The Last Starfighter Blu-ray Review
Finally presented in its original theatrical 2.35:1 ratio using the VC-1 codec at 1080p there is no doubt that apart from the cinema this is by far the best that The Last Starfighter has looked on any home release; I never owned nor saw the HD-DVD version. I have watched this on disc before, an early non-anamorphic release and in comparison this has much better colour fidelity, depth and of course detail. That is not to say though that this is a premium Blu-ray transfer because it could have been so much better.
Colour is much improved, gone are the wandering reds of the titles and CGI pieces, now all of these and more are contained in their boarders. Colours are bold with strong reds, a little to be desired in the lush greens surrounding the trailer park, but still a step up from earlier releases. Skin tones are pretty much spot on if not a little too pink at times. Those distant hills in the trailer park and some up close shots do still look a little too soft for my liking and could have been improved upon. Grain is only noticeable by its absence and this along with the lack of detail in the landscapes certainly points to some level of DNR being applied. The print is in fine shape. Near the start there is some frame wobble but it settles down and apart from that there are no real defects to be seen, no dirt or blemishes.
Contrast is acceptable but somewhat limited in the black scale with a little crush creeping in now and again and because of that some lost detail. The night scenes in particular around the trailer park suffer from this. Whites are stable with no creep on show and there doesn't seem to be any enhancement or haloing around objects starkly contrasted against the American bright sky. The quality of detail improves when we're space bound and the CGI effects are filling the frame. There's far superior detail in the Gun-Stars, the Rodan armada and the mothership. Blacks during the space scenes are inky and much better than the live action sequences.
The encode is good, no blocking, smearing or enhancement to speak of. So on the whole The Last Starfighter has its highs and lows. Could, and should, have been so much better.
Universal once again grace us with a DTS-HD MA track which does its best with the original stereo but still comes up a little shorter than I was expecting. There are plenty of moments throughout the film where active surround use could have been used if the track had been properly remastered. This I am afraid to say is not the case here. There is minimal surround use but for some sporadic effects such as birds in the trees near the trailer part or general ambiance. When you're expecting the surrounds to kick in during the space flight in Centauri's car or the battle scenes with the Rodan there seems to be absolutely nothing, nada.
Dynamic range is somewhat limited, the high tones from Safan's score are well represented but the lower range is somewhat constrained with little to no use of your LFE channel. Again a missed opportunity especially because there are more than a few good explosions in the film which could exploit that channel adequately. Dialogue is well presented, centred and easily listened to with no strain on your ears.
It is though Safan's score which makes best use of your frontal array and when it kicks in it's a joy to listen to. It's well defined, structured and every piece of his large orchestra can be identified. It separates the channels incredibly well, adding superb depth and direction. Once his score kicks in the frontal sound-stage seems to come to life widening and adding depth to the proceedings. Apart from the score though there's nothing to write home about here.
- Commentary with Nick Castle and Ron Cobb.
This starts out as an informative discussion on the cast, the individual scenes showing and of course the visual effects which went into creating The Last Starfighter. Towards the end though either the pair have become a little bored or they are just watching the film, as their input tails off quite significantly. It's good for what it is, jovial and somewhat informative but there are much better chat tracks out there for your money.
- Heroes of the Screen. - 0:24:19 - VC-1/1080i
A new documentary created for this 25th anniversary edition is a great piece detailing the trials which this feature went through before making it to the big screen. We have input from writer Jon Betuel, director Nick Castle, producer Gary Aldelson, production designer Ron Cobb, actors Lance Guest and Catherine Mary Stewart, composer Craig Safan and visual effects supervisor Jeff Okun. It's good to see the work done by Ron Cobb and how this was transferred to the screen by the early wizards at Digital Productions. Jeff gives some insight into the workings of Digital Productions, the task they faced and the corners they had to cut to actually get the project completed in time.
- Crossing the Frontier: Making The Last Starfighter. - 0:31:02 - 408i/MPEG02
An original making of documentary presented by Lance Guest. In all honesty the high def version covers most of the bases we see here. It's still worth a watch though if you're a fan of the film or if you want to see the early days of CGI.
- Image Galleries. - 480i/MPEG-2
9 galleries which just play without any interaction. You don't have the ability to navigate through the images yourself. They are broken down into Cast, Arcade Game, Special Effects, Alternate Ending Starfighter CGI and Merchandise. Good enough but I found myself fast forwarding though most of them as I do with most non interactive gallery features.
- Teaser Trailer. - 0:01:330 - 480i/MPEG-2
As the name suggests.
- Trailer. - 0:02:47 - 480i.MPEG-2
As the name suggests.
On top of this we get the usual Universal My Scenes and BD-Live which is no more than a collection of trailers for other films. The extras package has been updated somewhat but it still feels as though it's lacking something and that something is a detailed investigation into Digital Productions and the techniques they employed at the time. For such a ground breaking movie I felt it deserved a little better than this. D-Box motion control is also included for those of you who wish to feel those rumbles in your seat as well as just hear them.
The Last Starfighter is still a good enough watch but only from an historical point of view. Like so many other sci-fi features of the time it just doesn't have the depth of counterparts such as The Empire Strikes Back, Aliens, Blade Runner or others. It's clean, by the numbers and a little clichéd but it stands the test of time for its score and those, for the time, incredible CGI effects.
The bad guys are your typical pantomime bad guys who you just feel you have to boo whenever they are on screen. The good guys, essentially Alex and Maggie are just too clean cut for their own liking. It combines humour and adventure and as a mix it works pretty well. It's a little dated, screaming at you that it was made in the Eighties, that's no bad thing though.
The set is good enough with a marked improvement in video and the frontal array works really well for Craig Safan's bravado score. The extras package only just manages to raise its head above the water but is still lacking a really good, informative featurette. For most I would suggest that this is a rental job but there will be some, like me, who are now happy to have this in their collection. That little piece of history can be viewed time and again, compared to Wall-e and chuckle at where it all started.
Suggested retail price when reviewed: £18.59
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- Commentary with Nick Castle and Ron Cobb.