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While essentially a science fiction story involving all the essentials - aliens, the United States Army, government cover-ups, a countrywide chase adventure and what's this, an intergalactic love story? - Carpenter is able to make sense of the material in such a way that it is both respectful to the sci-fi genre, the sci-fi fans, and to the audience members who may not give a crap about this sort of stuff and only want their corn popped.
The biggest surprise about "Starman" is the script by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon. They're able to strip a laughable story of all that makes it laughable and create something new, something that is intelligent, heart-warming, action-packed, and romantic. Carpenter takes his cues from the material and makes everything in this wondrous sci-fi/action piece his own. And who can forget that awesome synthesizer score by Jack Nitzsche (strange since Carpenter usually composes his own film scores)?
Evans and Gideon's script, taking its cues from "The Day the Earth Stood Still" (1951) and "E.T. the Extraterrestrial" (1982), concerns an alien who has come to Earth after answering an invitation he found on the Voyager II space probe. However, his ship is attacked by fighter jets and he manages to make it to the Wisconsin cabin of young widow Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen), still grieving the death of her husband. After sampling DNA taken from a lock of hair of her late husband, the alien grows into a human clone of him, where he is now played by the actor Jeff Bridges.
After overcoming the obvious speech barrier when he learns to speak in English, Starman then requests that Jenny Hayden drive him from Wisconsin to Arizona, where he will meet the mother ship that will take him back to his home planet. Unfortunately, they only have a few days before he'll die from what we can only guess is exposure to our atmosphere. Matters are further complicated when the military becomes involved, desperate to catch Starman at all costs, much to the horror of laboratory rat Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith). Along the way, Jenny grows from being fearful of this visitor from another planet, to respecting him and finally loving him, while he gets to learn about human beings and BEING human.
It's not enough to say that both Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen are this film's magical centerpiece. They certainly make for one of the most dynamic, unusual and interesting screen couples in cinematic history, certainly one of the best screen couples in the history of science fiction cinema. The real stand-out of course is Bridges. This is a role that he rightfully received an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor for. We see no trace of the actor "Jeff Bridges" in there, all we see is "Starman," defined largely by his awkward mannerisms and patterns of speech, and it is a skillful, humorous, and touching performance that is the pure anti-thesis to Carpenter's earlier "The Thing" (1982).
John Carpenter, unfortunately, has not received a whole lot of recognition for this picture. Although it remains his only film to go to the Oscars, I only hope that this touching, once-in-a-lifetime science fiction/adventure-romance gets the recognition it so rightfully deserves.
But for me, the main point of this film is not the chase, the cloning by the alien, the humor throughout the film, or the eventual outcome which led into the subsequent TV series. The focal point comes in the diner where our alien asks Karen Allen to "Define Love." If everyone would take this definition to heart, this world would be a much better place!
This is what movie making should strive to achieve. This film has virtually everything... romance, humor, action, suspense, a gorgeous soundtrack, beautiful cinematography, an intelligent screenplay with a most important message, and talented actors and actresses. I gave it a SOLID 10!
And then there is Dutch apple pie...........
*** out of ****
A magical movie, with a poignant, otherworldly score sees John Carpenter direct a movie outside his usual genre. Well, all the planets came into alignment for this one, as it is a heart warming emotionally involving ride from start to finish.
This would be one of my 10 "Desert Island" movies.
Basically, a perfect little movie. Beautifully and simply set up, the characters develop naturally in such a way that keeps you hooked right through to the end of the film. The strength of the central relationship distracts you from little infelicities, such as the fact that "Jennyhayden" seems remarkably incurious about her alien visitor - even after she gets to know him, it's not until he's about to leave that she asks him what his world is like! The film nicely points out the irony of our having extended welcoming greetings to the Universe, while our own mutual distrust causes us to shoot down every unexpected flying visitor. Having established that, however, Richard Jaekel's character seems to be pursuing the violent solution for its own sake without really exploring any motivation. When Charles Martin Smith points out that our behaviour does appear a little rude, Jaekel doesn't even have an answer for him - he's just going to try to kill the alien because that's his role in the movie I guess!
"Do you know what I find most beautiful about you? You are at your best when things are at their worst."
Well, it has been 19 years - I guess that the "boy baby" has grown up. Time for the sequel, methinks!!
This is not your typical over the top FX SciFi. It is an action drama with an underlying love story that would interest, even those who don't like this genre. But then I suppose if John Carpenter were to make a movie about the number 2758.369, it would be a interesting!
What more can I say - Great stuff!
The Starman forces Jenny to take him to Arizona and she is hostile with him in the beginning. However, she learns that he is a peaceful being and she chooses to help him. But the army is chasing them and the despicable NSA chief George Fox (Richard Jaeckel) wants to hunt him down while the SETI scientist Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith) wants to help The Starman since he is sure that he has come to visit Earth peacefully.
