The Flight of the Navigator (1986)

flight of the navigator poster 1986 movie
7.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 6/10
Visuals: 8/10

Creepy moments, surprisingly decent early computer animation

Some dated computer animation, spotty acting

Movie Info

Movie Name: Flight of the Navigator

Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Genre(s): Family/Action/Adventure

Release Date(s): July 30, 1986

MPAA Rating: PG

flight of the navigator max david ship joey cramer paul reuben

I’m pretty sure Max is an evolved HAL-9000…”I’m afraid I can’t do that David”

David Freeman (Joey Cramer) goes out to find his brother on July 4, 1978 but falls down a ravine.  He wakes up to find himself in 1986 and doesn’t know how he got there.  Now, David’s finds himself younger than his younger brother and locked up as an experiment at NASA.  With the help of an intern named Carolyn McAdams (Sarah Jessica Parker) and a mysterious spaceship at the base, David tries to find a way back home.

Directed by Randal Kleiser, Flight of the Navigator is a Walt Disney action-adventure science fiction film.  Originally planned as an independent film, the movie was released to positive reviews.

I saw Flight of the Navigator in the theater and remember (as a kid) liking it but wanting to like it a bit more.  The movie definitely has a lot of kid aspects to it and there is a definite sense that it is a “1980s” movie.  Rewatching the film, I’m actually reminded that it is kind of dark.

flight of the navigator ship special effects

I prefer the flying bean spaceship to the sleeker, fast ship

The problem I had as a kid (and somewhat as an adult) is that not much happens in the movie in the grand scale of things involving David and the ship.  The movie’s primary thrust is David discovering he is lost in time and doesn’t belong in the world he is now inhabiting (a common idea in general for kids).  It is relatively scary to think that you can lose you entire life in a flash, and NASA comes off as more menacing than helpful (which is odd considering when the movie was released).  The ship sequences don’t last very long and feel almost tacked on to a rather thought provoking sci-fi story.  David just flies around and then decides to try to go back in time.  It feels like the movie needs more in that sense.

The cast is quite good.  Joey Cramer is a decent kid actor in the film and received a lot of comparisons to Henry Thomas of E.T. (of which the film knowingly references a few times).  Sarah Jessica Parker’s character is interesting more so in the idea that she and David would be the same age if David was at the right time (indicating maybe in the future they could meet again).  Paul Reuben is obviously the voice of Max (aka Trimaxian Drone Ship) but chose to be credited as Paul Mall for the mystery.  Howard Hesseman feels oddly cold in the film and I always like Veronica Cartwright who appears as David’s mother along with Cliff DeYoung as his father.

flight of the navigator puckmaren alien creature

Little did David know that while the Puckmaren wasn’t dangerous, it possessed unknown viruses that wiped out the human population

The visuals for the time were quite good.  The alien spaceship is sleek and cool looking but when compared to something like the T-1000 in Terminator 2, it feels a bit antiquated (which shows how quickly tech changes since it was released five years later).  I like the Muppet type creatures on the ship, but like the ship, they feel almost gimmicky since they aren’t in much of the film.  It does kind of freak me out that Max resembles HAL-9000 a lot and I imagine he’s going to execute David at some point.

Flight of the Navigator is kind of an odd Disney film.  In ways it feels totally kid oriented and fluffy, but there is also a part of it that preys on kids’ fears.  I wish that the plot of the film had been a bit more ironed out and that the two parts of the story had meshed better.  There have been talks of remakes and reboots (like everything in Hollywood), and it wouldn’t shock me to see Max fly again…but maybe with some work it can go from an above average movie to a great movie.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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