25 January 2009 | XweAponX
The Father of all CGI movies
If you run through the end credits you will see names like Jeffery Okun (Independence Day) and Jim Rygiel (Lord of the Rings and Starship Troopers) as well as several other people for whom this might have been their first film- It is certainly the first feature length film with a lot of CGI... Considering that the Macintosh had not even been invented yet, and the only PC was the IBM PC/XT, it is an incredible feat of CGI for the time, this was a time when "computer" did not mean a PC with XP or Vista installed, it meant a Box with Plugs, and you had to buy peripherals and hook them up, and some computers did not even have a monitor, the Printers just echoed what you typed on the keyboard- Hence the term in a DOS "Autoexec.Bat" file- "Echo On" which was the command to tell the PC to "print" what you typed onto the printer, which was likely a huge Dot-matrix monstrosity.
When you think of the State of the Art in 1983 and the SOA Now... It is amazing that the special effects department ever was able to get this done. At that time, there were not even any Hard Disk Drives for storage medium. So it is not surprising at all that they had to borrow a Cray for this.
This is a very fine film... I rented it from Von's back in 1984 on a beta tape and watched it with my mom, and she liked it as well. She really liked the characters of Grig and Centauri.
Just to make a comment here about the look of the "aliens" - Which look like Minbari from Babylon-5. But if you look close, you can virtually detect pieces of set that ended up in Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home, and in Star Trek: The Next Generatiion. I refer to the Table on the Command ship around which the commanders are clustered, and also, in the Starfighter base, there is a little gizmo that lies on it's side, with two long glass tubes through which Ruby laser is being fed- This was part of Beverly Crusher's Apparatus on the Enterprise D. So in a way, if this film had not been made, a lot of the look of some of the places in ST:TNG would have been different, including Engineering in ST:TNG, which ended up with that Table from the Command Ship. I would know those set pieces anywhere... And if anyone has seen "Bladerunner: Dangerous Days" They would see that indeed, lots of pieces made for other films end up in unlikely places, and in Bladerunner, whenever the Spinners fly over a city scene, if you look carefully you can see, The Millennium Falcon, pointed upright.
The non-cgi parts of this story are filmed just as well as any of the scifi fare of the day... The only weakness in my opinion is the blending of the CGI shots to the filmed stock. It is amazing the the CGI work was done on a Cray Supercomputer- And it is far from the hero work on LOTR, King Kong, Iron Man... But for its time, it was great. I remember when I first saw it, I actually liked the look... If you think about it, the stark CGI look of the starfighters, and the Frontier, and the base, and the command ship: It is all very much like a video game, and so this fits in very well with the plot of an alien man parking a "Starfighter Test" disguised as a video game in a trailer park in order to find Starfighters for this little episode.
It is as if Alex's whole POV is as if the video game has been expanded to a much larger scale. I immensely enjoyed the "Death Blossom" gag, it had humor and class. The HUD probably was influential for games like Descent Freespace and Mech Warrior 2.
The idea of having a personal robot to take ones place in uncomfortable circumstances is explored in this film, much to Alex's chagrin with his girlfriend.
I find the character actors in this well chosen, including Meg Wylie (One of the Talosians from the Pilot Star Trek Episode "The Cage") as Maggie's Grandmother, who at the end of the film gives a kind of "Salute" from Trek to Starfighter- Of you look close for it.
It would please me, and a large amount of fans no end to have a new "Special Effects" version of this film where the CGI could be run through a few things to give it a bit more realism, but that may spoil the FPS (First Person Shooter) effect of the film.