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Film / Starman

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Mark Shermin: Have people from your world been here before?
Starman: Before. Yes, we are interested in your species.
Mark Shermin: You mean you're some kind of anthropologist? Is that what you're doing here? Just checking us out?
Starman: You are a strange species, not like any other... and you'd be surprised how many there are. Shall I tell you what I find beautiful about you?

John Carpenter's 1984 film Starman is a kind of E.T. for adults, played as a Road Trip Plot of all things. Fans will argue that it's a beautiful, beautiful love story between a man from the stars (Jeff Bridges) and an Earth woman (Karen Allen), while dissenters will counter that it's a mediocre Cliché Storm.

Starman arrives on Earth as a result of Earth having transmitted welcome messages to any alien life, and clones himself an environment suit — the naked form of Jenny Hayden's dead husband. Jenny is very freaked out by this, and at first only wants to get away from the freaky dead ringer for her deceased husband. But she (eventually) agrees to take him to Winslow, Arizona, where he has his only chance to meet up with the other aliens and go home. Naturally, this leads to a long road trip (Starman has gotten dressed by this point) involving a lot of learning about life on Earth, bonding, and ultimately romance.

As usual, the U.S. military has it in for friendly aliens. They are led by the hard-as-nails George Fox (Richard Jaeckel), who wants to dissect or kill Starman. His obligatory Morality Pet Mark Shermin (Charles Martin Smith) vainly attempts to convince him to do otherwise.

The movie was followed by a 1986–87 TV series starring Robert Hays of Airplane! fame, set 15 years after the events of the film and featuring a Walking the Earth premise.

Not to be confused with the Robot Master from Mega Man 5, or the enemies from the first two Mother games, or the David Bowie song from Ziggy Stardust. And definitely not to be confused with the DC Comics hero(es) of that name.

This film provides examples of:

