I know most fans prefer it if the beloved franchises from their youth stayed there and didn’t get rebooted or revived by studios trying to cash in on nostalgia, but there’s no denying that there are certain films that just seem perfect for a modern do-over. The Last Starfighter is undoubtedly one of the latter.
Released in 1984, the cheesy and enjoyable sci-fi film was directed by Nick Castle off a script from Jonathan R. Betuel and followed Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), a teenager living in a trailer park who doesn’t have much going in his life except for his skill at arcade game Starfighter. When he sets a new record on the game, Alex is approached by the game’s creator, Centauri, who reveals himself to be an alien who had created the game as a way to find skilled starship pilots. Essentially kidnapped, Alex is flown into outer space by Centauri and is shoved into the middle of a massive war between the Rylan Star League and the Ko-Dan Empire, mimicking the conflict in the game.
With the advancements in VFX and the worldwide popularity of video games, this is the perfect time for another go-around for The Last Starfighter. And when a fantastic fan-created modern trailer for the film showed up in 2014, it prompted screenwriter Gary Whitta (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) to seriously start looking into it, even creating concept art for a possible follow-up. The biggest problem though was that the rights of the original film were an absolute mess. And then there was Betuel who was infamously protective over his creation (and whose original deal meant that nothing could happen without his approval). But it would appear that Betuel has now managed to work everything out with the other rights holders as well as Whitta, as he revealed during an interview with MovieHole:
It looks like we’ll be making the deal to get it going. Gary’s a gifted collaborator, we’ll be writing the script together but it’s taken a long time. I had to go through a process that took years to recapture the rights, but that was recently completed and although nothing is ever clear sailing, it looks like we have a really good opportunity now. So I’m really looking forward to taking it up.
Some of you may recall though that in 2015 it was reported that Betuel was teaming up with producers Andy Vick and Rick Rey, co-founders of new VR entertainment company Surreal.tv, for a complete TV series reboot of The Last Starfighter that would utilize VR elements. Except that’s totally not true, according to Betuel, who says that his and Whitta’s effort will be “a movie with all the bells and whistles” that will not reboot anything by “carry the saga forward”.
I didn’t generate that, that was a misfire from a wishful TV producer at the time. This is a movie with all the bells and whistles, and it won’t presuppose that you’ve seen the original film. There’ll be references here and there, but it’ll carry the saga forward.
The leads are now parents and time has passed. It’s not a remake, it’s going to continue the story. What’s changed is time itself, certainly as the video world and the alien world have continued to tick away. It’s not a time capsule of the 80s by any means, we’re taking it to the next level. Passing the torch… or the joystick.
That tidbit about this new film not relying on knowledge of the original The Last Starfighter is interesting. We’ve seen a few other modern-day sequels to classic 80s sci-fi movies take a similar approach, with the likes of Tron: Legacy immediately coming to mind. I think it’s the best way to do things, as too much reliance on nostalgia will alienate a new audience. It has been 36 years since that first film released after all.
And with a wait that long, I don’t mind waiting a little bit more as Betuel and Whitta get this one worked out. It’s just good to know that the project isn’t dead as this is too lucrative a prospect to pass up.
Last Updated: October 19, 2020