The Last Starfighter is a cherished touchstone for those of us who grew up in the 1980s, a hunk of pure nostalgia that speaks to the heart of everybody who ever felt trapped in a life too small and dreamed of adventures that seemed impossibly far away. It was also part of the incredible “class of 1984,” a ridiculous cinematic lineup that included the likes of Ghostbusters, Gremlins, The Terminator, Dune, and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Given its status as a beloved cult classic, it’s surprising that we haven’t seen a reboot or sequel after all these years. And it’s actually a project that could be well suited for the reboot treatment: the basic story not only holds up, but the movie’s begging for updated effects and a tweaked storyline that brings the arcade trappings into the modern age. But it turns out we may never see a Last Starfighter reboot or sequel, because even Steven Spielberg tried…and failed.
It seems that a Last Starfighter reboot has been something quite a few filmmakers have chased over the years, but getting the rights has proven more difficult than defending the Frontier against Xur and the Ko-dan Armada without a Death Blossom. After that badass “modern trailer” for Starfighter hit last week, screenwriter Gary Whitta (who’s writing the Star Wars spinoff film due in 2016) bemoaned on Twitter that no one had ever been able to get a sequel or reboot up and running. /Film’s Peter Sciretta joined the discussion and the two began discussing just how many people in Hollywood had tried to acquire the rights over the years, including Seth Rogen. Soon enough Rogen himself sounded off and confirmed that The Last Starfighter rights are basically the Holy Grail, forever out of reach even to the biggest power players in town.
— Seth Rogen (@Sethrogen) November 23, 2014
So what’s the problem? Rogen claims that The Last Starfighter writer Jonathan R. Betuel holds the rights, so nobody can remake or sequelize the flick without winning him over first…and apparently he’s simply not interested in letting that happen. Betuel penned two ’80s classics — Starfighter and My Science Project — but his last produced credit was the 1995 Whoopi Goldberg dino comedy Theodore Rex. Given the number of people chomping at the bit to get the Starfighter rights, I have no doubt he could earn a hefty sum and a producer credit on any hypothetical remake/sequel, but for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened, and it sounds like it won’t anytime soon.
And, as much as I’d love to see Starfighter revisited on the big screen, I kind of have to respect Betuel if this is an issue where he’s drawing a line in the sand on principle. After all, a Starfighter sequel/reboot could be amazing…or it could be terrible. For the foreseeable future, the original film will remain a standalone classic, a rare thing indeed in this age where every film above a certain budget is built with a franchise in mind. So if The Last Starfighter remains, well, the last Starfighter, maybe that’s not such a bad thing.
But man….this trailer does make a fella dream of what could be.