Certainly not a "classic" as such but not too shoddy a picture either, Starman is a nice film. The word "nice" could be too closely associated with the word "lame" for many viewers - especially cynical John Carpenter horror fans. But Starman gave JC the chance to concentrate less on building suspense and providing scares and to think more about enabling two talented actors to play a couple of VERY challenging roles amidst a love story of a three day relationship between an alien and a widow whilst the military is never far behind.
There's still a very creepy moment in the film but it's only seen near the start. So an alien comes to our planet to observe the nature of the evolving human race. As expected, most of the homosapien race don't come across too well (that part sounds realistic to me - sorry!) but the alien learns that there are some great human qualities to still be found. As the alien remarks "Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you? You are at your very best when things are worst."
So Starman comes on down to our planet, arrives at Jenny Hayden's house and via the dna of hair strands, he takes the humanoid form of the still grieving Jenny's recently departed husband, growing from a baby to a full grown adult in a matter of seconds only (that's the only creepy part and is actually created from the collaboration of masters Rick Baker, Stan Winston and Dick Smith!). For the remainder of the picture, we then watch Starman (having discovered that the human race is hostile after his alien craft is shot down and Jenny produces a gun) and an initially reluctant Jenny trying to reach a rendezvous point in Arizona within 3 days only. Any longer than 3 days and Bridges' alien character will die in our planet's atmosphere.
The film's only faults lie mostly with the script and not particularly with John Carpenter or certainly not with the two leads, Karen Allen and Jeff Bridges. Whilst I have little doubt that the military forces would want to capture a visiting alien, the thoroughly simplistic lead honcho government villain seems to have wandered straight in from an episode of The A-Team. Also, you have to stretch your imagination a long way to accept that certain background characters would be so helpful to strangers in trouble. When a complete stranger offers to give Jenny a fast ride "west" and then risks imprisonment by distracting just about every single member of the army personnel at a large desert roadblock, purely as a favour, it pushes the credibility factor way beyond it's acceptable limits.
However to counter that silliness, you do have fine performances from Bridges’ (Oscar nominated) and Allen, some highly enjoyable humour and around 3 or 4 very touching and memorable scenes with some fabulously emotional dialogue. This film would still be in serious trouble if not for the outrageously good, and very rousing yet ethereal (and deceptively simple!) Jack Nitzsche score, no question about that. But hey, this wouldn't be the first or last Carpenter movie to realise just how vital to the success or feel of a film, the music really was. When coupled with Nitzsche's very touching score, two of the film's scenes actually managed to make me cry (er...sorry Head Cheeze! - am I sacked?).
(It's okay B$B, we cried too...-ed)
I think that what's so enjoyable about Starman is that Carpenter managed to tread new ground (a lot of comedy, and a lot of compassion without cheesiness in the love or philosophising aspects of the story) and he still delivered very nicely indeed. Trouble is, there's still too many flaws in the film's script for it to be considered a bona fide classic in either the science fiction or love story genres. But hey, a film doesn't have to be a five star picture to still be recommended as a purchase, or for me to still enjoy it. Even a rose has it's flaws.
Other than the John Carpenter direction which is an obvious source of fascination to his usual fan base, the performances of the two leads when coupled with the wonderful Nitzsche score still make Starman a personal winner for me. As for the disc, it has a good quality anamorphic print in the film's far more impressive 2,35;1 ratio and comes with 5.1 sound. It also provides:
- A very enjoyable commentary track from JC and actor Jeff Bridges,
- A 10 minute making of featurette,
- A trailer for Starman,
- And beware, a cheesy music video with the two leads singing a duet together to promote the film. AAAAARRRGGGHHH!!!!!! I got 90 seconds in before it just HAD to be stopped. Sean Connery might have learnt to never say never again but he obviously never heard this dire cover version or caught this truly HORRIBLE video. You have been warned...
Well, other than the cursed video extra, a pleasing enough package of extras (of which the commentary is obviously the highlight!) for a sometimes very touching and rather innocent film. It's interesting to hear JC remark via the commentary track that it's one of his favourite films and that he feels glad to have been able to try his hand at something different. This region 2 DVD is definitely recommended to open-minded Carpenter fans with a keen heart and not too cynical a nature.