Starman (1984) – John Carpenter

Sometimes a movie comes along and it just hits you in the right way, that’s what Starman did today when I revisited it for the 101 Sci-Fi Movies list. I had seen it a number of times before, had read the novel when it first came out alongside the motion picture, and as we know, I think John Carpenter is awesome.

This time around though, the film just ticked all the boxes for me.

Jeff Bridges is fantastic, so much so that he was nominated for an Oscar, an unusual thing in itself for a genre film, as the alien who comes to Earth and assumes the form of a dead man.

When we launched the Voyager probes, we sent with them an invitation, visual representations of us and our planet, as well as greetings in a number of languages. Well, what happens when one of them takes us up on that invite? Of course, we shoot it down.

While SETI researcher Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith) and government man George Fox (Richard Jaeckel) are trying to put the pieces together and track the alien down, Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) is having other problems.

MSDSTAR EC048Suffering from the recent death of her husband, she wakes to a strange light in her living room, and watches dumbstruck as a child grows to a man within moments, and reveals himself to be the exact image of her dead husband.

The Starman assumes this form so she won’t be afraid, but I got caught up thinking about the emotional turmoil that had to have caused the character, seeing the face of the man she loved acting and behaving in a way she doesn’t understand. On the flipside, it allows her to deal with her loss, and knowing that he has to return to his planet, actually allows her a measure of closure in losing him this time when she is afforded a chance to say goodbye.

Before that though our intriguing couple have to race across the country in three days to make it to a crater in Arizona, which has been chosen as a landing site for the Starman’s rescue craft.

MSDSTAR EC043The film is gentle, hopeful, with a sense of wonder and love, things you don’t often get in a Carpenter film, but they work wonderfully, as we watch Bridges’ alien try to understand our culture, our language, why we do the things we do, and discovering the joy of a good apple pie.

Bridges has always been a favorite actor of mine, and with this re-watching this character of his I think has risen in esteem, joining Flynn, Rooster and The Dude as my preferred performances. He Starman is just a little off, his pronunciations and movements just a little not right, as he struggles to interact with the world around him, and discover that sometimes there can be great beauty in humanity.

Allen holds her own, and watching her try to decide whether or not to help this being with her husband’s face, or run, or fall in love again, is heartbreaking, and the two of them together are fantastic.

This one may end up being my favorite of the non-Kurt Russell Carpenter films, coming right after Halloween I think, but like I said, this one just connected to me in a way that it hadn’t done previously. I really enjoyed it.

What did you think of it?

Starman (1984)

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