Jason Weisberger at 10:53 am Wed, Aug 29, 2012
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The Last Starfighter always makes me smile... Man, Lord Kril handles this with class.
Jason Weisberger is Boing Boing's publisher. He often does what he ought, instead of what he should. On instagram and twitter he is @jlw
Ants and Stars: Bruce Sterling and Jasmina Tesanovic visit the Sardinia Radio Telescope in Italy
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What was that rendered on, an ATI Rage 128?
Cray XMP. The amiga wasn’t even released until a year later.
Pretty state-of-the-art for 1984, though.
Serious? Star Wars Episode IV looked better than this. How big was that moon, the width of a football field?
Star Wars was the gold standard for FX at the time. If you hold 80′s sci fi film FX to that standard they all suck.
Physical models vs very early computer graphics. There was a reason Lucas waited until Jurassic Park before even thinking of using CGI extensively.
CG state-of-the art in 1984, yes.
Wikipedia can be your friend:
“The Last Starfighter, in addition to Disney’s Tron, has the distinction of being one of cinema’s earliest films to use extensive computer-generated imagery (CGI) to depict its many starships, environments and battle scenes. This CGI technique, for the time, was a great leap into the future compared to contemporary films such as the previous year’s Return of the Jedi, which still used static physical models shot by moving film cameras.”
Hey, _someone_ has to be the early adopter of new tech. Besides, within the context of the time, it looked pretty cool.
Regarding Star Wars, there _is_ a difference between what is good for its time and what later comes to define that time. What defines the time will always be seen in a different light. (Although, prior to the 1997 re-release, I personally think the SW films were starting to show their age.)
Also, so that you have a better idea of what state-of-the-art tech was at that time, the original MacIntosh was released in 1984.
“The final Mac design was self-contained and had the complete QuickDraw picture language and interpreter in 64 kB of ROM – far more than most other computers; it had 128 kB of RAM, in the form of sixteen 64 kilobit (kb) RAM chips soldered to the logicboard. Though there were no memory slots, its RAM was expandable to 512 kB by means of soldering sixteen IC sockets to accept 256 kb RAM chips in place of the factory-installed chips. The final product’s screen was a 9-inch, 512×342 pixel monochrome display, exceeding the size of the planned screen.”
Yep, those are kilobytes, not megabytes. It’s pretty amazing how far we’ve come in such a short span of time. It’s also easy to look back and laugh at what was once cutting edge. But when that stuff is new, boy, does it seem cool. Too bad we’re all too hip to appreciate that.
I remember seeing this showing on a TV in a department store, and having to be almost dragged away by my mother, it looked So cool!
Do you people really not know that Star Wars came out in 1977, 7 years BEFORE this movie? Defending this movie on the basis that it came out in 1984 doesn’t make much sense.
but this movie used cgi, not models. that is the difference.
2001 came out nine years before Star Wars and looks much better.
You understand that Star Wars used real, physical models of things and this movie used nothing but CGI yes?
You have seen the original Star Wars before Lucas tweaked it to better hide the wires yes?
You’re aware that this movie took a super computer to render?
You’re also aware it still looks better than an Xbox as well yeah?
Oh ffs. Why does any of that matter? This was a terrible, corny movie with effects that I, as a 9-year-old boy at the time, thought were not that interesting to look at. Why? Because I had already seen the Star Wars movies. They made a better movie, and it looked better, too. The CGI was groundbreaking? So what? We go to movies to watch the movies, not the pixels.
If nobody cared, there wouldn’t be any pixels. Please think of the pixels.
I know, what was it a moon for ants? It would have to be at least 6 times as big! :-)
And now, suddenly, I feel old.
Background summary for the younger generation: Starfighter and Tron were the first CGI movies, and of the two Starfighter has a better claim to be truly CGI-based. (Tron, two years earlier, relied extensively on hand animation to bridge the gap.) At the time of release, Starfighter contained the most complex scene ever rendered, by a large margin.
It was the movie that made me decide to be a computer animator when I grew up. (Other kids, less empowered by the geek gene, wanted to be starfighter pilots.)
By comparison, Return of the Jedi (the previous year) looked good – because it was making incremental advances on an old and well-known technology, not groundbreaking with a new one. It didn’t have any computer animation (then); Lucas was tinkering with motion control but essentially relying on established techniques.
Last Starfighter looks so limited now because it was groundbreaking; it opened a path that we have now travelled so thoroughly that it’s impossible to describe how jaw-droppingly amazing it was at the time. (Tron arguably even more so.)
All of it was done on the incredible Cray X-MP, the world’s fastest supercomputer. It was so big, it had a full 16 Megabytes of memory. And the hard disks could store over 1Gb each. Assuming you had the ~$15 million to buy it. (Disk drives extra, but they were much cheaper – I think not over $150,000 each at the time.)
Every so often, I consider the comparative value of my phone, and have to sit down and giggle uncontrollably.
