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Starman (1984) Print E-mail
Thursday, 13 August 2009
ImageWhen we typically think of alien movies, we think of high-action war between aliens and the human race.  It is rare to see an alien movie that attempts to deal more with the human-alien relationship.  "Starman" does just that.  However, it does not deviate totally for the stereotypical.

The film was released in 1984 and directed by John Carpenter.  Carpenter is most remembered for his directorial work of "The Thing" two years prior to "Starman."  In this film Carpenter brings the audience an emotional bond between human and alien.

As the film opens, Voyager II is being sent off into space carry a message of peace.  Whoever is to find the probe, it is hoped, will come visit Earth.  One night, army intelligence picks up an unidentified bogey that is heading toward the Earth's atmosphere.  When they blast the craft, it changes course and lands in Wisconsin just outside Jenny Hayden's (Karen Allen) house.

Hayden has recently lost her husband and remains nostalgic and depressed inside her home.  After a night of drinking, she is awakened by a strong glow and noise.  She awakes to a glowing and growing baby on her living room rug.  She watches it evolve and take the form of her deceased husband.

It doesn't take the alien, Scott (Jeff Bridges) to realize that the humans mean him harm.  This is where the film does not deviate from the stereotype.  The military is out to track down the alien and dissect him.  So, while Scott and Jenny run from the authorities throughout the film for Scott to get to his original landing zone in order to meet the ship that is to take him home.  It is strange that Scott only arrives to head right back out.  We don't exactly know what his purpose on Earth was, except to use the greetings included in the Voyager II probe.

However, all that isn't really the point of film.  The film is really about the bond that develops between Scott and Jenny.  At first Jenny is trying everything to escape.  However, when Scott heals a deer, she sees the human-like side of him and decides to stick around.  As they travel from Wisconsin to Arizona, the pair learns from each other.  Scott learns more from Jenny than vice-versa, but it was mutual nonetheless.

Scott leaves Jenny with the greatest gift that she could ask for.  In fact, I'm surprised that they never made a "Starman II."  It would have failed, but the story was there and the fact that it is weak hasn't stopped studios in the past.  SEITI agent, Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith) originally contracted by the government begins to question their motives.  His humanity kind of takes a backseat in the film and only really exists to get the main characters to the finale of the film. The ending of the film is not exactly tearful, but it is complete as far as to be expected for this film.  Like I mentioned earlier there are still a bunch of questions left at the end, but none of them are pressing enough to keep you awake at night.

The chemistry between Allen and Bridges is very tight.  Bridges does a good job at arriving as an alien and learning the ways of humans.  While his alien speech pattern sometimes borders the fine line between mentally ill and alien, Bridges' performance is nicely supported by Allen.

For a 1984 film, "Starman" arrives on Blu-ray with an adequate transfer.  It is likely one of the better video transfers from Sony in their latest batch of 1980s' films.  It is nice to see the film presented in the original 2.40:1 aspect ratio.  There is a large amount of film grain covering the image, however it is not as coarse as many 1980 films.  There does not appear to be any digital noise reduction applied.  However, due to the presence of grain the textures of the image are somewhat lost.  Scene details are slightly above average, but never truly distracting.  While fleshtones are accurate the lack of texture makes faces appear soft.  Colors are fairly vibrant without oversaturation, supported by rich black levels.  The opening sequence is full of stars and planets and contains nice contrast/brightness levels.  The image doesn't fully pop from the screen but it is more than watchable.

The audio is presented in Dolby TrueHD 5.1.  It is commendable, but falls short of a true re-mastered track.  The dialogue is glued to the center channel.  While it remains clear for the most part, there are sequences in which the entire track becomes overloaded and the dialogue and effects distort.  This is quite annoying.  The surround channels are usually filled, but they are filled with matrixed audio.  This causes numerous phase issues between the front and rear channels.  The LFE channel is adequate, but nowhere near as powerful as in today's films.  The opening segment with Voyager II is meant to have powerful bass, but it falls toward the side of weak.  Dynamic range is quite expansive, tinkering the border of too dynamic.  Frequency response is limited in the upper-mid frequency range, preventing that crystal clear and present dialogue.  This is a suitable audio track for the age of the film, but I think it could have used more attention.

There are no special features on this disc.  The disc is enabled with BD-Live functionality for possible future bonus materials, but I wouldn't hold your breath.

"Starman" is a romantic science-fiction drama.  It contains a heartfelt story that is only dragged down by the stereotypical government chase.  The video quality is better than most of this age, but the audio quality is unfortunately not as good in respect to the little details.  For the movie and the video quality I would upgrade to this Blu-ray disc.

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