A fantastic science fiction first contact story. John Carpenter’s Starman crafts a believable love story between alien and woman as they discover the greatness within each other. Hollywood has done first contact many times, aliens would invade (War of the Worlds) or loveable creatures that would befriend us (E.T), and humans and aliens becoming lovers was a regular staple of Star Trek. Jeff Bridges and Karen Allen bring a beautiful chemistry to their characters and their relationship that the journey of Starman is appealing
The idea to Starman could spin out of control fast, Jeff Bridges Starman character taking the form of Scott Hayden, the deceased husband of Jenny Hayden played by Allen. Carpenter is able to have the story keep that emotional elements to the film grounded, Jenny’s process on dealing with her “husband” coming back is believable. She’s shocked and terrified as she watches the Starman “grow” into Scott Hayden’s adult body. Carpenter’s penchant for body horror works wonder in that sequence, our first introduction to this alien life is not a pleasant. She thinks she’s hallucinating from grief and after waking up to see Starman using his power, she is afraid.
Starman as a character isn’t scary (except for his transformation), Jeff Bridges plays a character learning human culture. Comedy comes from his misunderstandings, it doesn’t play it as obvious, they’re subtle. He creates an interesting aura around him that is used to intrigue the audience and to keep Jenny from bolting immediately. She tries to escape at first but Starman’s use of power and his resemblance to Scott forces her to stay and their relationship deepens. She teaches him about society, how he should act but when she finally has to opportunity to leave Starman behind, she doesn’t take it. It’s Stockholm syndrome or love but Allen sells the moment when she consciously decides to continue travelling with Starman. The love that arises between the characters takes it time, small moments that give you insight to who the Starman is. He’s kind, understanding and curious about the human world and finds Jenny fascinating.
Starman’s spheres are of unexplained power, while the film is set in science fiction it does offer imagery of messiah like power. He can communicate through the universe, heal injuries, resurrect the dead, we like to think that alien technology is limitless. Carpenter’s direction doesn’t give an outright claim that Starman is a Jesus character but there is a lot of room for interpretation. Now when it comes to alien contact, humans are known not to react well, people fear what they don’t understand and that is a driving force to Starman. As Starman comes to understand humanity, we as the audience and the characters willing to understand, see the core of who Starman is as a person.
Other are unwilling, that’s right the US Government has a problem with an alien visiting earth, I’m as surprised as you are, those guys are usually so understanding to the travel of aliens. You have a non evil member in this party who wants to meet Starman after discovering that he had actually been invited by a probe, everyone else – typical. They are just supposed to be the obstacle to the journey, showing how ignorant humanity can be to the possibility of discovery. Agents and military want to know what Starman’s hostile motives are, if he’s a threat. Mark Shermin is that representation of the good man in government to show how those that can be accepting can be rewarded, how diplomacy over aggression always succeeds.
One day Aliens will finally come to meet us, we should hope that they will be like Starman and we will treat him far better than the US government. (Tip to any aliens: do not land in America, you will be hunted and killed) Carpenter successfully delivers an emotionally powerful love story about how the fear of the unknown is never an obstacle in understanding life.
Also if you liked this film, the new film by Jeff Nichols Midnight Special (2016) is a lot like Starman except it’s about a father and son and takes the themes into some darker territory.