Film Title: Starman
Release Date: 1984
Runtime: 115 minutes
Region Coding: Region A
Studio: Scream Factory (Shout! Factory)
Audio Format: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Formats Available: Blu-ray
Version Reviewed: 2018 Blu-ray Disc
Blu-ray Release Date: 12/18/18
Director: John Carpenter
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Karen Allen, Charles Martin Smith, Richard Jaeckel, Ted White, George ‘Buck’ Flower, Mickey Jones
“Starman” is a 1984 Sci-Fi film that was directed by John Carpenter. Carpenter is widely known as a master of both the science fiction and horror genres with such classic films as “Halloween” (1978), “The Fog” (1980), “Escape from New York” (1981), “The Thing” (1982), “Christine” (1983), “Big Trouble in Little China” (1986), “Prince of Darkness” (1987), “They Live” (1988), and “Escape from L.A.” (1996). It’s safe to say that most folks know the man’s work, but might never have seen this film. It’s one of the few that Carpenter actually had no involvement in the writing process. That said, the screenplay was written by Bruce A. Evans and Raynold Gideon.
Before I start with describing the story to this film, I’d like to remind you of something that plays very vital in the whole plot. On August of 1977 our space program here in the United States (NASA) launched a probe called “Voyager 2“ with the intention of studying our outer planets of the solar system. It was designed by NASA‘s JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). Well renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan was involved in the project, namely with the process of including a series of golden records on the spacecraft.
The often referred to “Voyager Golden Record“ (actually multiple records) includes both sights and sounds from the people of the planet Earth, even popular music – in hope of someday being discovered by another form of intelligent life somewhere out there in the cosmos. As of time of writing this not only is the Voyager 2 probe the farthest traveling spacecraft ever, but it has actually went interstellar (read here). So, it’s really inevitable that someday we will make some form of contact with another form of life and hopefully the golden records included with the data to give them an idea of what our planet is like may encourage a visit.
So, as the film starts out we are seeing the “Voyager 2” probe (as mentioned) traveling through space until it finally makes an impact into a planet. It’s there that we see the golden discs being played back by some lifeform, seeing and hearing what our planet is like. Not long after we see a spacecraft emerge from the planet heading back towards the direction from which it came on a path to Earth. The spacecraft crashes in a Wisconsin town, and a blue light rises from the wreckage heading on some sort of path.
Meanwhile, nearby, a woman named “Jenny Hayden” (Karen Allen) sits emotionally smoking cigarettes and drinking wine while watching an old Super 8MM home video of her late husband (Jeff Bridges). She’s obviously going through a tough time, being widowed and falling back on memories of her lost love. She finally forces herself to stop and go to bed. While Jenny sleeps that blue light from the alien spacecraft manages to travel to her home and makes its way in, looking through her old photo scrapbook at her late husband. The alien lifeform then begins to analyze the man and make a duplicate of him in human form, with a very, very limited vocabulary and understanding of things.
The alien life form known as “Starman” (Jeff Bridges) that takes the form of the woman’s late husband is here on a mission to make contact and map the planet. Not only does the alien look through photos but it too decides to watch the old home videos in which it sees the late husband brandishing a firearm. From this the alien gets some basic understanding that it is a threatening device, so he uses it to get Jenny to cooperate with him in an effort to drive him to Arizona. It’s in Arizona that our Starman plans to get rescued by another spacecraft.
The United States government, as usual, is very aware of this situation of the downed spacecraft. An expert in the field “Mark Shermin” (Charles Martin Smith) is called in to help in the situation. They eventually learn of the kidnapping and that the man holding Jenny hostage is her late husband. It’s not really too hard for Mark to piece together that this has to be an alien taking the form of her late husband. It’s Mark’s desire to make contact with the alien and communicate with them, and even help them if possible.
“Starman” is one of John Carpenter‘s finest films and offers up such an amazing performance not only from Jeff Bridges in the lead role but also from Karen Allen playing the opposite role in this science fiction romance of sorts. It’s truly a remarkable film that is a must-see for those who have never had the pleasure. The film was actually received well by critics during its theatrical release back in 1984 and even received an Oscar (Academy Award) nomination for Bridges (as best actor in a leading role).
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
According to the technical specifications listed on IMDb this was shot on 35MM film using Panavision cameras. “Starman” is presented here in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio, as it was originally shown theatrically. This comes from the very same transfer found on the original 2009 Blu-ray release. Here are screenshots from the two from the exact same scene. See for yourself (HERE & HERE). Now, let’s look back on the original 1998 DVD release and this (as well as the original) Blu-ray release of the film in some screenshot comparisons.
DVD vs. Blu-ray Screenshot Comparisons:
As you can tell over the years this has improved from that original (1998) DVD release on both the original (2009) and this 2018 Blu-ray release. The color timing in comparison from DVD to Blu-ray has remained pretty similar for the most part, as it’s just received a lot more clarity over the years. Below I’ll further discuss the Blu-ray video quality.
There’s a pretty solid black level, as the opening bit of the film starts out very dark. That said, you are sure to really notice said black level very early on. This almost decade old transfer comes with a healthy amount of film grain preserved. The color palette is ever so slightly subdued and bolsters some rich vibrant colors throughout, such as blue and reds, and especially later on in the film –during daytime scenes.
