Directed by John Carpenter
An alien race stumbles across the Voyager 2 probe and sends one of their own to make contact. Now, after being shot down and stranded on Earth, this alien must make their way across the country in order to be picked up by their people. After taking the form of a deceased man he journeys with that man’s widow with the government close behind.
Jeff Bridges puts in a fine performance here as the technically unnamed hero (?). “Hero” might be a bit of a strong word for the character that kicks the film off, but he is the purest soul among the cast. The alien that takes on the form of the deceased Scott Hayden never gets an actual name other than that of Scott Hayden and that is barely used. Bridges just does not take on the form of the other guy, but he gifts the alien impersonator with unusual mannerisms and even a strange cadence while talking. Lazy directors and writers and equally lazy actors would just create this type of character as a normal guy. “Yeah bro. I’m from another planet and I got these cool powers.”
Karen Allen is the grieving wife Jenny who falls in love with the alien. Now the real question here is is she in love with the alien or is she mixing up her feelings for her late husband and thinking she is in love with the alien? That question does not really get addressed in this movie and it is something that has always bothered me. It does not harm the film, but it is something that will come to mind (or should) if you see the film more than once.
I think the government agents are a little too willing to shoot or dissect the alien. That mentality is par for the course in alien films until more recent efforts. It is an old movie trope that directors have finally been able to move beyond. I am not saying it is bad in this case, but it is just done a little too heavy and unless the alien demonstrated itself to be a threat or did something that could be seen as threatening I never liked it.
The only one that does not fall into that mold is Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith). He is the only one that is filled with wonder and curiosity concerning this anthropologist from the stars. He even points out that after sending out an invitation in the form of Voyager 2 and its accompanying gold disc. I would have like to see a little more of his character in the film.
This is an unusually family-friendly film from director John Carpenter. The man is very identified with horror or just films with more mature material, but this is actually-dare I say it-family friendly. Aside from the sex scene there is nothing that you really could not watch with a kid in the room. From the guy that brought you Prince of Darkness and Christine along with the classic The Thing remake comes the story of an innocent alien that is essentially an anthropologist here to study Earth.
Starman/Scott encounters some or the lesser types of personalities that humanity has to offer during his journey but still manages to come away with an affection for us. We definitely have our flaws and while some are more flawed than others, we are something worthwhile. We lose those flaws or our differences we run the risk of becoming something less. I am not making an argument to embrace our negative aspects nor is this film but if we lose that which makes us different as the alien’s people have, we run the risk of becoming something less. If anything, this film is making an argument to be different.
The existence of the character of Starman asks: could it be possible to become too civilized? Are his people stagnating because they have shed all their flaws and have nothing left to overcome? He seems a little sad when he mentions that they have lost something.
Starman is a sweet film about people and about love and even loss. The concept touches on some interesting things and even if you do not catch them you will still enjoy the story. If you have not caught this science-fiction classic you should. It is a wonderful film and worth a watch.