"Starman" is still a wonderful sci-fi after thirty years. Nominated to the Oscar and to the Golden Globe, Jeff Bridges has magnificent performance and chemistry with Karen Allen. John Carpenter succeeds once again and makes a movie with a beautiful story, with drama, romance, action and humor. I saw this movie many times in the past on VHS but today I saw it on Blu-Ray. My vote is nine.
Title (Brazil): "Starman - O Homem das Estrelas" ("Starman – The Man from the Stars")
As mentioned, he does well enough in the directors chair, but the script doesn't have his name on it, and it shows. Our Starman seems to have powers that are written as flexible according to what's happening with the plot at the time, which is hardly awe-inspiring if you've got the scope to craft an otherworldly being. He can learn to drive a car just by watching us, and yet he can NEVER get around to becoming a decent mimic of our speech patterns??? (Studio: "talking funny is endearing to the audience, keep it in!!!!!") Bridges does what the role asks of him (and got an Oscar nomination for it) but any admirer who's seen a representative sample of his work knows that behaving quizzically with a halting voice and beguiling charm is not exactly testing for him, he is capable of so much more. Karen Allen is a wonderfully pretty and talented actress but she didn't manage to 'sell' me the burgeoning romance between her and her co-star, here. So far as I could surmise, the character is seduced by an alien because he LOOKS the same as her dead hubby... So, 'personality' isn't important, then?? The entire romance is like trite manipulation, and it's even worse when the script attempts to describe love, because the sentiment is pretty accurate, but the practical demonstration of chemistry before our eyes isn't.
Moving away from the main characters, all that's left is the big bad military bogeymen of the Cold-War era getting involved. Yeah yeah, it was a recurring theme throughout the 80's, it's nothing fresh. In fact, I can't think of a single scene that felt specific to this one particular film I was watching, it all felt somewhat stale; so either it's been ripped off too much in the intervening years by its multitude of descendants, or else it wasn't all that 'inventive' in the first place. If you saw it when you were a kid, it also might be a personal favourite, but I don't think it's made the transition well into an adult sphere. If you're in the mood for some Close-style Encounters and you've overdosed on watching the Extra-Terrestrial, you might find this adequate to stoke your obsession as a stopgap; just don't expect a cosmic experience or you'll come crashing down to earth, because this really is a touch mundane.
This change of pace for Carpenter is another film which shows the care he gave to all his movies. The story is solid, if nothing especially great. But it's nicely shot and paced, with some engaging performances, especially from Karen Allen as the bemused woman taken along for the ride by the alien. Jeff Bridges puts in an original enough turn as the starman, although it is definitely quite surprising he was Oscar nominated for it. In essence this is a road movie with a romantic sub-plot that is based around a sci-fi premise. It's fairly successful in each of its sub-genres and is a very likable piece of work overall. And for what it's worth, I much preferred it to E.T.
Jenny Hayden lost her husband recently, and when the Starman's spaceship is shot down while entering Earths atmosphere. He crashes rather near Jenny's home in the woods, and Starman explores Jenny's home. He's an energy being, so the filming is from his perspective. It was very well done...
Anyway, Starman sees pictures of Jenny's husband, and "creates" a carbon copy of him. Jenny wakes up and the movie takes off from there...some will undoubtedly say the movie is rather slow, and indeed it is paced that way through much of their time together. What grabs onto you subtly is the awakening of a love that transcends the galaxy. The cinematography is excellent, the theme music outstanding, and the acting top notch...
Yes, it will move slowly, but that is the real beauty of a really well done movie, from when movies were made well...
One of director John Carpenter's most mainstream efforts but that doesn't mean it's a bad one. It's a movie that obviously owes a lot to E.T. The basic formula of the two films is very similar. Jeff Bridges is great in the lead role. He was nominated for an Oscar for this. The only time a Carpenter movie got an Oscar nod. Karen Allen is also quite good. She and Bridges have a nice chemistry together. The often underrated Charles Martin Smith is another plus. It's an enjoyable film but probably more so for your average moviegoer than critical sci-fi buffs. I like it a lot and don't feel like it gets enough love from other Carpenter fans. Maybe it's lacking many of those Carpenter touches we love but it's still a good movie. This later inspired a short-lived TV series but the less said about that, the better.
Taking on human form, that of Allen's deceased husband, much of the humour is derived from how the alien tries to adapt to a human lifestyle. The language, food, customs and romance, but always there is a serious thread running through the narrative. He was invited here by the contents of Voyager One, but now the suits want him for less than honourable research, so the pair, coming together as one after she is obviously in a state of kidnap worry, have to stay one step ahead of the authorities.
