It can definitely be argued that the best family science fiction and fantasy adventure films were the product of the 1980s.
definitely be argued that the best family science fiction and fantasy adventure
films were the product of the 1980s.
Now regarded as cult hits, retro films like Star Wars, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Gremlins and Short Circuit
had families flocking to the box office back in the day. Disney’s Flight of the Navigator is one of the lesser known ‘80s family
movies but remains a firm favourite – now it comes to Blu-Ray for the kids of
today to enjoy.
In 1978, a team of NASA scientists locate an unidentified
spacecraft and return it to their base in Florida. Meanwhile in Fort Lauderdale, 12-year old David Freeman (Joey Cramer) is celebrating the 4th
July with his parents and 8-year old brother, Jeff. Afterwards he takes a tumble in the
woods, hitting his head and blacking out.
When he regains consciousness he returns home, only to discover that time
has moved on by 8 years, while he himself has not aged and he can recall
nothing. David soon becomes the
focus of the NASA scientists as they take him back to their base to undergo a
series of experiments. While there
he discovers that he is able to communicate with the mechanical artificial
intelligence on board the alien ship, lovingly nicknamed Max (and voiced by Pee-Wee Herman himself, Paul Reubens). In his 8-year absence, David was
abducted by Max (who was sent to gather specimens of other life forms) and a
series of planetary maps were downloaded in to his mind. David is soon escaping on board the
ship and navigating his way home to his family, with the baffled scientists hot
on his heels.
Borrowing from the likes of The Twilight Zone, Back to
the Future and The Last Starfighter,
Flight of the Navigator contains nearly every theme that is prevalent in sci-fi
and fantasy adventure movies of the ‘80s era. It has elements of time travel, aliens, a synthesiser score,
Jim Henson-esque puppets and the ever-popular
story of one adolescent kid versus the world of adults. It is a film that could be described as
E.T.’s laidback younger brother, never
quite reaching the same emotional and
adventurous heights of its ‘boy befriends alien’ iconic predecessor. The film does try to convey a few
messages such as the importance of learning to think for oneself but there are
only a couple of points where we can really empathise with David and never
getting to actually fly the ship through space, his adventure could have been a
lot more challenging. The closest
he gets is full speed ascension of 20 miles when Max miscommunicates one of his
instructions. It does need a
larger injection of impending danger, but Flight of the Navigator is still a
fun cat and mouse adventure that Spielberg would be proud of and redeems itself with a cheeky humour
that will keep the whole family engaged.
There is also a pretty slick cast, with Veronica Cartwright of Alien
fame as David’s mum and a cute cameo from a fresh-faced Sarah Jessica Parker. Its
visual charm and groundbreaking special effects, although dated, transfer well
on to Blu-Ray, although there is the odd sighting of puppet wiring here and
The opportunity to rebel against adults and fly a spaceship that
states ‘compliance!’ as it fulfils your every demand is a dream any 12-year old
kid can get behind. It might not
be the sci-fi epic that is E.T. but Flight of the Navigator is certainly a beloved
sci-fi caper that every family should own – and a failsafe stocking filler for