Charles Martin Smith
John Walter Davis
|"Would you like to know what I find beautiful about your species? You are at your best when things are at their worst."|
|Time: 115 mins.|
Genre: Science Fiction/Romance/Drama
Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
There's no doubt that John Carpenter was trying to capitalize on the sci-fi craze and escape from the horror genre for which he was known, when he brought STARMAN to life. This is not to say that STARMAN is a bad movie. It's just not a great one. It feels slapped together with bits and pieces stolen from various other films to create a seemingly new and interesting story, much like THE PATRIOT, but with different results. Bridges and Allen have good chemistry, so the love story aspect works to a certain degree; however, the sci-fi aspects are lame at best with Charles Martin Smith running around like a poor man's Richard Dreyfuss from CLOSE ENCOUNTERS. All of this wouldn't be half bad if there was any sort of plot. It plays like an adult E.T. with the alien learning our strange and primitive customs, making friends and enemies along the way, while trying to reach the mother ship so he can go home. Unlike E.T., he gets to leave a little alien DNA behind, if you know what I mean, but other than the sex, it's pretty much the same thing.
Bridges is Starman/Scott, the name of the dead man who's DNA he steals to get a body while here on Earth. Scott's wife, Jenny Hayden (Allen), is beyond surprised to see this alien grow from a baby to a full grown likeness of her husband right before her very eyes. This is the coolest visual effect in the film, which isn't saying much. He doesn't know much English, just enough to greet her. She wants nothing to do with him, but he needs a guide and she's the most convenient person around. He needs to get to Arizona (surprise, surprise) by noon three days hence or he's going to die. Jenny is less than thrilled with this assignment and is totally freaked out by his presence, mainly because he's an exact replica of her deceased true love. Still grieving over Scott's death, she goes along with Starman because he makes her. She doesn't want to be reminded of what she lost, which happens every time Starman opens his mouth. A rocket scientist he's not. Of course, one must cut him some slack since he didn't intend on actually stopping here and meeting the natives.
Though Jenny wants nothing to do with this alien guy at first, she comes around to seeing that he's not a bad creature after all. Though she tries to escape several times, his innate goodness and trust of the human race drag her back in. What they don't know through much of the film is that the "big, bad government" is hot on their trail and desperate to make sure he doesn't make it back home. Well, everyone in the government except Mark Shermin (Smith), who's just wetting himself with excitement over the possibility of meeting someone from another planet. Things get pretty hairy as the duo try to keep ahead of the cops and the Feds. Starman is forced to use his special healing powers more than once to right wrongs done by the bad guys. In the end, rather than place Jenny's life at even further risk he leaves her and attempts to find Arizona without her. She, of course, has no formed an unbreakable bond with him and wants to see the mission through, even though it will break her heart to see him go, knowing that he will never return.
If this description sounds hokey, well, that's because the film is. Bridges is likable as Starman, but that's because he plays it like a retarded cousin you enjoy spending time with though not in public. Yeah, he's not from around here all right. I can't imagine how he actually got nominated for Best Actor for this role. Who knew looking blank and speaking in one syllable sentences was so difficult. Certainly he did the best he could with what he was given. Maybe they gave him the nod because he made this trifle actually enjoyable. Karen Allen is the big surprise here. My main encounter with her acting is, like everyone else, from RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. Her role of Jenny Hayden runs the full gamut of emotions and she exudes them all beautifully. She is actually the heart and soul of this film and does a great job. What's surprising to me is that she didn't become a bigger star from this performance. It's certainly more dynamic than Bridges.
As I stated earlier the sci-fi elements of the story, from his special powers to the arrival of the mother ship, are completely embarrassing considering this film was made in the 80s. If it was pre-STAR WARS, I could cut it some slack, but even in 1984 the effects used couldn't have been considered anywhere near the best they could do. They're the kind of visuals you'd see in a B-movie where they spent all the money on the talent and did the best they could with the rest of the flick. Maybe Carpenter figured since it was mainly a love story he didn't have to concentrate all that much on the sci-fi aspect. As a film, it would stand the test of time better if it did. What saves it from being completely silly is the musical score written by Jack Nitzsche. It's simply haunting and gives the film greater emotional depth than you'd expect. It's definitely one of the best things about this movie. If you like Bridges or have to see everything sci-fi, then you'll probably enjoy this movie. Otherwise, it's a good way to pass the time on a rainy day...when you're too depressed to change the channel.