So there's suspense in the mix via the chase dynamics, as well as some beautiful sequences, one of which has animal lovers of the world punch the air with unbridled joy. The premise is of course flimsy, and cribbing bits from ET and Close Encounters did the film no favours under critical analysis, but the emotional whack is mightily strong, with the lead characters being so easy to root for. While Jack Nitzsche's synth based musical score is a sci-fi great, perfect.
A vastly under valued picture on Carpenter's CV, Starman would like to come and see us, if only we would give it the time. 8.5/10
A fine movie indeed.
Jeff Bridges as the alien, or rather Starman played the character in such a way that he is foreign like an alien and at the same time something to admire by his depiction of innocence, kindness, and above all his passion and care for living things. There are many great, touching scenes in this movie. One that particularly comes to mind is a moment where he revives a deer that had been slain by a hunter. He deliver such an action because he's a good natured being. Throughout the film, it becomes apparent that the interactions he shares with other humans are generally bad, displaying the darkness and thoughtlessness of the human spirit. In a way, Starman is someone who humans should be when we aren't.
Karen Allen as the widow Jenny Hayden delivered perhaps her most complicated role. While it can be easy for an actor to show a variety of emotions that the script may require, it is a challenge to authenticate a person who cannot move on from a lost loved one and carry the bleak and often defeatist personality. In Starman, she gives her finest performance. Though Bridges garnered a lot of credit for his portrayal as Starman, such as a Best Actor Oscar nomination, Allen is an equal caliber. As a viewer, I could feel empathy for her character and desired for her to find the love and compassion she desperately needed to move on with her life.
Despite some of its dated VFX and occasionally sappy/overly sentimental moments, "Starman" is a great film. It is one of the few science-fiction films that does not focus on monsters, robots, blood, explosions, and/or blatant special effects. It's core is in the hearts of the main characters. Jack Nitsche's score is an emotional moving force and John Carpenter's directing capabilities of engrossing viewers into his films is something to remember for the ages.
Starman is a departure from a man mainly known for the horror genre. Carpenter who tends to write his own music for films left it to Jack Nitzsche although I assumed for years it was Carpenter's music with that stirring theme.
I was mesmerised by this film when I saw it 30 years ago and its lost nothing of its charm and power since then even though the film has of course aged.
The alien who arrives on Earth takes the form of Jeff Bridges the late husband of Karen Allen who still mourns him.
Allen is of course uneasy about this arrival and Bridges needs to get to Arizona in three days so he can be reunited with his spacecraft and get back home. In the meantime he learns by observation and get to communicate with others and more importantly, Allen.
Jeff Bridge's was rightly Oscar nominated for his role. He starts out as almost infant like as he arrives, learns to speak, move navigate with a sense of wide eyed wonderment.
The film is essentially a road/chase movie as the government and military are on the hunt for our alien with Allen wondering whether to abandon him. However the film tells us a lot about humans from the eyes of this visitor which also carries some slight religious symbolism. Starman gets Allen who could not conceive, pregnant for example.
For cinephiles this is an essential film of the 1980s. Its a 10 from me something that I do not award easily. The only disappointment for me is that John Carpenter could not use this movie as a springboard to become a great director.
Its now 2014, and yet I can still sit and watch this highly enjoyable film.
Who needs billion dollar effects if you have a great story?
OK! By todays standards, the acting could b vastly improved as well as the effects and many goofs could b put right, but could anyone do the film justice the way that Carpenter did without having to add superfluous battles and explosions? I seriously doubt it!
Trust me! Get a hold of this film... Ignore the now dated effects and enjoy a truly great story!
JEFF BRIDGES is an alien with the ability to transform himself into the exact duplicate of KAREN ALLEN's husband Scott who has died. He lands in her backyard in Wisconsin when his ship plunges to earth. Little communication between them, but he makes Allen drive him across the country in her '77 Mustang with a working knowledge of English consisting of a few phrases here and there. His mission is to reach Arizona within a few days to meet his starship or it leaves without him and he dies.
The fantasy aspect remains credible until about midpoint in the story when the alien exhibits some supernatural powers. Even a sci-fi romance of this kind shouldn't become too incredible. The romantic angle is restrained and nicely underplayed, especially by Bridges who gets his idea of kissing from watching a clip from FROM HERE TO ETERNITY.
The second half of the story deals more with the police on their tail trying to rescue Allen, who by now has fallen in love with her kidnapper and doesn't want them to harm him. It's also at this point that the story loses steam and interest in the denouement lessens instead of increases--obviously the opposite of what Carpenter intended--nor does the climactic scene with Bridges joining his space ship have the punch it should have had. (Maybe it needed John Williams for that added dimension!)
The film depends largely on JEFF BRIDGES' performance as the alien. He does it with strange gestures and head jerks but is always convincingly like an inhuman mannequin. Even his walk is stiff.
Favorite line from driver who gives Bridges a lift: "You're not from around here, are yah?"
Summing up: Offbeat and interesting, but could have had a deeper impact.