)
J. Louis is shocked to see Beta take off his head to fix a malfunction
I. Alex goes to the Frontier with Grig, and soon regrets it
H. As Beta serves his purpose by sacrificing himself for Alex, Alex finally accepts his role as a Starfighter
G. Maggie looks up at the stars and says, “I love you, Alex Rogan”
F. Alex destroys the Ko-Dan Armada and the Command Ship for real
E. The ambassador and a revived Centauri convince Alex to stay on Rylos
D. Alex’s friends and family look up as a Gunstar descends on their trailer park
C. Grig calls to Alex while Maggie decides to go with him
B. Louis starts playing the Starfighter arcade as Alex leaves on a Gunstar
A. Alex and Maggie leave Earth for Rylos
Now I’ll go into greater depth on each of these points:
A. Leaving and Going to Rylos
The opening shot of The Last Starfighter is of an alien planet called Rylos. Then the camera pulls back and enters hyperspace until we are transported across the universe to Earth.
The final shot of the film is of Alex Rogan’s Gunstar spaceship leaving the Earth and heading for Rylos.
B. The Starfighter Arcade
A woman asks her son Louis to find his older brother Alex. He finds Alex playing an arcade game called Starfighter.
At the end, Alex’s mother looks for Louis. He is playing the Starfighter arcade as he watches Alex’s Gunstar take off nearby.
C. Maggie’s Decision
Alex’s mother tells Alex he needs to stay home and help people in his trailer park with their repair needs. His girlfriend Maggie offers to stay with him, but Alex tells her he’s going to be tied up for a long time, so she should just go have fun with her friends without him, which she does.
An alien named Grig tells Alex he needs to return to Rylos to help rebuild the Starfighter Legion. Alex invites Maggie to come with him because he doesn’t know when he’s going to be back. She is unsure at first, but she finally decides to go with him.
D. Looking to the Stars
After finishing his long day of work, Alex sits in his bedroom, looks up and ponders the planet models hanging from the ceiling. This moment of reflection sets him off on an adventure that will change his life (and the fate of the universe).
The residents of Alex’s trailer park are astonished to see Alex’s Gunstar descend from the sky. They don’t realize it yet, but this event will make them and their “Starlite Starbrite” trailer park famous across the universe.
E. Following His Dreams
Trailer park manager Otis encourages Alex to hold on tight to his dreams when he gets the opportunity to do something important with his life.
Rylos Ambassador Enduran and alien fast-talker Centauri encourage Alex to stay on Rylos and put his special gifts to good use as the new leader of the Starfighter Legion. He agrees.
F. Breaking Records for Real
Alex plays the Starfighter arcade game all the way to the end, destroying every ship in the Ko-Dan Armada, as well as the Command Ship.
Later, Alex lives the game by actually going up against the entire Ko-Dan Armada and the Command Ship. He destroys them all, despite incredible odds against him.
G. Alex and Maggie’s Love
Alex and Maggie ponder their future together. Maggie tells Alex she loves him, to which Alex replies, “I’ll always love you, Mags.”
Before entering a seemingly hopeless battle, Alex glances at a picture of Maggie. At the same time, on Earth, she looks up to the sky and says, “I love you, Alex Rogan.”
H. Finding Their Calling
Alex finds out that the bank rejected his school loan, so he can’t attend the university he wanted. He’s distraught until he meets Centauri and an android called Beta, who give him a shot at something much bigger.
Alex fights several enemy spaceships, inspiring him to accept the mantle of a Starfighter once and for all. At the same time, Beta fulfills his mission in life by sacrificing himself to give Alex a shot at completing his own mission.
I. Alex Goes to a Dangerous Place and Regrets It
Centauri flies Alex in a Star Car to the Starfighter base on Rylos. Alex is confused and disoriented in the alien environment, and the more he learns, the more he realizes he doesn’t want to be there.
Grig flies Alex to the edge of the Frontier where an enemy spaceship awaits. Alex is forced to destroy it, but the brush with death makes him reconsider his decision to be a Starfighter.
J. Louis and Beta
Louis and then Maggie hear Beta moaning while hidden under a blanket on Alex’s bed. They assume it’s Alex being depressed about his loan rejection, but it’s actually Beta in the process of morphing into an exact duplicate of Alex.
Later, Louis watches in amazement from his bed as Beta unscrews his head and puts it on a table to fix a malfunction in his ear.
K. Alex’s Briefings
As Alex is escorted around the Starfighter base, he sees a hangar full of Gunstars. He is then briefed by the ambassador on the grave situation he and his fellow Starfighters face.
After he returns to the Starfighter base, Alex enters a specially modified Gunstar. His navigator, Grig, briefs him on how to work the weapons, and he also informs Alex how even more desperate their situation has become.
L. Xur and Centauri’s Influence on Alex
Xur beams a projection of himself into the Starfighter base and warns the Starfighters of their impending doom. To prove his point, he shows a video of the ambassador’s spy being tortured and killed. That’s enough to convince Alex to run for his life.
After Centauri brings Alex back to the Starfighter base, he pleads with Alex to fulfill his destiny and become a Starfighter once more. He then succumbs to his wounds, which he received in Alex’s defense. Inspired by Centauri’s selfless act, Alex prepares for battle.
M. Shuttling Between Earth and Rylos
Centauri unhappily complies with Alex’s wishes and flies him back to Earth in his Star Car, which breaks down once it reaches Earth.
Once Alex has a change of heart, Centauri flies him back to Rylos, but he is extremely weak and nearly crashes his Star Car after making it to the base.
N. Xur Attacks, Alex Survives
Xur and the Ko-Dan commanders fire a volley of meteors at the Starfighter base. Repulser guns destroy most of the meteors, but a saboteur disables the guns, allowing two meteors to get through and destroy most of the base, including every Starfighter except Alex.
After learning that Alex escaped the attack, Xur hires an interstellar “hitbeast” to kill him. Centauri arrives in time to literally disarm the beast, but it awakens and fires one last shot at Alex. Centauri protects Alex with his own body and is badly wounded as a result.
O. The Communicator
On Earth, Centauri makes another appeal to Alex to try to get him to come back to Rylos. When that fails, he gives Alex a communicator that he can use to call Centauri back if he does change his mind.
Centauri leaves in such a huff that he apparently forgets to pick up Beta because Alex finds the android sleeping in his bed, still pretending to be him. Beta encourages Alex to return to Rylos, too, but Alex isn’t having any of it. He activates the communicator to tell Centauri to come get Beta. That proves to be a turning point for him and the film, as well.
If Alex Rogan can have second thoughts about being the savior of the universe, I think I’m entitled to change my mind about The Last Starfighter. I was wrong to make fun of it.
I grew up loving The Last Starfighter, but I felt a little embarrassed for liking it as an adult. I’m glad I gave it another chance because now I know it’s much more than just a silly “video game” movie. It’s actually a finely crafted film that deserves a lot of respect not just for its groundbreaking special effects, but also for its well-told story.
This is the Deja Reviewer bidding you farewell until we meet again.
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