Program Length: 115 minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 1080p
Languages: English, French Dolby TrueHD 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French
In 1977 NASA launched two Voyager spacecraft which were designed to explore our Solar System and beyond. Each of the Voyager spacecraft carried a Golden Record which included greetings in 55 different languages, a multitude of “Sounds of Earth,” 90 minutes of music, and a one-hour recording of human brain waves. The Voyager missions are expected to last for tens of thousands of years, and the records were put aboard in the event that someday there might be encounters with extra-terrestrials. The records are in effect time capsules of life on Earth as it was in 1977.
The premise of John Carpenter’s Starman is that one of the Voyager spacecraft did in fact have an encounter with aliens, and those aliens responded by making exploratory visits to Earth. When an alien spacecraft approaches Earth, headed for a landing in
The crash takes place near the home of Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen), a recently widowed woman who lives alone and drinks vodka while watching home movies of her husband, who was killed in an accident. Starman, who in alien form appears to be a glowing light, enters the house while Jenny sleeps. After looking through Jenny’s photo album, which contains strands of her dead husband’s hair, Starman clones himself to take on the appearance of the husband. Jenny, who awakens while this is taking place, can scarcely believe her eyes when she sees the transformation. But for his halting speech, Starman could easily pass for Jenny’s husband.
In the meantime, the
Shermin believes that the alien most likely came in peace, but his superior, George Fox (Richard Jaeckel), will have none of it. Fox decides that the alien must be captured or killed, and the chase is on. Starman, we learn, has only a few days to get to
What follows is less a science-fiction film than a road film which happens to include an alien. Jenny’s inclination is to flee from Starman at her first opportunity, but she gradually begins to sympathize with him. Although Starman is awkward in both his movements and his speech, he is a quick learner and never forgets anything. With the
The idea of calling a John Carpenter film “sweet” may sound like sacrilege, but that is exactly what Starman is. The plot follows a somewhat predicable path and has more than a few lapses in logic, and it is hampered by Jaeckel’s character, a stereotypical bureaucrat who is willing to destroy the alien on the dubious assumption that he must be up to no good. However, the film is redeemed by the wonderful chemistry between Bridges and Allen, both of whom give excellent performances. Starman and Jenny each have something to give to the other, and the two actors carry it off well enough that we really care about what happens to them. Besides, how can you dislike an alien who has taken the time to learn about the human reproductive process?
Starman certainly is a departure for Carpenter, as it contains very little violence and none of the darkness found in films such as The Thing, Assault on Precinct 13 and Escape From L.A. It is not a particularly memorable film, but it is certainly an enjoyable one.
The 2.40:1 1080p transfer is excellent. Except for the fact that the special effects have a dated look (a look which is more obvious in high-definition than otherwise), this could be mistaken for a film of more recent vintage. Much of the action takes place outdoors, and the scenery is beautifully rendered, with vivid colors and excellent detail. Shadow detail likewise is quite good, which is important because there are a number of significant scenes which play out at night. The image is consistently sharp and satisfying. Film grain is a bit variable but it appears to accurately replicate the way the film appeared in theaters. All in all, this is another first-class Blu-ray presentation from Sony.
The Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack is more than adequate, given the age of the film. The few very loud scenes do not have the same impact which we would expect from today’s movies, but it is more than adequate even though the subwoofers are not really challenged. The surround channels are kept busy with ambient noises, dialogue is clear and understandable, and Jack Nitzsche’s evocative score sounds terrific.
Alas, Sony has decided to release the Blu-ray version of Starman with no extras at all. Even though a commentary by John Carpenter already exists, it inexplicably is not included here. It appears that there will be some BD-Live features, but they will not be activated until the release date.
The single disc comes in a stand Blu-ray keepcase.
The Final Analysis
If you can get past the fact that this is a bare-bones Blu-ray release without a single extra, you will be pleased by the superb transfer. It is hard to imagine that Starman could look any better. Some people have found the performance by Jeff Bridges to be disconcerting, with perhaps a bit of Mork to it, but I feel that he really lost himself in the role. Karen Allen always gives a first-rate performance, so this is worth viewing if only to see two excellent actors at work.
Equipment used for this review:
Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 THS Plasma display, calibrated to THX specifications by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable
Edited by Richard Gallagher - 8/11/2009 at 03:35 pm GMT