The Last Starfighter Soundtrack Review: This is a review of the film score The Last Starfighter by Craig Safan.
At a glance:
64 minutes of score
Geek Score: 93.6
Total Minutes Of Excellence: 46.3
Album Excellence: 72%
Buy or stream? Buy
Video games were an obsession of mine in the mid 80s. I think it was Christmas 1985 and my dad just bought me a Commodore 64. Oh the joy! I remember getting a number of games with it plus my dad had my neighbour create a tape of some great games on cassette for me to play on. I hooked it up to the TV and off I went to dreamland. In those days, the graphics wasn’t the greatest so I had to use my imagination to fill the void and more often than not, I wish I was inside that world of games. This is sort of the premise of The Last Starfighter, the 1984 sci-fi movie directed by Nick Castle. The main character, Alex Rogan, lives in a trailer park with basically no future, but all he wants to do is getting out of there and become somebody despite the odds. At the local bar there’s an arcade game called Starfighter where the aim is to save the galaxy from the threat of Kodan, an alien force. One night he breaks the record and finally defeat the enemy. What he doesn’t know is that the game is put there by aliens to find the best starfighters in the galaxy to fight Kodan. The movie is great and the music by Craig Safan is remembered fondly. I also remember in the credits where it said something like “Video Game available from Atari”. I never got to play the game, but now I got the complete score thanks to Intrada Records.
As the opening sequence starts and ‘Main Title’ plays, it’s kind of magical. The militaristic sci-fi theme that opens is superb, but at 0:35 comes one of the best themes I have ever heard. It’s so fantastic that once you hear it you will be humming it for days, months, perhaps even years. I find it so inspirational and heroic, a proper theme for a proper hero. I never quite understood the “evil” theme in there as there’s no hint of that in the intro, but maybe Safan wanted it to be a suite? In any case it soon transitions to earth where there’s peace and quiet… for now. ‘Alex Dreams’ is a new dreamy version of the main motif, truly special. ‘Record Breaker’ is going back to the militaristic opening. It’s kind of heroic in it’s own way as Alex breaks the record.
Centauri played by Robert Preston is a fun character and in ‘Centauri Into Space’ he get a very alien theme, but with an earthly motif. Of course, he is a comedic element in the movie, so he gets a little bit of that as well. There’s some weird bass synth in there that sounds like a computer game, definitely intended to do so. At just before the 3 minute mark, the music gets into heroic mode with that heroic military theme from the opening theme. The cue fits Centauri perfectly, comedic and heroic as he is. ‘Rylos’ is the home of the Star League and of course the Starfighters. The cue is a bit too comedic for my taste, but I guess it is kind of funny, particularly the Rylosians.
Beta is an interesting concept. While Alex is sent to the stars, he is replaced by a Beta so his family, friends and girlfriend don’t get suspicious. ‘Beta Transforms’ is definitely the scariest scene in the film where he is transforming into Alex. He looks hideous! The cue is meant to be scary and it is. Gunstar is the spaceship from the Starfighters game and of course it is real and in ‘Gunstars’, Alex get to witness what an amazing ship it really is. A little buildup there in the beginning for shock and awe and then it dawns on Alex what he just witnessed. ‘Victory Or Death’ seems to be the mantra of the Starleague and of course it is bold, brave and heroic in nature. A great little motif.
The bad guy is the son of what appears to be the leader of Star League. Of course the son called Zur has lost his way and is siding with the bad guys. ‘Zur’ tells a story of a young guy on a power trip. I think the cue grabs that frame of mind and nails it. Lord Kril is second in command for the baddies, but he badly wants to be nr. 1. He is the true evil there. Zur has a bit of comedy in him, but Kril is all about the killing and destroying business. It shows in his cue ‘Krill’. That is one evil cue. I wonder if ‘Krill’ is a mis-print though because it should be Lord Kril with only on l. Oh well, doesn’t bother me though when the music is this good. ‘Hit Beast’ is a killer sent to earth to kill Alex because they find out he is still alive. It’s an interesting cue. It used a fast and light percussion beat in the middle as the tension builds up.
Ah Centauri, you lovable old beast. ‘Centauri Dies’ is a sad affair. Well, this is mainly an action cue as him and Alex are fighting the enemy up in space. Well it ends obviously with Centauri getting hit badly. When he gets hit, the music turns serious while doing a sort of variation on Centauri’s alien theme. The heroic military motif also get a little play time. I should probably feel more emotional, but I think that this is one of the cues that could use with a bit more sadness in it, perhaps a new more powerful emotional motif? ‘Target Practice’ is where Alex is training for his big payback mission. It’s getting real now and ‘Alex’s First Test’ is him hurling through some meteor caves after his first target. It’s an exciting action cue, one that is easily missed in the film because the chase scene is very exciting. Can he do it? Oh yes he can. But on this new release we can hear it in it’s remastered glory. Brilliant! ‘Alex Decides’ holds more exciting action as he decides that this is what he’s good at, this is what he must do.
Meanwhile Beta is on earth having to stop the bad guys from sending a message to Kodan that the last Starfighter is still alive. In his attempt to do that he saves Alex’s girlfriend while sacrificing himself for the greater good so the message never receives the bad guys. It never quite reaches those heroic heights I had hoped, but it’s still a good cue. If I have one caveat with this movie, it’s the name Death Blossom. You have created one of the most destructive and advanced weapons in the known galaxies and then you call it Death Blossom? Nah, I don’t think so. A very cool weapon it is though, taken right out of a computer game. The cue ‘Death Blossom, Ultimate Weapon’ tells an exciting tale of the weapon and it’s power. I love the frantic swirling synth in there. It sure gets my pulse going.
Of course what I really want to hear is the amazing main theme and in ‘Big Victory March’ it’s brought back in all it’s glory as it should when Alex is victorious. ‘Alex Returns’ however should definitely have been more glorious and “big”. Still, it’s a great cue, particularly the ending. I love how the main theme doubles as a love theme as well. It all ends with the 7+ minute long ‘Into The Starscape’ which is a suite of the great music on this score, but best of all is that it has many renditions of the main theme as ordered.
This is a terrific score and it fuels your imagination, whether you have seen the movie or not. It’s a great story told by Safan. The main theme is definitely up there with the best I have heard and should perhaps have been used more throughout the score, but when it hits you, it has a great impact. One of those themes I will remember forever. Thanks to Intrada for releasing the remastered expanded version of this already great score. It was sorely needed.
1. Main Title *
2. Alex Dreams *
3. Record Breaker
4. Centauri Into Space
8. Victory Or Death
11. Slap *
14. Target Practice
15. Alex’s First Test *
18. Good Luck Starfighter
19. Death Blossom, Ultimate Weapon
20. Big Victory March
21. Alex Returns
22. Into The Starscape *