Voyager themed subplots seemed to be en vogue in the late 1970/early 80’s. For those of you who don’t know, the Voyager space program released two satellites in 1977, and the Voyager 1 just recently exited our solar system – it took about 34 years to get there.
Our movie starts off with Voyager 2 flying through an unknown region of space and crashing into a mysterious planet or spaceship of some sort filled with creatures made of electric light. In this opening scene, the alien ship seems far enough away from Earth that us humans don’t know they are out there. Now, the Voyager missions carried on them gold disks with a message of peace and inviting visitors to come to the planet Earth, and our space friends decide to send a scout ship to establish first contact with us.
This is an 80s movie. This is an 80s John Carpenter movie, so what does he have the clever U.S. government do when it detects the UFO? Well, they assume it’s a Russian threat and shoot the thing out of the sky. The craft crashes in Wisconsin and an alien in the form of a blue floating ball exits the ship. It stumbles across grieving widow, Jenny Hayden played by Karen Allen who is now 3 years removed from Raiders of the Lost Arc.
Jenny witnesses the alien transform itself into her recently deceased husband, Scott, played by Jeff Bridges. This Starman then snatches up seven metallic spheres in his hand that appeared during his transformation. He will use them through the course of the movie to do Starman magic. The first sphere he uses to tell his blue homies back on the ship that the planet is hostile and to get him the hell off this crazy rock.
The mother ship says sure, we will come get you, but Wisconsin is just too fucking cold for us. It’s colder than space. How about we make you travel on a risky trip in a foreign world across many states. That sounds like a better idea. How about Arizona in three days? Our Starman says sure, that sounds good to me. He then uses a second sphere to create a holographic map of the United States to compel Jenny to take him to Meteor Crater in Arizona, which she does and hilarity ensues.
Along the way, the two are tracked by SETI scientist, Mark Shermin, played by Charles Martin Smith and over the top NSA Chief, George Fox played by Richard Jaeckel. These are the movie’s two foils – maybe just one foil. Shermin is pretty sympathetic in this film.
Before the government is able to catch up to the Starman, he manages to bring back to life a deer that was killed by a stereotypical redneck, he brings Jenny back to life after she was shot by some even more stereotypical cops during a hot pursuit, and he also managed to seduce Jenny and give her a baby even though she is infertile. By this time, our hero is down to one sphere, so he and Jenny have to make it to their final destination by getting past a police barricade and interrogation without counsel in the middle of Interstate 40. I’m sure the government got the proper permits for this.
Jenny manages to flag down some locals and they hitch a ride in the back of a very open and visible truck. They finally arrive at the crater with the government in hot pursuit. The two are buzzed by Army helicopters as they descend to the bottom. The alien ship appears and during the Starman’s good bye, he gives Jenny his last sphere so she can give to his son. He tells her that he will never see her again and she watches in silence as the mothership leaves, carrying the Starman away.
The movie ends with Jenny in the crater alone – an alien artifact in one hand and an electric bun in her oven. I’m sure the government will just let her walk away without question. I doubt they’d be interested 9 months later in an infertile woman whose husband has been deceased over a year and then has a baby 9 months after an alien encounter.