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An alien's ship crashes on Earth, and, to avoid detection, he transforms himself into a physical replica of the deceased husband of a young woman, whose house is the first he comes upon in the woods. He then must assuage her fears, learn how to adjust to his human form, and use her help to get to the Arizona crater where the mother ship awaits him. Things get complicated when the two fall in love and the alien is pursued by U.S. government agents attempting to capture him.
For more about Starman and the Starman Blu-ray release, see Starman Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on August 12, 2009 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.0 out of 5.
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel, Robert Phalen, Tony Edwards
Director: John Carpenter
» See full cast & crew
Starman Blu-ray Review
'Starman' is another star in Sony's expertly-produced wave of catalogue titles.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, August 12, 2009
Who's the missionary, and who are the cannibals?
Think of the name John Carpenter, and chances are that Starman isn't the first film that is instantly called to mind. An atypical Carpenter film but one of his very best efforts in the middle of a decade where it seemed the Horror/Action auteur could do no wrong, Starman tells a simple and beautiful story of one alien's visit to Earth. Far from the norm for Carpenter, whose films of the late 1970s and 1980s are otherwise defined primarily by Horror and Action efforts like Halloween, Escape From New York, The Thing, They Live, and Big Trouble in Little China, and even more distinct still from his array of less-than-legendary outings from the 1990s and the early 2000s including Ghosts of Mars, In the Mouth of Madness, and Vampires, Starman takes on a wholly dramatic, purely emotional, and honestly moving tone from its dark and mysterious first act to its tearjerking finale. A film that explores such deep subjects as the meaning of life, the power of love, and the importance of acceptance and understanding all in a charmingly subtle and genuine tone, Starman represents one of cinema's most moving films of all time.
Carrying a message of greetings from Earth, NASA launched Voyager II into the vast reaches of spaces in 1977. Several years later, an alien species detects its presence, interprets its data, and sends a reply to Earth -- in the form of a living visitor. The delivery vehicle crashes into rural Wisconsin and its inhabitant stumbles onto the home of Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull), a widow that's still grieving the loss of her husband Scott (Jeff Bridges, Iron Man). The alien, using only a photograph and a lock of Scott's hair, clones itself into the spitting image of an adult Scott, terrifying Jenny as it grows from infant to adulthood in mere moments. Though the being resembles Scott, it struggles with basic human motor and verbal skills, its knowledge limited to the information contained on a golden disc housed inside Voyager II. Scott convinces Jenny of his need to travel to Winslow, Arizona, in a matter of days. She agrees, the two hitting the road in her Ford Mustang and traversing the country, a time she uses to teach Scott what it means to be human while she in turn begins to fall for this version of Scott. Alerted to the crash is SETI scientist Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith), who finds himself hot on Scott's and Jenny's trail.
Starman's core storytelling motif lies in the Road Trip genre, though it's done here in a way that's quite unlike anything that's come before or after it, particularly at such a high level of skill and expertise. Still, the very essence of Starman encapsulates the every best of the Road Trip genre, the film an exploration not of the locations passed and people encountered along the way, but of the human condition. The film posits many questions: "What does it mean to be human?" "How does one define the meaning of life and one's existence in it?" "What is death?" And perhaps the most important question of all, "What is love?" The film thrives because of the back-and-forth dialogue between two radically different perspectives. One is an alien in every sense of the word with no concept of how the basics of life and its necessities work, let alone an understanding of the more metaphysical concepts that define most every waking moment of one's existence. Meanwhile, the other represents a tarnished human soul with a lifetime's worth of experiences but still in search of how to formulate not even an answer but merely a guess as to the very smallest of details that come to define man's plane of existence, just in hopes of making it through another day.
