If our fellows at io9 are to be believed, there's plenty of interest in rebooting The Last Starfighter, a classic scifi picture by all rights. Even the mighty Steven Spielberg can't convince Jonathan R. Betuel (writer and apparent rights-holder) to let him at it. Here's why it'd be a far, far better idea to make a sequel, instead. I give you… The Next Starfighter.
Along with a cracking script and perfect casting, Nostalgia was a major factor of the first picture's appeal. The movie was a product of its time, and a marvelous slice of the 80s zeitgeist. That story, those characters, those effects… (more on that in a bit) all of them were a product of the 8os. To try to re-capture the lightning-in-a-bottle that was the original film, while telling the same story over again in the 21st century… seems an impossible task to me.
TRON: Legacy, and the upcoming Star Wars sequels are stories that pick up with existing franchises, decades later. We've seen how great men may or may not age well, struggling under the weight of a hero's mantle. How would Alex be changed by such events? How would Maggie? How would the people he left behind on Earth?
The original picture did a strong enough job of world-building the first time around, that it'd be easy to believe that Alex Rogan has kept busy, over the years! Between rebuilding the Star League, raising a family with Maggie, and ending Xur once and for all, that's a lot to handle!
Just what could have happened in all the time since?
Picture it: Alex and Maggie's daughter comes to earth, a woman who's only ever known life in the Star League. Her mother and father have gone missing, and feared captured by Xur (or his offspring). She's desperate to find her Uncle Louis, the boy who grew up training on the video game that 'recruited' her father, Alex 30 odd years ago. What kind of welcome does she receive?
Has the trailer park become a tourist trap for UFO sightings? (Or UFOs, for that matter??) Have the trailer park residents become a laughingstock? Did the Star League ever bother to make real contact with Earth? What kind of fish-out-of-water hijinks can this young woman get into, faced with genuine gravity for the first time, or seeing stars through an atmosphere?
Would Louis be happy to see her, or would he have grown bitter and resentful about being left behind, as a boy? I don't know!
If the heart of the story is about Alex and Maggie's child trying to rescue them, and she's forced to connect with her family's roots on Earth, it builds an organic connection for us as viewers, to do the same. We'd want to take our kids to see the sequel, after popping in the DVD to catch 'em up to speed with the first one.
Instead of starting over and pretending the first movie never happened, you could build on the great core material, and tell a new chapter of a story that folks will already be invested in.
It has always bugged me that the first picture's special effects were… less than stellar. They looked, frankly, like something out of a video game.
Handwave it away with a remark from Alex and Maggie's daughter. "Dad? Why do the old ships look so… cheap?" Maggie hides a smile. Alex gets defensive. "Materials were tight during the war. Both sides wound up using projected hard-light armor plating on the ships. It was faster, okay?" "And cheaper," mutters the daughter.
Anyway. That's my two cents on the subject, and I'd earnestly love it if the powers that be steal every word here for a pitch proper: The Next Starfighter.
What do you think?
Casey Jones is an author and voiceover artist. You can learn more about his work here.