  • Alien Among Us: The entire premise of the film is of an alien visiting Earth to study humanity, only for things to go to shit in the process.
  • Alien Autopsy: A live vivisection is what the military seems to have in store for Starman.
    Shermin: (bitterly, after seeing restraining straps on a surgery table) Welcome to planet Earth.
  • Aliens in Cardiff: Alien in Chequamegon Bay, Wisconsin.
  • Animal Motifs: Jeff Bridges studied ornithology and the behavior of birds to prepare for his role as an alien in human form. He particularly used the sudden jerky head movements, amongst other nuances and mannerisms, of birds. He figured that the alien would not have human characteristics and, being encased in a human body, would act with base primitive animal instincts.
  • Big-Lipped Alligator Moment: invoked Invoked in-universe, as Shermin learns: "He yelled 'Greetings!' and melted his lug wrench?!"
  • But I Can't Be Pregnant!: After he and Jenny made love on the train, Starman proclaims "I gave you a baby tonight." Jenny says that this is impossible because she is incapable of having a child. Starman explains that he used his powers to alleviate this.
  • Doppelgänger Gets Same Sentiment: Though initially freaked out, Jenny finds herself falling for the Starman, who takes the form of her late husband.
  • The '80s: Retconned to The '70s in the TV show so that Jenny's kid could be a teen in the contemporary 1980s.
  • Energy Beings: Starman comes from a race of these with no concept of death or biological needs, who takes on a human form to appear less threatening.
  • Fictional Accent: Jeff Bridges uses a bizarre accent that sounds alien to most but feels right at home with his sudden, jerky movements and strange mannerisms.
  • Fish out of Water: Starman, obviously.
  • Fourth-Date Marriage: According to Jenny, she and Scott got married after only a few months of dating. He would die less than a year later.
  • Full-Name Basis: Starman does this with Jenny, though he says "Jennyhayden" as one word, instead of "Jenny Hayden".
  • Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Shermin blows smoke in Fox's face after arranging for Jenny and Starman to get away.
  • Green Aesop: Starman doesn't approve of deer hunting - killing is a foreign and horrible concept to an immortal Energy Being with no biological needs. It has less to do with hunting and more to do with the alien's concept of death - there is no death, survival or even food consumption where he comes from, so he's shocked that a living creature would willingly kill another.
    Starman: (upset) Why do you do this?
  • Humanity Is Infectious: Taking on the form of a human has caused Starman to become more humanized over the course of the film.
  • Human Aliens: Averted. Starman takes on human form while on Earth, his natural form being a floating blob of light.
  • Humans Are Special: Or at least one particular human...
    • Starman states that humanity is special, because while his race have evolved to a state where they have no physical needs and no knowledge of violence or death, they feel they've lost something, and hope to regain it by studying these humans who are so different to themselves.
  • Humans Are the Real Monsters: The rest of us, as usual.
  • Interspecies Romance: Possibly a subversion as Starman in human form seems to be almost biologically indistinct from human - after all, he and Jenny managed to reproduce. Could be justified by his body, a copy of her husband, essentially being a clone that is just that biologically accurate.
  • Klingons Love Shakespeare: Starman can't get enough of Dutch apple pie, to the point that eating it is nearly a sexual experience for him. Turns out our primitive biological needs do have their upside.
  • Male Restroom Etiquette: Starman becomes quite interested in seeing a man use the urinal at a gas station's men's room, much to the man's annoyance.
    Men's Room Guy: *sigh* Every god-damn place you go...
  • Naked on Arrival: Starman.
  • No Name Given: Starman never gives his name and is never referred to as anything, not even "Starman" (although that is how he's named in the credits).
  • Out of the Inferno: After their car crashes into an oil truck, Starman carries a wounded Jenny out of the resulting blaze in this fashion.
  • Post-Sex: Starman wears an unbelievably goofy smile after having sex with Jenny. Better than Dutch apple pie.
  • Quiet Cry for Help:
    • Starman, having just formed, sends a nonverbal distress signal about being on an environmentally hostile planet.
    • While Starman is compelling Jenny to drive him to Arizona, they make a rest stop at a filling station. Jenny scrawls a distress message with a pen and a paper towel, then sticks it to the mirror. Starman then inspects the ladies room and sees the message, but has to ask Jenny what "kidnapped" means.
  • Quizzical Tilt: Starman spends most of the movie this way given he is learning the human experience as he goes, and everything is therefore bewildering and confusing to him.
  • Recycled In Space: During its release, it was called ET The Extraterrestrial for adults!
  • Rule of Symbolism: Many, not the least of which is the shot of Starman resurrecting a deer.
  • Scifi Writers Have No Sense Of Scale: Averted. In the beginning Voyager II arrives at a "planet", leading the viewer to think this trope - there are no planets that look like that within the distance Voyager II traveled in the amount of timenote , however at the end of the film it is revealed that wasn't a planet, it was a starship.
  • Second-Face Smoke: Shermin does this to Fox after allowing Starman to escape.
    Fox: Shermin, you are finished. I will have you eviscerated for this.
    Shermin: Well, as much as I hate to stoop to symbolism...
    (Shermin takes a puff from his cigar and blows smoke into Fox's face)
  • Sensory Overload: Sweet food makes Starman swoon like a baby, and after having sex, he wears the goofiest grin possible.
  • Someone to Remember Him By: Jenny's child will be this for both her dead husband and Starman, as he was conceived by Starman with her husband's DNA.
  • Spheroid Dropship: The ship that comes to pick up Starman at the end, which looks like a chrome-plated planet.
  • Stockholm Syndrome: Jenny starts out freaked out by Starman and thinks of herself as kidnapped, but this doesn't last long when she realizes that Starman is a wholly benevolent Energy Being that's just trying to get home.
  • Superhuman Trafficking
  • They Would Cut You Up: Jenny and Shermin's concerns of what awaits Starman if Fox catches him. Seeing as the military have an autopsy table with restraining straps waiting, their fear is justified.
  • Trademark Favorite Food: Starman has quite a fondness for Dutch apple pie.
  • Uncanny Valley: In-universe, Starman took on a human form at least partially to not scare humans. Unfortunately, his bizarre not-quite grasp of language, human customs, or even biological needs have a tendency to make him appear quite creepy.
  • We Come in Peace — Shoot to Kill: Played rather Anviliciously.
  • What Is This Thing You Call "Love"?: Starman has no knowledge of the concept of death.
  • You Are Better Than You Think You Are: Starman's answer to his own question in the page quote: "You are at your very best when things are at their worst."