Saturday, October 10, 2015
Directed by John Carpenter and written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, Starman is the story of an alien who arrives to Earth as he is presented in the form of a widow’s recently-deceased husband. The film is a genre-bending film in which an alien encounters humanity and the world around him with a woman who shows him the world as they try to go to Arizona so he can go back home. Starring Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, and Richard Jaeckel. Starman is a compelling yet heartfelt film from John Carpenter.
The film revolves an alien from a distant planet who receives a message from the Voyager 2 as he crash lands on Earth where he meets a recently-widowed woman whom he asks to take her to Arizona so he can go home. It’s a film that plays into a woman helping this alien, who takes in the form of her recently-deceased husband, while evading all sorts of things including government agents who want the alien believing he is hostile. Yet, there are those including a scientist who just wants to know about the alien for the right reasons as he has to deal with the tactics of a national security supervisor.
The film’s screenplay by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon, with additional and un-credited work by Dean Riesner, plays into the journey of this alien (Jeff Bridges) and the widow Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) as she reluctantly takes him to Arizona from Wisconsin as she isn’t sure about his motives. During the course of their road trip, Jenny sees the alien do things that are otherworldly due to the seven small silver spheres he carries which allows him to perform a few miracles. It would spur Jenny to do what she thinks is right while evading the authorities from state troopers and government agents while the only character in that group that is sympathetic is the scientist Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith). Even as he makes a discovery about the Voyager 2 probe as he realizes that the alien is there for something else.
John Carpenter’s direction is unique for the fact that he’s going for something that is sort of straightforward in terms of compositions and the fact that it’s a road film of sorts. With its usage of close-ups and medium shots for the intimate moments and wide shots for the many location established shots, Carpenter plays into the development relationship between Jenny and the alien as well as the many things they would encounter. Some of which involve some comical moments and heartfelt moments as it plays into what an alien would encounter with the world of humanity. While some of the sci-fi elements don’t look so great, it does help create something that is otherworldly where some in humanity don’t understand what the alien is trying to do while there are those like Shermin who believe that the alien is here with good intentions. Even as its climax would play into what the alien wanted but also the gift he would give to Jenny as well as what humanity would learn from him. Overall, Carpenter creates a very touching and magical film about a woman who helps an alien return to his home.
Cinematographer Donald M. Morgan does excellent work with the film‘s cinematography with its naturalistic yet colorful look of many of the locations in the day along with some unique lighting set-ups for the scenes set at night. Editor Marion Rothman does superb work with the editing as it‘s very straightforward with a few jump-cuts for some action scenes and a few dramatic moments. Production designer Daniel A. Lomino and set decorator Robert R. Benton do fantastic work with the look of Jenny’s cabin as well as some of the government military bases that is looking for the alien.
Special effects makeup designer Rick Baker does brilliant work with the sequence of the alien taking the form of Jenny‘s husband. Special effects supervisor Bruce Nicholson does nice work with some of the visual effects though some of it looks a little cheesy considering how primitive the technology was in those times. Sound editor Tom McCarthy Jr. does terrific work with the sound in creating some sound effects of the spheres and some of the other elements in the film including a few of its action scenes. The film’s music by Jack Nitzsche is wonderful as it’s mostly a low-key electronic score that plays into some of the film’s sci-fi elements while the soundtrack includes different kinds of music from the likes of Frank Sinatra and the Rolling Stones.
The casting by Jennifer Shull is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from George Buck Flower as a cook who gives the alien a ride, Lu Leonard as a roadhouse waitress, Dirk Blocker and M.C. Gainey as a couple of cops who try to cause trouble, Tony Edwards as an army sergeant helping out Shermin, and Ted White as a deer hunter who is annoyed by the alien. Richard Jaeckel is superb as national security leader George Fox who wants to capture the alien as he thinks the alien is hostile. Charles Martin Smith is fantastic as the scientist Mark Shermin who is tasked to find the alien where he believes that the alien isn’t hostile but just receiving a message as he is looking for answers from the alien.
Karen Allen is amazing as Jenny Hayden as a recently-widowed woman still dealing with the loss of her husband as she is shocked by the appearance of the alien who would look like her husband as she guides him about the ways of the world and such as it’s a very engaging performance from Allen. Finally, there’s Jeff Bridges in a remarkable performance as Jenny’s husband Scott and the alien where Bridges brings a sense of restraint to his performance as the alien who doesn’t know much English or anything that relates to humanity. It’s one that allows Bridges to be quiet but also display some low-key ideas to humor while he is more lively in the home movie footage as Jenny’s husband as it is one of Bridges’ finest performances.
Starman is a sensational film from John Carpenter that features great performances from Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. While it’s a very different film from what Carpenter is known for. It is still a fascinating and engaging one due to its romantic elements as well as the fact that it bends all sorts of genres. In the end, Starman is a phenomenal film from John Carpenter.
John Carpenter Films: Dark Star - Assault on Precinct 13 - Halloween - Someone’s Watching Me! - Elvis - The Fog - Escape from New York - The Thing - Christine - Big Trouble in Little China - Prince of Darkness - They Live - Memoirs of an Invisible Man - Body Bags - In the Mouth of Madness - Village of the Damned - Escape from L.A. - Vampires - Ghosts of Mars - The Ward
The Auteurs #60: John Carpenter Pt. 1 - Pt. 2
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