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The John Carpenter sci-fi classic is probably not as well-known as is it should be, as the friendly-aliens-visiting-Earth genre was bloated in the 1980s when it was released. Furthermore, the kinder, gentler approach taken by the visionary director behind such horror and sci-fi classics as Halloween, They Live and The Thing wasn’t quite what audiences were expecting. Still, it remains a fascinating story and a very well-made drama, which earned its star, Jeff Bridges, a well-deserved Oscar nomination.
The story focuses on Jenny Hayden (Karen Allen) a recently widowed young woman living on the shores of a peaceful lake. Nearby, as she mourns in solitude, a small alien scout vessel, responding to an invitation from the Earth-sent Voyager 2, enters the atmosphere and is immediately shot down by the US military. Escaping the wreckage is a small blue ball of energy that alludes capture and enters Jenny’s home. Finding a strand of her husband’s hair, it uses the DNA to clone the body of Scott and use it as a vessel to hide on our planet. Initially horrified by the reanimated body of her husband, Jenny soon learns that the creature is docile and interested only in learning but fearful of those chasing it. It claims it will die in three days unless it can return to space. She eventually concedes to help the “Starman”, but it’s not easy as they must travel to Arizona and avoid those that wish to do it harm. The touching story is a solid mix of romance and sci-fi, an E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial for the adult crowd that has become a kind of cult classic, and if you know the story, one with an obvious built-in sequel that never came.
The news of a remake is double-edged. While the glut of reboots clogging screens is nearing unbearable levels, the idea of updating this story has appeal. It’s disappointing that it isn’t a sequel, which seems far more sensible than straight-up doing it again, but in the right hands, it could be something special. We now know whose hands they will be. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Shawn Levy has been tapped to bring this movie back to theaters, and depending on your appreciation of his work, is good news or bad. Perhaps best known for the Night at the Museum franchise, he’s also directed This is Where I Leave You, Real Steel, Date Night, The Internship, and The Pink Panther reboot. None seem like titles that would put him in line for a sci-fi/romantic thriller, but if there is anything that can be said about his films, it is the relationships at their core. This is crucial for Starman. The screenplay will be written by by Arash Amel, a fairly new name in the business whose latest was the Nicole Kidman film, Grace of Monaco.
No word yet on a cast or if Bridges and Allen will make cameos. While perhaps a change in the title would be necessary (Stargirl? Starwoman?), we think it might be interesting to give the film a flip and have the alien take the form of a female (though as we recently discussed, tends to be a rigid typecast). This might be a good opportunity to shift the expectations and do something original. What made Starman so memorable was the dynamic between the leads, not the special effects and action. This was a love story and not one made creepy or overly-sexualized like many in the genre. Let’s hope Levy understands that, and while certainly sensibilities have changed in the decades since it was released, the timelessness remains. As we learn more, we’ll keep you posted.