Robert Preston obviously did not receive an Oscar nomination for portraying Centauri in The Last Starfighter.
Robert Preston also like Richard Burton is giving his last feature film performance, although there is no reason to assume this here as Preston looks considerably healthier here than Burton did in his film. The Last Starfighter is very much a very typical eighties film about a young man in a trailer park who wants more, but finds is unlikely to go where he wants. There is not anything too notable about until Preston appears in a strange looking car as apparently the inventor of the video arcade game The Last Starfighter which Alex has just gotten the high score on.
Preston takes a unique take on the part of the "man" who gets Alex into the intergalactic battle. This could have easily been a part of a dull mentor perhaps, but Preston instead portraying Centauri as an energetic con man of sorts. Preston does his quick talking thing marvelously here, and is very entertaining as he tries to convince Alex to join the fight. There is the right slightly mischievous grin in his face suggesting that he may have some alternative motives, but as well certainly suggesting there is something fun in store. Preston is just a delight as Centauri.
Centauri might not be as a follower of the cause as he might claim and really his intent is to try to make money for himself by bringing in a Starfighter. Preston is enjoyable because he shows that Centauri is a man, while more an alien who has no second thoughts about just trying to get his fair share of the money no matter what, but it his scene where Centauri seems like he is dead Preston does a very good job in making Centauri noble after all with his final short impassioned speech.
Robert Preston here pretty much makes the movie as he breaks through some of the cheesier material with his sarcastic portrayal of Centauri. I frankly wished the film had been entirely about Centauri since as soon as he dies I miss him very quickly. Thankfully he does appear again as Centauri hasn't died after all, and we get a little more of the likable schemer from Preston. This is most certainly one of the very best cases of Preston doing Preston as it perfectly fits the part of Centauri.