Some movies of your youth do not age well. Some seem amazing and incredible when you are eight or ten but in your older age you find yourself questioning how you could have possibly like that film. The one we are discussing today is not one of those. It is a film that was, to me, amazing the first time I saw it and continues to be amazing to this day. I could not even fathom how many times I have seen this particular movie and it was indeed a pleasure to watch it again for this review. So, I give you, Explorers (1985).
Today’s Key Movie:
Explorers, directed by Joe Dante, follows a young kid named Ben (played by a young Ethan Hawke) who literally has dreams about an alien technology that lead him and his friends, Wolfgang and Darren (played by River Phoenix and Jason Presson respectively) to build a working space ship (dubbed ‘The Thunder Road’) that takes them into the unknown. I won’t ruin it for you, but they do make contact and it is out of this world!
Why this movie?
This is one of those films that has become a cult classic. Although it bombed in the box office, it has since captured the hearts and minds of kids from the 80’s and beyond. As kids we all dream of something amazing to happen to us, whether it be becoming a famous singer, a sports star or, in this case, discovering a way to explore space and visit aliens, we all dream of something more. This film tapped right into my fascination for science fiction, aliens and exploration of the beyond, so of course I was hooked immediately.
I am fairly certain we didn’t see this in the theaters but it was certainly one we rented and eventually owned a copy of. I know I watched it many times over to the point where I could quote from the movie itself and spent nights dreaming of the beyond. To this day I feel like a kid again every time I put it on.
How did this translate to real life?
This movie was an obsession for me. I could immediately relate to the characters of Ben and Wolfgang (and to some degree Darren) as I was part of a rejected social group called ‘nerds’ or ‘geeks’. You see, in the 80’s and 90’s being one of these social groups was a stigma all it’s own and I, along with my friends, were mercilessly bullied and tortured by our classmates. To finally have a movie that embraced my culture and celebrated geekdom was something incredible to me. For lack of a better term, It was inspirational. Because films like this, and other people and events in my life, I never stopped being ‘who I was’ despite the hardship in brought on. These days, being a ‘geek’ or a ‘nerd’ is fully acceptable and really celebrated by society and mainstream media as a whole. It’s so strange and wonderful seeing young kids wearing Atari shirts or playing Magic the Gathering in cafes without being laughed at. I guess the geeks really did inherit the Earth.
Not too long ago I met one of the actors from this film, Robert Picardo. Picardo, does the voice of one of the aliens and also has a few cameo appearances throughout the film. When he asked me what my favorite work of his was I immediately told him I loved him in Explorers. He laughed, and said that he doesn’t get that response very often but appreciated the recognition. He apologized for not having a photo from that movie to sign for me but then looked at me and recited some of his lines from the film that he still remembered some 32 years ago. It was an incredible moment I will cherish for ever.
Another fun but is this film is the reason I love the greek pastry Baklava. There is a scene where Wolfgang’s mother offers the boys some of the dessert and I was determined to try it as it looked amazing. Years later, I had the opportunity and it was not a disappointment. After getting married, my wife discovered my love of the pastry and learned to make it for me herself. Her’s is the best I have ever had.
There is also a really great part with the late Dick Miller who was well known in small roles during the 80’s. You almost get a sense that he had been contacted by aliens as a kid as well but never had the guts to take the challenge. It’s a very cool implication and side story.
Okay, you like this film, but is it really a ‘good film’?
Absolutely. This is a film that holds up even to this day. Although Joe Dante claims to have not been able to finish the film to his liking, I can not imagine it being any better. From the incredibly inspirational score from Jerry Goldsmith to the tremendous acting from everyone in the film, this movie is pure 80’s gold. Even the special effects are incredible for the time and still hold up very well. For parents looking for a good film for kids, it is pretty kid safe (although a little heady at times) and is such a delight to watch with a younger generation. Recommended for kids 8-10 years old if they show a love for sci fi or science in general.
OK, where do I get this movie?
This is one you can easily pick up most places. It looks like it’s getting harder and harder to find a physical copy these days but you can grab it in digital format from most digital platforms like vudu.com, Googleplay and itunes . I highly recommend it as it is a joy to watch.
If you would like to read more reviews please check out the rest of the Key Movies Of My Life that comes out every Thursday.
For more retro TV goodness check out the rest of the Retro TV Reviews here. and, If you dig Music, I have a semi regular series called Stand Out Albums that covers some of my favorite records I have come across in life.
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Late to the Game 02/6/2019