Cult classic space adventure The Last Starfighter has avoided getting the reboot treatment unlike so many other 1980s properties (RoboCop, Ghostbusters, etc.), but it's not for lack of trying on the part of people in Hollywood. Such folk ranging from director Steven Spielberg to Book of Eli and After Earth screenwriter Gary Whitta, and even actor/writer/director Seth Rogen have expressed interest in re-imagining the film for modern audiences, but have been unable to
Why? Well, it's because the rights have belonged to Last Starfighter screenwriter Jonathan R. Betuel for years now - something even Betuel wasn't aware of for a while, as he admitted recently. Hence, it's now Betuel who is leading the charge to revitalize the franchise on the small screen, with a television series titled The Starfighter Chronicles.
The 1984 movie Last Starfighter stars Lance Guest as Alex Rogan, a young arcade game-playing expert who gets recruited by alien forces to participate in an interstellar war against invading extraterrestrial forces. Starfighter Chronicles is not a continuation of that film's storyline, according to Variety; rather, it's a serialized narrative about 'alien law enforcement,' with Betuel having said that "It's about instilling a moral code." So, for all intents and purposes, this would be a reboot of the Last Starfighter property (of sorts).
Betuel is currently developing the Starfighter Chronicles project with Surreal.tv co-founders Rick Rey and Andy Vick. The reason? Surreal.tv is a company that aims to specialize in combining traditional small screen storytelling with virtual reality, and that is what Beteul wants to do with his Starfighter TV show too. The idea is that certain sequences in Starfighter Chronicles (e.g. those taking place in alien environments or spaceship interiors, for example) will utilize VR in order to enhance the immersiveness of the viewing experience. As Beatuel puts it:
"It's a very interesting blend. The otherworldiness of ['Starfighter Chronicles'] lends itself to VR."
Starfighter Chronicles, by the sound of it, will essentially take the serialized procedural format - an approach that is perhaps too popular on television right now - and place it within a cosmic setting. There have been a number of sci-fi films that have found new life by making a similar transition to the small screen over the years (with 12 Monkeys being a recent example), and Last Starfighter is just one of several movie properties attempting to make an equally successful jump to television right now (see the upcoming Minority Report series, for another example).
Betuel was fairly successful in the 1980s (he also worked on the Freddy's Nightmare TV show), but his career dried up after he wrote and directed the 1995 bomb Theodore Rex (a buddy comedy that paired Whoopi Goldberg with... a dinosaur). Still, although Betuel's name doesn't have much pull nowadays, the fact that he owns the coveted Last Starfighter brand rights should bring attention to his planned TV iteration and help it get off the ground.
As for the virtual reality aspect of Starfighter Chronicles: it might not seem like all that practical a technological component, but remember that the original Last Starfighter was one of the film movies to incorporate significant amounts of CGI. Digital imagery went on to become the norm in filmmaking, but who knows if VR will chart a similar course and catch on in the future.
We'll bring you more information on The Starfighter Chronicles as it becomes available.