STARMAN - Golden Oldies Finally On DVD
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Dec. 21, 2018
EDITOR’S NOTE: This easygoing sci-fi yarn was both a change-of-pace and a box-office hit for horror-director John Carpenter, and Jeff Bridges earned his third Oscar nomination (he would eventually have seven nominations, winning in 2009 for ‘Crazy Heart’). And now, The Shout! Factory has seen fit to give the picture a Blu-ray ‘collector’s edition’ upgrade, so here’s my review, published Dec. 14, 1984.
“Starman” begins fascinatingly, with the idea that someone in outer space has heard the recorded messages we sent up with Voyager II, inviting alien life to pay a visit to Earth, and decided to take us up on the invitation.
Picture a cross between “E.T.” and Latka, the goofy character played by the late Andy Kaufman in the now-defunct TV series “Taxi,” and you have some idea of Jeff Bridges as “Starman.”
That’s not meant to be a negative criticism. He’s actually rather charming as an innocent alien who comes to earth in an energy form, and through a cloning process manages to take on the appearance of an earthling, the late husband of Karen Allen’s character.
Jeff Bridges, left, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, 'Starman'
We see that birth and development process in a rather startling sequence early in the film, but that’s about it as far as special effects are concerned. The bulk of the film is concerned with the relationship between these two characters, which naturally grows as they hit the road in an effort to get Bridges to a rendezvous point some 300 miles away, where he will be picked up by his fellow aliens before he gets sick and dies.
If that sounds suspiciously like “E.T.,” there’s more, including the death and resurrection of a main character. Interestingly enough, this film was in development at Columbia Pictures at the same time “E.T.” was there, but Columbia let “E.T.” go to Universal in favor of keeping “Starman.”
“Starman” director John Carpenter has said that he looks upon the film as a cross between “E.T.” and “It Happened One Night,” and that’s probably the best way of putting it. This is a road picture with emphasis on the characters, despite some basic similarities to “E.T.”
Unfortunately, those characters don’t sustain interest for the length of the film.
Still, there are some humorous and touching vignettes with Bridges learning about earth life from Allen while being pursued by the ever-present evil government, unwittingly led by nice-guy scientist Charles Martin Smith. And Smith is very good but hardly has anything to do.
Allen is delightful as a woman who has spent too much time mourning her late husband, and who is facing the probability of losing him a second time in the form of Bridges. And Bridges, as mentioned, is interesting, though oddly distant as the title character.
Among the supporting characters are the epitome of the evil government agent (Richard Jaeckel) and various rednecks and insensitive clods. The actors are good but as is too often the case in films like this the characters are thinly drawn.
Carpenter, whose previous credits are dominated by such horror fare as “Halloween,” “Escape from New York” and “Christine,” shows a real flair for light comedy, and it is hoped he will try again, rather than restricting himself to scare stuff.
On the whole, “Starman,” rated PG for some violence, sex, nudity and profanity, none of which seems too extreme, is pleasant enough, just not very filling.