Magazine article The Nation

Starman

Magazine article The Nation

Starman

Article excerpt

Not one of the current spate of fantasy epics achieves classic stature, but a few have considerable charm, originality and wit. The best is Starman, John Carpenter's yuppie update of the 1950s gem The Day the Earth Stood Still. In that dim black-and-white past, Michael Rennie was deposited by a spaceship on the grounds of the Washington Monument to bring a message of peace and brotherhood to a cold war world. Needless to say, the authorities were unheeding, and Rennie had to perform an impressive feat of cosmic science to convince the Earthlings of his power. His legendary incantation still rings through inner space: "Gort--klaatu barada nikto." Unfortunately, only an attractive widow (Patricia Neal) and her child (father was absent) believed that he was good as well as omnipotent, and in the end, he took off for a star unknown, to wait for Earth to come to its senses. And we were advised in another Carpenter pre-make, The Thing, "Keep watching the skies."

Now all that attention has paid off. Superbeings have received an invitation from Kurt Waldheim (via the Voyager space probe) to visit Earth, and they have sent Jeff Bridges with their own message of good will. Bridges doesn't start out as Bridges; initially he's a great ball of fire that can take any form he chooses. But having only the cassettes and videotapes on the Voyager to learn from, he lands in Northern Michigan, singing "Satisfaction" and sounding like Kurt Waldheim and Carl Sagan, which must not be very appealing to Karen Allen, who plays the young widow he finds alone in her cabin in the woods. …

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