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. Explorers has some good moments, but it doesn’t really work. I’m a fan of Joe Dante (The Howling and Gremlins). He clearly loves cinema, specifically the B-movies movies of the 1950s. It’s always fun to see Dante’s allusions to old movies.
Explorers is a tribute to movies like The Invisible Boy (1957). Sadly, I think Dante comes up a little short here. The basic idea is good, but this is hardly an emotional rewarding experience. It’s a bit sluggish, and shapeless. The climax aboard the starship is anti-climatic.
Maybe 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. The film never found an audience. It did become a cult hit on Home Video.
That said, I liked the three young actors. Interestingly, 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. Dick Miller (Gremlins), Dante’s lucky charm, is a delight as a helicopter pilot. With Amanda Peterson, James Cromwell (Babe), Dana Ivey, Robert Picardo, and Mary Kay Place.
Jerry Goldsmith (The Omen and Star Trek: The Motion Picture) wrote the lovely music score, and celebrated make-up artist Rob Bottin (Star Wars, The Thing, Innerspace, etc.) designed the creatures. Industrial Light & Magic (ILM) created the visual effects and co-produced the film.
Conclusions & Final Thoughts:
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.