The Last Starfighter
In his wildest dreams Alex never suspected that tonight he would
become...The Last Starfighter
Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), is a teenager living in the Starlight Star-bright trailer park with his waitress/trailer park owner mom and Playboy-loving little brother Louis. Alex has just learned that he failed to qualify for a college loan and seems to be stuck in his trailer park helping his mom as the park handyman and going to city college. To escape his problems, he has a hobby of playing Starfighter, a stand-up arcade game where the player defends "the Frontier" from "Xur and the Ko-Dan Armada" in a space battle. Eventually he becomes the top player of Starfighter and wins it as the trailer park residents cheer him on. After finally beating the game, he is approached by its inventor, Centauri (Robert Preston). Stepping into Centauri's vehicle, Alex is horrified to find that it is actually a spaceship; moreover, Centauri is a disguised alien who whisks him off to the planet Rylos, in another star system.
Upon his arrival, Alex is given a flight suit. He is also fitted with a translator so he can understand the various alien languages of the League's alien members. Alex discovers that he has been recruited as a starship weapons-expert, a Starfighter. He also discovers that the images and territories in the Starfighter arcade game represent a conflict which actually is raging between the Rylan Star League and the Ko-Dan Empire; the latter is led by Xur (Norman Snow), a borderline psychopathic traitor to whom the Ko-Dan Emperor has promised (apparently with no intention of delivering) control of Rylos itself.
Alex's disbelief is further compounded when he is given a briefing on the situation with the other (alien) Starfighter recruits. As he leaves the briefing area, he meets star-navigator Grig (Dan O'Herlihy), a jovial alien with reptilian scaled skin. When confronting Centauri, Alex learns that the Starfighter game is in fact a test devised to find those "with the gift". (The novelization of the film indicates "the gift" as the propensity for violent behavior, since purged from the majority of the peaceful races within the Star League.) Furthermore, the game's story about defending the galaxy against enemies is real, with a full-blown Starfighter battle preparing to be launched. However, Alex's recruitment is highly irregular on Centauri's part, considering that Earth is not intended to be approached diplomatically until Humanity matures sufficiently. Before Alex can fully understand and dispute his induction, Xur appears (via a holographic projection) inside of the Starfighter base and reveals he has discovered an infiltrator in his ranks and proceeds to broadcast his death by torture to the entire base, including his father, Ambassador Enduran (Kay E. Kuter), the Starfighter commander. He then proclaims to the people of Rylos that once Galan (Rylos's moon) is in full eclipse, the Ko-Dan Armada will begin their invasion and not even the Starfighters will be able to save them. Undaunted by his son's declaration, Enduran defiantly replies, “We shall see, Xur. We shall see!”
Alex's life is saved by two eerie twists of fate. First, in his shock from said revelation, he declines to participate in the Xurian War. So Centauri brings him back to Earth and gives him a high-tech pager to use, should Alex change his mind. Unbeknownst to either Centauri or Alex, Xur shows up in the Ko-Dan mother-ship shortly after their departure. After breaching The Frontier, an array of planetary-scale force fields that protect Rylos and its surroundings galactic territories from invasion, he all but destroys the Starfighter base with the mother-ship's "meteor gun" (a keel-mounted mass driver), killing most of the base personnel (excluding Grig) and all of the Starfighters save the one who just left: Alex. Back at home, Alex discovers that he has not been missed because Centauri replaced him with an android named Beta (Lance Guest in a dual role). Beta, an exact replica of Alex, seconds the urging of Centauri: that Alex should serve Rylos, and the galaxy, as a Starfighter and is visibly disappointed when Alex exclaims "Are you crazy it's war up there!" to which Beta responds sardonically, "Great, save the whales and not the universe, huh?"
It does not help that Beta has made bad impressions on many of Alex's friends and family members, including his girlfriend Maggie Gordon (Catherine Mary Stewart). Angered, Alex activates the pager so that Centauri can remove the impostor. No sooner has he done so, however, than a Zan-Do-Zan (an assassin hired by Xur) appears. It tries to kill both Alex and Beta (because it cannot tell them apart). Centauri arrives during the chase that ensues; he kills the Zan-Do-Zan but is seriously wounded in the process. Centauri warns Alex that he has been discovered by the enemy, and that more Zan-Do-Zans are on the way "with only one thought on their teeny, microscopic little minds: Kill Alex Rogan"; therefore, his only hope of survival is to become a Starfighter.
