Forgotten Friday Flick – “Starman”

With the 80’s and fine films ala John Carpenter going hand-in-hand, there’s more than enough past picture work to hail.  So let’s get to it – welcome to Forgotten Friday Flick!  This week we’re getting a little more romantic and melancholy as we step to the side of the terror tales via the master of horror and visit a story with some surprisingly sweet sentiments in spades. It’s a fish out of water journey that fully explores what it is to be human…even if you’re an alien.  Loss, love and learning all rolled into one out of this world adventure about a few days on earth through the eyes of…Starman!

Wanting to see if there is any other life in the vast universe and make contact, scientists launch the Voyager 2 probe into space with a gold disc filled with info as an invitation to otherworldly beings to come to earth.  Some years later a ship enters the earth’s atmosphere to answer the call, but the panicked government shoots it down.  The small alien ball of light, the ships only survivor, comes across the house of widowed wife Jenny Hayden and begins to explore.  It sees a picture of her former husband Scott and through a lock of hair decides to clones him.  At first the shocked Jenny is scared, horrified and hostile towards the force that has copied the physical appearance of her late husband.  But soon the grieving gal begins to see the wonders and dangers of the world through the aliens newbie eyes and ultimately decides to help him in his journey.

There’s nothing particularly complex in terms of twists and turns in the simple story here, but like many films in the wheelhouse of the charismatic Carpenter it’s the staging and colorful characters that endear the audience most.  And with Starman Carpenter surprisingly scales down the sci-fi elements (though the very cool early transformation sequence is one memorable effect and the only time three masters Stan Winston, Rick Baker and Dick Smith ever worked together on the same film!) and instead focuses on the more frail naïve human aspects via his two leads (even if one is not!) and the result is a flick that affects.  From the clashing of people from different worlds to the alien reactions to odd earth decisions, the film has a rich emotional core that works hard to eclipse the more fantastical elements of the film.  (Plus Carpenter’s work does have some heartstring help via the terrific tear-inducing score via Jack Nitzsche!)

And taking up the memorable character mantle, Carpenter could not have picked a better lead duo for his offbeat love story. Jeff Bridges, so wry yet earnest as the awe-struck alien, and Karen Allen, the epitome of the broken yet tough earth gal, make a wonderfully kooky odd couple and their affecting and ever-changing relationship is key to what makes Starman more than merely forgettable alien on earth fare.  Not to mention that seeing the films poignant moments through the eyes of Bridges outsider is as moving for the audience as it is for Allen’s initially closed off character – we care because he cares.

So while Starman may not have the cool horror cache of The Thing nor the slick visual style of Escape From New York, there’s a sweetness to Starman that marks an equally audacious step for a filmmaker who tends to shy away from the sentimental.  But in taking on such a tale Carpenter shows that skill and style stay signature no matter what the subject matter and as such the lesser appreciated Starman earns a rightful place alongside the bold and beautiful.


I'm a passionate and opinionated film critic/movie journalist with over 20 years of experience in writing about film - now exclusively for WhySoBlu.com. Previous sites include nine years at Starpulse.com where I created Forgotten Friday Flick back in 2011, before that as Senior Entertainment Editor for The213.net and 213 Magazine, as well as a staff writer for JoBlo.com. My other love is doing cool events for the regular guy with my company Flicks For Fans alongside my friend, partner and Joblo.com writer James "Jimmy O" Oster. Check us out at www.Facebook.com/FlicksForFans.

  1. No Comments