The amount of detail can vary here throughout, in some instances (such as closeups) you’ll find a nice sharp detail on objects or of human faces. Some scenes can feel a bit soft or rough, just as most 35MM film source material from the eighties tends to be. Other (indoor) scenes just can feel gritty in their excessive amount of film grain at times. Said scenes just do not blend well with the other scenes (before and after) in these instances. It’s nothing too bothersome, in my opinion, it’s just worth noting and something I’d expect when this fine film finally receives a restoration.
It’s for the most part a solid visual presentation here on Blu-ray, yet does have its rougher (grittier) moments, with somewhat impressive moments as well. It’s enough to deliver a good presentation in terms of video quality, but could someday use a restoration. It’s approaching being a transfer that is a decade in age, so perhaps we will see this get a 35th anniversary next year? For now though, this will do.
Video Quality Rating: 4 (out of 5)
Audio here is presented in DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio. The original 2009 Blu-ray featured Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless mix. Here we get that 5.1 mix instead delivered in the DTS-HD Master Audio format. Does it sound any differently? Nope. It’s the very same mix just presented in another format.
There’s a decent amount of bass from sound effects and the music which you’ll hear for the most part from your subwoofer. Sound effects and music also get nicely mixed into the rear channels to give this otherworldly experience around 8 minutes in. It’s pretty neat and helps set the mood of the film very nicely. Dialogue is distinctly driven from the center channel speaker. It’s a solid mix, from start to finish. It’s not the most impressive I’ve ever heard but it’s somewhat enough to do the film justice.
The rear channels get a pretty nice use for the sound effects in the background all throughout the film. This results in a soundscape that feels to represent the surroundings in each scene pretty nicely. I will admit this mix does have its somewhat impressive moments: especially during the latter half of the film. It just feels that some sound effects, especially explosions could have come with a lot more bass. IMDb states that this received a Dolby mix during the theatrical release, so they have good source material to work with. Perhaps this sound mix also is in need of a remix or remastered effort next time around. Still, for now it’s a solid lossless 5.1 mix and at times slightly impressive enough presentation to get the job done for this modern Sci-Fi classic.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.25 (out of 5)
Bonus materials on this release are presented in HD video with DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio Stereo sound – unless otherwise noted below. They include the following:
- Audio Commentary with Director John Carpenter and Actor Jeff Bridges
- “They Came from Hollywood: Remembering STARMAN“ (23:55 – HD) features new interviews with John Carpenter (Director), Jeff Bridges (“Starman”), Charles Martin Smith (“Mark Shermin”), and Sandy King Carpenter (Script Supervisor). Along the way you’ll see clips from the film, as well as some old photographs taken on the set. This is one excellent set of interviews that are very informative and entertaining. It’s really fun to hear filmmakers and the cast members look back on this 1984 film, all these years later.
- Vintage Making of Featurette (11:20 – HD) starts out with some on location footage from the set, narrated as your typical press kit style set of promotional material. This includes clips from the film and interviews with John Carpenter (Director), Jeff Bridges (“Starman”), Karen Allen (“Jenny Hayden”), Charles Martin Smith (“Mark Shermin”), and Roy Arbogast (Special Effects). This old featurette is in pretty good video quality and proves to be very much worth watching if you have never seen it before. It’s worth noting that this is an addition, as it was not included on the original (previous) Blu-ray Disc release from 2009.
- Teaser Trailer (0:50 – HD) comes from a film source and is in very rough video and audio quality.
- Theatrical Trailer (2:18 – HD) comes from film source and is (again) in rough video and audio quality.
- TV Spots (1:51 – HD) come from a VHS source and don’t look or sound too great in terms of quality, but still are worth watching for the sake of something to reminisce on.
- Still Gallery (8:02 – HD) plays as a slideshow. This includes a lot of posters for the film, as well as promotional stills and on set photography. No audio is included.
Overall the bonus materials here a big improvement over the original (previous) Blu-ray Disc release from 2009, as it contained no bonus materials. This time around in this “Collector’s Edition” Blu-ray release we get an audio commentary from the film’s director and star (or rather “Starman”), an all-new featurette including interviews with those guys, the old vintage “making of” featurette, trailers, TV spots, and finally a still gallery of images. It totals up to roughly 50 minutes in length – not counting the audio commentary. It’s a pretty good set of extras for this 1984 Sci-Fi classic.
Bonus Materials Rating: 3 (out of 5)
“Starman” is one of my favorite of John Carpenter‘s science fiction (Sci-Fi) films, much thanks to the amazing performances given by Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen. It’s a very otherworldly film, with a nice bit of a love story along the way. We should know that someday the “Voyager 2” probe will make contact with an intelligent lifeform somewhere out there in the entire cosmos. This offers a unique glimpse at what that could be like.
The film comes with the very same video transfer that the original (2009) Blu-ray received, and pretty much an identical 5.1 audio presentation – just in a different lossless format. The new additions here are the bonus materials, as the original release did not contain any whatsoever. This “Collector’s Edition” brings you some archival extras, a great audio commentary and an all-new featurette that includes interviews with the film’s director (Carpenter) and cast members (Bridges and Smith). It’s enough for fans of this film to finally be happy having some bonus materials included, for once!
In terms of Blu-ray release, this gets:
4 (out of 5) for video quality
4.25 (out of 5) for audio quality
3 (out of 5) for bonus materials