Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Flight Of The Navigator

You remember this movie. You know you do. I was living in Egypt when this movie came out and I remember this movie. If you were a nerdy little sci-fi-loving kid like me (and if you weren't, how are we friends?), this movie was a highlight of a fleetingly brief period of your childhood. It had aliens! Time travel! And a really, really awesome looking spaceship.

I loved that spaceship.

Of course, as these things go, the details of the movie faded from the light in the dark, twisting passages of my memory. Oh, sure, I spent countless hours as a child (excuse me: young adult) fantasizing about it, running around the playground in my enormous, invisible spaceship (invariably by myself: I was a pretty solitary little kid, and besides, there was only enough room in the ship for one). How cool would it be to have your own personal spaceship? It would be rad. Tubular, perhaps.

My youthful enthusiasm, sadly, wasn't able to sustain itself through adolescence. All that remained of a treasured childhood memory were vague images of an enormous, silver football and an alien with an eyeball in its mouth (which freaked my shit out! -- how biologically implausible is that?!).

So, of course, when L and I decided to maybe re-watch the Childhood Classic, I squealed with joy. Sure, I'd already tried a similar experiment once, to disastrous results (childhood self: I'm very sorry, but Thundercats kinda sucked. As did the Transformers.), but c'mon: AWESOME GIANT SILVER SPACESHIP!!!

And, by god, it didn't disappoint. Don't get me wrong: Flight Of The Navigator is a Bad Movie. The acting is ham-fisted and cringe-inducing. The dialog would try even the most talented thespian (sample: "I'm afraid I can't talk about it. It's a matter of national security. You understand."). The plot is utterly implausible (and that's ignoring the time-traveling, Pee-Wee-Herman-voiced spaceship).

But so what? The movie is pure adolescent wish fulfillment and egads, does it do a fine job. A kid from a perfectly average, boring, typical American family gets thrust in to the middle of a stellar zoo-curating expedition and gets to fly HIS OWN SPACESHIP (which is still AWESOME, even to a somewhat less impressionable 28-year-old). Who wouldn't love having their own sentient buddy to fly them to Mars and back?

I guess there was a cute little sidekick alien, too, but that clearly didn't register with me.

I can't believe how many details of the movie I was able to dredge up from the dark recesses of my memory. The kid gets abducted when he's going to pick up his brother from a friends' house. He has a pet dog who sucks at catching frisbees. He makes Max the Spaceship let him out so he can take a pee-break next to some cows. The spaceship becomes sentient when he read's the kids brain and starts talking with the voice of Pee-Wee Herman (Pee Wee Herman! Speaking of which, how cool is it that he's starting to be popular again?!).

Although I didn't remember Sarah Jessica Parker being in it. You'd think that would have registered.

It's probably for the best that I don't get that caught up in movies any more. Lord knows my life is busy enough without re-imagining every damn movie I see with myself as the star. Especially with my current taste in movies (Donnie Darko: good movie, bad wish-fulfillment fantasy).

So I think I'll leave Navigator as a happy, nostalgia-filled excursion in to my childhood. You were good to me, Max, and you no doubt played a formative role in my blossoming in to an AI researcher as an adult. But I'll keep you nestled comfortably in the back of my mind, a happy memory that re-emerges every so often to bring a faint smile to my face.

And damn do I want that spaceship.


  1. That movie was in fact *awesome*. I'm glad to hear that it is still as awesome today as it was in, say, 1989.

  2. no doubt, this movie kicks total ass.

    If you really think about it, the story itself was ahead of its time, the acting may have been just enough to get it by, but the idea is there and the creativity is what makes it resonate.

    Essentially we're all Navigators in that we all choose our own flight plan in life.

    Turbulance anyone?