Starman(1984) - John Carpenter

Starman is a surprisingly cute film from Carpenter about an alien who comes to earth and takes the form of a woman’s dead husband. I don’t think John Carpenter is exactly a guy who follows trends, but I also don’t think it’s a coincidence that 2 years before Starman, Carpenter’s The Thing was decimated at the box office by Spielberg’s ET. Starman can most easily be described as “ET for adults”, but it’s more than a cash grab or knockoff. Carpenter seems to have some legitimate fondness for Spielberg’s sentimentality, and he brings with him his own set of influences like 60’s sci-fi short stories and his favorite director, Howard Hawkes. Much of Starman is shot like a western and the road trip story gives Carpenter a larger canvas to play with than his usual “group of people trapped with each other” stories. Jeff Bridges performance is almost cartoonish, but he makes it work. Karen Allen is wonderful in this movie. I feel like Starman’s main flaw is that it seems to be missing one or two more scenes to show how Karen Allen’s character is using her experience with this alien to deal with the loss of her husband. This idea certainly comes through in the film, but it mainly comes through in Allen’s performance as someone who is emotionally broken. Starman isn’t perfect, and the special effects are a mixed bag with some effects holding up much better than others, but it’s a charming and unique film in Carpenter’s filmography. It’s not the first Carpenter I would recommend, but I think it’s well worth checking out.

Bryan E. West
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