Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Escape-athon 2017 Review: Explorers

Sometimes, nostalgia can make all the difference. Films can become dated. It happens. That's where nostalgia comes in. You can overlook terrible stuff because you loved it as a kid. But what if you're just seeing an old film for the first time? What if that film is surprisingly good for the most part, but one dated aspect sort of ruins it?

Explorers is a 1985 movie about three friends, Ben Crandall (Ethan Hawke), Wolfgang Muller (River Phoenix), and Darren Woods (Jason Presson) who stumble upon a technique to create a force field bubble they can control with their computer. They use it to pilot a DIY craft around their sleepy town. Aliens abduct them, however. More on them later.

Casey Callender via Collider

I knew very little about Explorers going in. I just knew kids went to space. It seemed far fetched, even for an '80s film. So I was really pleasantly surprised by the weird tech bubble technique. Instead of the kids somehow blasting off into orbit, they found a physics defying force field technology that actually seemed pretty smart.

So is Explorers a good movie? Just barely. The linchpin scene - the encounter with the aliens - kind of ruins it. Where to begin with the aliens. While they probably looked great by '80s standards (and they don't look terrible now) they're rubbery and goofy. One (Robert Picardo) is sort of like a Jim Carrey-esque/non stop jokes/impressions-up-the-wazoo kind of guy. It turns out the aliens are kids, so it's a parallel with our heroes. The movie as a whole is incredibly '80s. The kids use walkie talkies. They bike places. There are bullies and crushes to deal with. Luckily, the three leads are capable actors.

This might explain the alien business, or maybe it's a testament to how good the rest of the film is, but the powers at be behind the movie went to director Joe Dante and forced him to release the film much earlier than he wanted. Who knows what we would have gotten had he been allowed to finish.

3/5 Stars

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