aka John Carpenter’s Starman.
I hadn’t seen this alien from another world tale since it hit theaters back in ’84. Truthfully I recollected very little about it after all these years. I have to say it made for a heart warming and nostalgic revisit.
For those unfamiliar with this E.T. like story aimed at adults, Karen Allen stars as a recently widowed woman who longs for her husband. Not far off from her isolated farm, a space ship has crash landed, lighting the night skies up with a flaming brush fire. A light emanates from the scene and travels over an inland lake to her home. Almost probe like, the light takes focus on a home movie running on screen featuring Jeff Bridges. A lock of hair in a memory book provides the DNA needed for the entity to find itself a human form.
Miss Allen is in for one hell of a surprise when she finds what appears to be her husband risen from the dead.
Naturally the government has been watching the skies and a hard as nails Richard Jaeckel sends out Charles Martin Smith to research the area and find out just what has crashed. When the crash site yields a small ship, the race is on to track and capture our alien who has taken on the form of The Dude.
Excuse me. I meant Jeff Bridges.
The film turns into a cross country race in what at first appears to be a kidnapping until Allen comes to realize the alien life form isn’t there to harm her. It just wants to meet an incoming ship in order to be rescued and return to it’s own planet. There’s humor along the way as the script can play a bit with the fish out of water plot device while at the same time provide plenty of action as the duo become hunted by government agents.
Starman offers a number of religious themes that struck me upon this revisit. Bridges taking on the dead man’s identity harkens to Christ rising from the dead. There’s also a wonderful scene where Bridges is Jesus like when he gives life to a deer that has been shot by a hunter. Reminded me of the Lazarus story as does another scene later in the film that I won’t go into as I don’t like to play spoiler.
The F/X here hold up very well overall and the use of real fiery explosions adds to my enjoyment which isn’t always the case with many of today’s CGI styled scenes, always leading me to feel somewhat cheated by the filmmakers. Bridges received a rare Oscar nomination for a science fiction role though the film itself never garnered any other nods from the Academy.
Co star Martin Smith is perfectly cast here in the type of role that he seemed to corner the market on during the era of this film’s release. A nerdish character, very smart and hungry for knowledge with a heart of gold. Someone who can be counted on to do the right things no matter the personal cost.
Richard Jaeckel who I’m always pushing here gets to play a real S.O.B. this time out. Funny thing is that when I saw this at the theater way back when, I recall seeing the billboard with Bridges name and thinking where’s Jaeckel’s? After all he was in The Dirty Dozen!
Allen shines here and should receive just as much credit as Bridges. Her role may not be as comical or flashy as Bridges but she has the real dramatic role of the widow facing the image of her risen husband. It’s her story just as much as Bridges that holds the film together and make you care about what happens to the characters.
Nice job by Carpenter to lighten it up a bit in this alien-sci-fi-romantic-road race story.