Alex agrees to return and finds the Starfighter base in ruins. Centauri dies from his wounds just after landing, leaving Alex alone with Grig. After getting Alex suited up, Grig places him in the gunnery chair of the Starfighters' designated space warcraft, the "Gunstar". Grig serves as navigator while Alex mans the weapons systems. Alex is delighted to find that the controls are just like those of the arcade game, but is horrified to learn that all the other Starfighters have been destroyed in Xur's attack; he and Grig will have to battle the Ko-Dan Armada by themselves. Given that Grig and Alex are facing impossible odds against the Ko-Dan Empire, Alex is gripped with fear and feels that it may be safer to leave Rylos for good. As Grig is launching, he gets a chance to establish a rapport with Alex by telling him of his homeworld and the fact his private residence is a cave, to which Alex tells him of his home life on Earth living in a trailer park, a concept which confuses Grig, who ponders "a mobile cave that never went anywhere, fascinating", making Alex once again realize that he had wanted to get out of the trailer park, and that seeing Rylos is certainly a unique opportunity. Alex's fear of the upcoming battle is overcome, however, after destroying a Xurian ship, when Grig passively points out that Xur's plans of conquest would ultimately expand towards Earth.
Meanwhile, on Earth, Beta is having a difficult time replacing Alex. He fails at Alex's job as a repairman, almost ruins Alex's relationship with Maggie and is nearly discovered by Alex's younger brother Louis (Chris Hebert) who collects Playboy magazines. Beta finally admits to Maggie that he is not the real Alex Rogan, that Alex is in fact engaging Xur's forces as a Starfighter. Maggie does not believe him at first, but when he is shot by the Zan-Do-Zan and his damaged circuity is exposed, she realizes the truth. The assassin tries to alert Xur, but Beta kills it first at the cost of his own life when he crashes Jack Blake's truck into the Zan-Do-Zan's ship. As the wreckage of the ship and the truck burn before her eyes, Maggie looks skyward and proclaims her love for Alex. Meanwhile, Xur, who only received part of the Zan-Do-Zan's communique wrongly assumes Alex is dead and proceeds with his invasion of Rylos.
Alex and Grig attack the Ko-Dan mother-ship, crippling its communications system; catching the Ko-Dan fighter wings off-guard. The battle reaches a fevered pitch; Alex keeps the upper hand, using the "lone fighter-against-hordes" tactics he mastered by playing the coin-operated video game. Soon, however, his weapons are depleted. Desperately, he activates a secret weapon installed in the Gunstar: "Death Blossom", which destroys all the remaining Ko-Dan fighters. Lord Kril (Dan Mason), captain of the Ko-Dan mothership, blames Xur for this turn of events. After relieving Xur of command, Kril orders him executed. Instead, Xur takes advantage of Alex's attack and kills the sentries escorting him from the bridge. He then flees the mother-ship just before Alex knocks out its helm/navigation system. Kril and his fellow Ko-Dans perish as their mother-ship crashes into the nearby moon of Galan and explodes.
At the victory celebration, Centauri reappears; he was never actually dead, but rather in a coma-like healing trance. Alex is proclaimed the savior of Rylos, only to discover from Enduran (who escaped from the Starfighter base before its destruction) that the Star League is still vulnerable: The Frontier has collapsed and Xur escaped, and will continue to be a threat as long as he still lives. Alex agrees to stay and recruit other Starfighters, rebuilding the Legion.
Alex returns to Earth, dramatically landing his Gunstar in the trailer park. Grig tells Alex's mother and the people of the trailer park of Alex's heroism in the Rylan War and that he will be a Starfighter of great potential, who will teach future Starfighters. After explaining to his friends and family where he was, Alex reveals that his services as a Starfighter are still needed by the Rylan Star League. He then asks Maggie to join him in space. Maggie's grandmother, Granny Gordon (Meg Wyllie) gives her blessing to her granddaughter, and Maggie returns to Rylos with him.
Louis is delighted to meet Grig; he would love to join Alex and Maggie, but the Gunstar was not designed for that many passengers. Yet the Starfighter videogame is still running, so Louis throws himself into mastering it and the cycle begins anew.
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