Starman represents a major cinematic success not only thematically, but also artistically. Though far from the norm of the sort of movies that made John Carpenter famous, he shows his supreme talent to be practically absolute, his abilities not limited to any particular style or genre. Starman is incredibly sweet, uplifting, honest, and heartwarming throughout, a tone that's captured not only visually but also aurally thanks to to Jack Nitzsche's (Revenge) wonderful score. Nevertheless, there are hints scattered throughout Starman that capture the magic of Carpenter's more intense outings, in particular a superbly -- and spellbindingly -- crafted opening that takes on hints of sheer terror and incredible suspense as an alien descends upon a home and metamorphoses itself into a living, breathing human being. Below the surface, however, lies the recurring sweetness and light sense of humor that runs throughout the entire picture, each made possible not only through Carpenter's steady direction but also in the fantastic on-screen chemistry shared by Allen and Bridges, the latter delivering a one-of-a-kind and Oscar-nominated performance. Bridge's effort is extraordinary. His first moments as a man -- mimicking the voices on the Voyager II and robotically moving about as he tries to solidify his footing and understand how the human body works -- makes for nothing short of positively captivating cinema, and never once does he seem even remotely human, even when only taking into account his human figure. Even as his character comes to understand with some greater degree of accuracy not only the intricacies of the human body, both external and internal, but also the more fundamental aspects that aren't found in speech patterns and swagger, continue to enthrall through to the very end. Just as important to the story and its ability to unequivocally succeed in all areas is the character playing opposite the Starman, and Karen Allen never falters, almost matching Bridges' performance though with a wholly different style that is at once both confused and terrified and, later, open and tender.
Starman Blu-ray, Video Quality
Starman arrives on Blu-ray with a sound 1080p, 2.40:1-framed transfer. As is the norm with most Sony titles, Starman features a thick layer of grain and contains no trace of artificial smoothing or digital manipulation. Blacks are fairly deep throughout but tend to drown out some background detail. General detail ranks somewhere between "average" and "good" but never disappoints when viewed in the context of an aging catalogue title from the mid-1980s. Human faces don't exactly revel in the finest of detail, but appropriately up-close shots showcase sufficient amounts of information. After a fairly dark opening act, the following day on the road and many subsequent scenes throughout the movie look great; the image appears consistently sharp in the daylight scenes. Detail increases somewhat, particularly the desert terrain as seen in the film's final act, and colors appear slightly more dynamic when given the chance to shine in natural light. Starman's Blu-ray release isn't going to earn the distinction as the finest catalogue transfer of 2009, but it's another well-above-average effort from Sony.
Starman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Starman descends onto Blu-ray with an adequate Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless soundtrack. As the film begins, Voyager II streaks across the sky and into the atmosphere of an alien planet, accompanied by a deep, rumbling low end that's not going to shatter an eardrum but does more than adequately convey the intended effect. The return craft, too, flies through the sky with a nice whooshing effect that spreads across the entire soundstage. Background information is superb, too; chatter and the sounds of clunky 1980s computers, ringing telephones, and other niceties fill the soundstage in several scenes, creating a fairly realistic audible atmosphere. The presentation of the score never disappoints as it is delivered with the utmost clarity across the front. Dialogue reproduction never falters. Like the video presentation, Starman's lossless soundtrack isn't the end-all, be-all of catalogue Blu-ray releases, but it's borderline fantastic in its own right.
Starman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Starman crashes and burns, featuring no film-related bonus materials. Only BD-Live (Blu-ray profile 2.0) functionality and 1080p trailers for The Water Horse: Legend of the Deep, Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, Hachiko: A Dog's Tale, Damages: Season One, The Sky Crawlers, Blood: The last Vampire, Ghostbusters, The Da Vinci Code, and Casino Royale are included.
Starman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Perhaps the closest film in the John Carpenter canon to Starman is The Thing, and even that film represents the antithesis of Starman. Only the aliens on Earth angle is shared between the two, and the juxtaposition of two radically unique films -- one taking on a gruesome, hopeless tone and the other an uplifting, hopeful, and heartwarming feel -- from the same director no less, makes for a fascinating cinematic study. Starman positively succeeds as an honest, feel-good, and most importantly, meaningful motion picture that ponders the most fundamental yet incredibly complex facets of humanity, including the meaning of life and the true power of love. Made possibly not only with its wondrous script but also through steady direction and praiseworthy performances, Starman remains a pitch-perfect film that's sure to touch audiences on every viewing. Sony's Blu-ray release excels from a technical perspective. Boasting a strong video and audio presentation, the disc lacks only in the supplemental section. Nevertheless, Starman comes recommended on the strength of the film.
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