Lowdown: An alien looking like an human male and a woman bond as they take a road trip through a hostile USA.
1984’s Starman is a bit of a blast from the past. It features a youngish looking Jeff Bridges and a Karen Allen fresh from her role in Raiders of the Lost Ark; it even has John Carpenter, the classic horror director, at the helm. Watching Starman certainly took us to the days of yonder, the days when science fiction films had no CGI to rely upon.
Starman’s exposition tells of the Voyager spacecraft being intercepted in its space journey. The recording it carries is taken by an alien race as an invitation to contact the earth (it is; the recording has been specifically designed to do so by Carl Sagan). And come to earth they do!
They do get the typical earthly welcome, though. Upon entering earth’s atmosphere the alien spaceship is intercepted by American fighter jets (you would expect the aliens to be wiser with their choice of country to visit, wouldn’t you?). The spaceship happens to crash near the secluded home of Jenny (Allen), who recently widowed her husband. The alien traveler finds Jenny and, through picking her place out, takes on the form of her deceased husband (Bridges). There’s a bit of a shock, out of which the alien kidnaps Jenny so she would take him to his rendezvous point with his fellow aliens so he can get out of earth and thus stay alive. How very Paul-ish of Starman, but notice there is not much sense there, if you ask me: what is the point of the earthly visit if the alien’s original intention had been to land at his evacuation point and go away immediately? And why will the alien die if he was to stay longer?
Anyway. Following on the great tradition of films featuring aliens that are hunted down by the army, Starman’s alien gets chased around by vile bureaucrats and a SETI agent (whatever that is). As the couple traverses hardships and challenges in their journey across the USA to the evacuation point, and through some superhero style displays by the alien at various points, a special relation forms between him (?) and Jenny.
The end result is a nice film whose main power source lies with the actors. Allen has this naïve charm to her, but Bridges is Bridges – a fine actor if ever there was one. I particularly liked the way in which his alien portrayal happens to be very similar to Arnold Schwarzenegger’s depiction of a cyborg in The Terminator. The problem lies in figuring out what Starman is trying to tell us, particularly when it doesn’t tell us anything that the Spielberg hasn’t told us already through his superior Close Encounters of the Third Kind and E.T. (both released prior to Starman).
Best scene: The alien revives a shot down deer.
Overall: Starman is a nice film, but it never manages to transcend into the classic status many of its compatriot have established for themselves. 3 out of 5 stars.