Monday, April 9, 2018

Rogue One's Gary Whitta Premieres Concept Art for His Last Starfighter Reboot

As I mentioned many times before, I would go to my Dad's house every summer for a few weeks growing up. During that time, I would catch up on the many movies I missed out on in the theater. One of those that was watched every time it came on HBO was The Last Starfighter. I didn't even play video games, but loved the idea of being recruited to save the world from an alien army.

For those that don't remember The Last Starfighter, it centers around teenager Alex Rogan (Lance Guest), who finally achieves the high score on Starfighter, his favorite arcade game. Alex meets the game's designer, Centauri (Robert Preston) -- who reveals that he created Starfighter as a training ground for developing and recruiting actual pilots to help fight a war in space. Whisked away from the banality of his trailer park life to a distant alien planet, Alex struggles to use his video game-playing skills to pilot a real ship, with real lives at stake.

The Last Starfighter had everything a kid could want. Video games, aliens, space battles, and humor. Plus the fact that the visual effects at the time were something to gawk at. The movie was one of the first to use CGI and, although they didn't age well, made a lasting impact in the world of cinema.

I'm not the only person The Last Starfighter made a lasting impression on. Ready Player One writer Ernest Cline followed that bestseller up with a book entitled Armada, which is obviously heavily influenced by the movie. In it, a teenager plays an online video game about defending against an alien invasion, only to find out that the game is a simulator to prepare him and people around the world for fighting against an actual alien attack. It was announced as being made into a movie right after Ready Player One blew up the box office.

I was very excited when Rogue One screenwriter Gary Whitta posted concept art for a reboot / remake of The Last Starfighter he's working on with Jonathan Betuel, who wrote the original 1984 film. The art captures the look of the original movie, while updating it enough to keep things interesting and fresh for a new audience.

The images were accompanied by the caption, "Okay, probably shouldn’t show you this so early but here’s a little something I’ve been tinkering on with my co-writer Jonathan Betuel. You might recognize the ships. Thanks to the amazing Matt Allsopp (lead concept artist on ROGUE ONE) for creating these images for us."

Whitta was interviewed by io9 / Gizmodo about The Last Starfighter reboot / remake and shared some about the project.

"Jon [Betuel] created and wrote the original movie, it was all his idea, a spec script he wrote while he was working as a waiter in Hollywood in the early ’80s. There was a whole bidding war over that script. In all the years hence, whenever I’ve brought up the idea of a Starfighter reboot in meetings, people would always convey excitement and then say that it’s impossible because the rights are a mess. It’s true that it’s not simple, but part of the key to it is, as I understand it (and I’m not a lawyer), Jon still retains some piece of ownership of the original IP, so no one can make a new movie without his participation. I happened to track Jon down, and after I was done pestering him with all my fanboy questions about the original film we started to talk about what a new version might look like. Since then we’ve spent so many hours working on it I’ve long since lost count, but right now we have a fully developed story that is a combination of reboot and sequel that we both think honors the legacy of the original film while passing the torch to a new generation. We’re both very excited about it creatively," Whitta stated.

"All I know is, we’re trying really hard to make this a reality. It’s a passion project for Jon and me both. And I know we have a great movie here. But we still need to deal with some remaining biz stuff before we can really move forward. We’ve had a lot of talks with Universal. We’re determined, one way or another, to make this happen. Trying to create in Hollywood is always like pushing a boulder uphill, particularly when there are archaic rights issues involved, but we’re going to keep trying. That’s the lesson of Starfighter... when you get your chance you’ve got to grab it with both hands, and hold on tight," he continued.

I've always though the idea of a sequel centered on Alex's foul-mouthed and bratty little brother, Luis, growing up and becoming a Starfighter would be a great direction to move into. At the end of The Last Starfighter, he's shown running up to the game to begin his "training." Original actor Chris Hebert would be too old to take on the role now, and too much time has passed if the movie is to be set in present day or somewhere in that vicinity.

I know I'm very excited to see a sequel or reboot of one of my favorite childhood films. I have great memories of watching the movie over and over again. Here's hoping that they have a spot for original Starfighter Lance Guest to make an appearance. Maybe he could be a trainer or Commander of the new team of pilots.