Tuesday 27 October 2009

Flight of the Navigator - Compliance!

One of the most fondly remembered movies of the last two decades is Disney's 1986 science fiction fantasy, Flight of The Navigator, directed by Randall Kleiser. Ironically the movie tanked when originally released, grossing only around $18 million. It was only after  TV screenings and video rentals and sales that it became a cult classic.

Flight of The Navigator concerns David played with great charm by Joey Cramer, a 12-year old boy who is abducted by an alien space craft in 1978. When he is returned to Earth, it is eight years later in 1986 though everyone else on Earth has aged eight years, while David is still physically twelve years old. On his return, he is taken to a NASA facility to be examined.

At the same time a silver, acorn-shaped vessel has been discovered and is taken to the same NASA base as David. It turns out that the alien spacecraft, a Trimaxion Drone Ship nicknamed Max, voiced by a manic Paul "PeeWee Herman" Reubens, is responsible for David's predicament. It calls to David and with the help of an intern, played by a very young Sarah Jessica Parker, David manages to access the alien spaceship and escape the complex. Thus begins a thoroughly enjoyable adventure in time and space for David and the audience.

What distinguishes Flight of the Navigator from other sci-fi movies of that era is the pace, an intellingent well crafted script full of warmth and humour and the fine ensemble acting. Continuity fans will snigger at the sight of Joey Cramer's hair changing from shortish to shoulder length mid scene. Presumably Joey was brought back for some re-shoots or reaction shots during post production and either the continuity person had taken a vacation or no one could convince Joey to get his hair cut. (At least it's not as awful as the wig that Ewan McGregor had to wear in certain scenes in The Phantom Menace!). Above all director Randall Kleiser, the man who brought us Grease, doesn't pad the film out and lets it say what it has to say and then leaves. For me it's up there with Back to The Future for fun, charm and intelligence.

Alan Silvestri provides a warm though very 80's-style electronic score for Flight of The Navigator that is closer to his work on Cat's Eye than his later orchestral work on Back To The Future, especially on the mysterious, David in the Woods and  The Ship Beckons cues. It's a short soundtrack but like the film it's an enjoyable ride.

The latest news is that Flight of The Navigator is to be remade, which for a new audience who find the special effects less than affective and the 80 isms a bit lame, it may seen a good thing. But in my opinion, no matter how many dollars are thrown at it, the new version will have a very hard job competing with the near flawless original.

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