Explorers (1985)

Explorers (1985)


In a small Californian town, brainy Wolfgan (River Phoenix, Stand by Me), sci-fi geek Ben (Ethan Hawke, Boyhood) and cynic Darren (Jason Presson, Lady in White) build a starship that takes them to a galaxy, far, far away. However, the kids soon learn that things don’t always turn out as planned.

Reaction & Thoughts:

I hate to admit it, but this childhood favorite doesn’t hold up well on repeated viewings. Directed by Joe Dante (Gremlins) from an original script by Eric Luke (Not Quite Human), Explorers has some good moments, but it doesn’t really work as well as it could. The film isn’t a total bust, though.

I’m a fan of Dante. He clearly loves cinema, specifically the B-movies of the 1950s. It’s always fun to see Dante’s allusions to old movies. Sadly, I think Dante comes up a little short here. The basic idea is good, but this is hardly an emotionally rewarding experience. It’s a bit sluggish and shapeless. The climax aboard the starship is anti-climatic.

Perhaps the blame should be placed on Paramount’s executives. The studio inexplicably lost interest halfway through the production and Dante was forced to release the movie unfinished. It has never been determined what was left out or why Paramount didn’t allow Dante to complete his work. Dante has disowned it. Explorers never found an audience. It did become a cult hit on Home Video.

Flaws and all, I liked the three young actors. Interestingly, Jason Presson gives the best performance in the film yet he is the only one of the three youngsters who didn’t become a star — that’s Hollywood irony for you! The supporting cast is very good. Dick Miller (Dante’s PiranhaGremlinsMatinee, etc.), Dante’s lucky charm, is a delight as a helicopter pilot. The late Amanda Peterson (Can’t Buy Me Love) plays Hawke’s love interest. James Cromwell (Babe) is funny as one of the kids’ nerdy father.

The great Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen and Star Trek: The Motion Picture) wrote a lovely music score and celebrated make-up artist Rob Bottin (Star Wars, The Thing, Innerspace, etc.) designed the funky creatures. George Lucas’s Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) created the visual effects and co-produced the film.

Conclusions & Final Thoughts:

Don’t get me wrong, Explorers is a fine and entertaining film. The flaws aren’t bad enough to ruin the movie. I have probably outgrown the movie, though. P.S. The DVD (R1) is missing two scenes from the theatrical release (they are part of the extras), but it does have an extended ending. Color, 109 minutes, Rated PG.

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