The Last Starfighter appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this 4K UHD Disc. Given the nature of the source, this became a satisfactory Dolby Vision presentation.
Sharpness seemed mostly strong. A few interiors could seem slightly murky – partly due to on-set smoke/fog – but the film usually appeared fairly precise and distinctive.
Neither jagged edges nor moiré effects created issues, and I saw no signs of edge haloes or digital noise reduction, so expect a firm layer of grain. Print flaws also failed to manifest through the film.
Colors tended to seem fairly natural and accurate. The palette could’ve seemed peppier but the hues largely looked fine given the style of photography. HDR gave the tones extra oomph and pizzazz.
Black levels appeared mostly deep and dense and shadow detail looked appropriately heavy without excessive darkness. HDR added depth and impact to whites and contrast. No one will use Starfighter as a showpiece, but the disc represented the original photography well.
I felt pleased with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Starfighter. The soundstage seemed broad and engaging, especially from the forward channels. These displayed a good deal of activity and placed the sounds precisely within their places.
The surrounds were less active but they contributed nicely to the effect. Both music and ambient sounds came from the rears, and we even get some split-surround usage on occasion.
Quality seemed more than fine given the material’s age. Dialogue could come across as a little edgy at times but usually sounded reasonably natural and accurate, with no edginess or interference. Effects were crisp and fairly dynamic, with nice range.
The score seemed bright and bold, with good presence and no apparent distortion. The mix showed some good bass at times, which added nice depth to the track. This track seemed more than satisfying given the film’s vintage.
How did the 4K UHD compare to the Arrow Blu-ray from 2020? Both came with identical audio.
Though the Dolby Vision image clearly came from the same scan as its 2020 BD counterpart, the format’s superior capabilities meant we got superior colors, delineation and blacks. While the 4K didn’t blow away the Blu-ray, it turned into the more satisfying presentation.
This 4K release comes with the same extras as the Blu-ray, and we find three separate audio commentaries. For the first, we hear from director Nick Castle and production designer Ron Cobb. Recorded in the 1990s, both sit together for this running, screen-specific look at story and characters, sets and locations, music, creature and production design, cast and performances, various effects, and related topics.
Expect a fairly ho-him commentary here. While Castle and Cobb touch on the appropriate subjects, the track never really gets a head of steam, so it tends to feel a bit blah.
I do like that Castle acknowledges the movie's debts to Star Wars and other films. Otherwise, this becomes a decent discussion but not one that ever seems especially memorable.
The other commentaries were new to the 2020 Arrow release, and we locate a track with actor Lance Guest and son Jackson Guest. Both sit together for a running, screen-specific view of Lance’s performance and experiences during the shoot.
Since the then-16-year-old Jackson didn’t exist when his dad filmed Starfighter, obviously he can’t talk about anything directly related to the film’s creation. However, he helps get his father to chat, and I appreciate that he doesn’t shy away from obvious comparisons to Star Wars.
As for Lance, he occasionally delivers good anecdotes about the production, but he doesn’t fill the whole film’s length with particularly compelling information. The chemistry between father and son makes this a reasonably breezy chat, but we don’t learn a whole lot about the film.
For the third commentary, we hear from podcaster Mike White. He brings his own running, screen-specific examination of cast and crew, various production areas, and the film’s legacy.
For the most part, this acts as a fairly standard “film historian” commentary, albeit with more of a fanboy bent than usual. White offers a reasonably efficient chat. At times this feels a little too much like a recitation of IMDB credits, but White still offers a decent take on subjects connected to the film.
Video programs ensue, and Maggie’s Memories spans nine minutes, 28 seconds. Actor Catherine Mary Stewart discusses her casting and experiences during the shoot. Stewart offers a few good stories but no great insights.
Into the Starscape runs 12 minutes, 20 seconds and brings composer Craig Safan’s thoughts about his score. Safan gives us a reasonable overview of his musical choices.
Next comes Incredible Odds, a nine-minute, 27-second piece with screenwriter Jonathan Betuel. He covers the project’s roots, path to the screen, story/characters, rewrites and a potential sequel. “Odds” boasts a good collection of useful remarks.
Interstellar Hit-Beast goes for 10 minutes, 14 seconds and delivers special effects coordinator Kevin Pike’s notes about various practical elements. This becomes another pretty engaging program.
During the seven-minute, 46-second Excalibur Test, science-fiction author Greg Bear talks about the film’s digital effects. Bear offers a decent look at CG of the movie’s era.
Greetings Starfighter!: Inside the Arcade Game lasts seven minutes, 24 seconds and provides an interview with arcade game collector Estil Vance. He discusses the arcade machine seen in the movie as well as his own recreation. I like the glimpses of Vance’s work.
After this we locate Heroes of the Screen, a 24-minute, 19-second archival featurette. It includes notes from Lance Guest, Stewart, Safan, Betuel, Castle, producer Gary Adelson, storyboard artist Paul Power and visual effects coordinator Jeffrey Okun.
“Screen” examines the script and its path to the screen, cast and performances, various effects, music, and the movie’s legacy.
Inevitably some content repeats from the commentaries and prior programs. Nonetheless, “Screen” offers a good summary and brings enough new material to merit a look.
Footnote: during the commentary, Lance Guest often comments that Robert Preston was 66 years old during the shoot, but here he claims the actor was over 70. Guest gets it right in the commentary.
Another archival piece, Crossing the Frontier runs 32 minutes, two seconds. Hosted by Lance Guest, it provides statements from Betuel, Adelson, Castle, Cobb, Okun, Safan, art director James D. Bissel, associate producer John H. Whitney Jr., technical executive Gary Demos, senior drafter/encoder Kevin Rafferty, illustrator Rick Sternbach, software developer Larry Yaeger, ILM visual effects supervisors John Knoll and Dennis Muren, ILM computer graphics supervisor Kevin Rafferty and actor Robert Preston (from 1984).
Here we cover story/characters/development, sets and locations, various effects, and music. Expect repetition here, but because “Frontier” concentrates more heavily on effects, it becomes worthwhile.
Particularly fun, we see a 1978 CG test of X-Wings for the Star Wars universe, and other early CG elements are cool to see. However, Guest still thinks Preston was mid-70s during the shoot!
In addition to two trailers, the disc concludes with nine Image Galleries. We find “The Cast” (20 elements), “Starfighter Arcade Game” (31), “Starfighter Command” (183), “The Starcar” (67), “The Gunstar” (69), “Ko-Dan Armada” (78), “Alternate Ending” (43), “Anatomy of a Starfighter CGI” (24) and “Promotion and Merchandise” (21).
On the positive side, the “Galleries” provide a slew of images, and most offer compelling material, especially since text adds more info about what we see. On the other hand, though, the quality seems inferior, so the pictures don’t look as good as they should.
Back in 1984, The Last Starfighter came across as nothing more than a cheap Star Wars ripoff. 36 years later, and that impression remains accurate, as the movie seems derivative, uninspired and downright dull. The 4K UHD provides very good picture and audio along with a long roster of bonus materials. While the movie bores, I can’t complain about this fine 4K UHD release.
To rate this film visit the prior review of THE LAST STARFIGHTER