Psst. A Rage 128 would have never been that sharp.
I think the Yahoo! detracts from the note of dignity.
(On a side note and just to criticize the video, there’s a jarring disconnect between the ultra-clean special effects, and the fuzzy, dirty live action bits. Almost the reverse of Firefly’s situation.)
In a deleted scene Lord Kril’s last words are, “This is what we get for using leftover sets from The Black Hole.”
Space monocle. I like that.
Space Monocle – with attitude!
* snap *
Yep, the monocle sliding over right before the line in question really drove it home for me.
I watched this movie so many times as a kid.
“And did Galoca think the Yulus were too ugly to save?”
ALWAYS TRUST CENTAURI!
How many Centauri does it take to screw in a light bulb? Only one. But, in the grand old days of the Republic, hundreds of servants would change thousands of light bulbs at our slightest whim!
Wrong Centauri, but still funny!
A distant cousin, YES?
Such a good movie. The CG holds up pretty well after all this time because it is so stylized. Not by choice of course, but thats what they had to work with.
I’m wearing my “84th Starfighter Command Group” shirt today!
Chicks dig it
this movie has so much soul. i used to watch this on Beta as a kid about once a week.
Now if they would just add back in Wil Wheaton’s scenes into the movie. Not even as outtakes on the Blu-Ray!
Now I have to go back and watch the Death Blossom five times.
I too LOVE this movie. Funny and has heart. I love when Centauri was talking about getting the game into distribution.
And Griz with that laugh!
I love this movie and the “We die.” quote is such a classic line, I am surprised it isn’t referenced more.
Yes, its just wonderful. Really the movie is just full of great characters and dialog. That it is saddled with such period perfect effects only makes it better. I am really scared of a remake.
“All we have left is life support power.”
Dinks with cables and fully restores ship’s systems, including weapons. Classic sci-fi…
To be fair, he was dinking for a while.
I’m done reconfoobling the energy-motron. Or whatever…
and there were sparks! whenever you see sparks from randomly touching wires to your electronics project it means you just about have it fixed. :-)
this movie inspired a large part of my childhood. it is the reason i “flipped” the defenders game on the atari and then waited up all night in the back yard looking up at the stars. childhood imagination is way better then any possible drug. :-)
(for the youngsters/kids on this board, flipping a game is when you exceed the maximum possible score and the score reverts back to 0 because the numbers can’t go any higher.)
Oh God, I’m old.
Ahhh, great popcorn movie… loved the nod to Dr. Strangelove in the background when the Starfighters have just finished their briefing. And I just had a flashback on this movie yesterday watching (for the first time) the aborted Jericho series in which Lance Guest had a brief cameo.
Seriously? Like “ramming speed” is a standard throttle setting on every starship? I’ll have check and see if I have that as a cruise control setting in the Corolla.
The helmsman needed to reply in the voice of Scotty “Captain, this is a starship, no’ a phoenician trireme!”
I put a sticker over the cruise control button in my truck to read “RAMMING SPEED”
Corolla eh? Obviously the sticking accelerator is the activation for “ramming speed”.
-I jest, cause I drive a Corolla as well.
Of course there’s ramming speed – it’s that red section on the far right of the tacho.
Well yeah, what did you expect? This is a movie, and we’re mean and ugly! Was bound to happen! Have a little dignity you pus-
As a kid, I remember seeing Grig’s electronic wallet and wondering how they could cram all those pictures of his family into one little box that didn’t even have a floppy drive.
And sometimes it’s the inferior’s job to set the arrogant ass captain straight…
(Captain Mancuso is just cool as a mancucumber)
An amazing movie; thanks for the nostalgic diversion! :)
Man! Doesn’t that bridge looks almost exactly like the bridge on an Imperial II-class Star Destroyer?
Did Lucas pick it up at “Sets-R-Us”?
That was an awesome film. Had totally forgotten it actually. Thanks for the memories.
I saw Last Starfighter again recently. What struck me as anachronistic wasn’t the effects (I expected that) but the stately pacing. Stuff happens…then the action pauses for a few seconds…and then the actors reflect on the stuff that just happened…and then more stuff happens. In 1984, Last Starfighter felt like 100 minutes of wall-to-wall explosions and melting alien heads, I don’t think I blinked the whole time. In 2012 it’s practically The Straight Story.
This brings back happy memories. Thanks.
In fairness, showing it properly on screen would break the minds of the audience anyway…
What strikes me is how much Lord Kril reminds me of the Jem’Hadar from DS9, about fifteen years or so later, right down to using a HUD monocle.
The other guy should’ve said, “finally”.
CGI designs: Ron Cobb. Also worked on something in the Star Wars series, but I dont know what.
This movie is one of the two that encompass all of movie and TV science fiction. The other is Galaxy Quest. Just watch the two of these over and over and you don’t have to ever bother with any others.