Saturday, August 26, 2017

Explorers (1985)

I have a long and very uncomplicated history with this movie, mostly in that I saw the VHS cover, and I wanted it. Yes, I know, in this day and age, you can find almost anything on the internet. But, seeing as how I have a ~900 tape VHS collection, it should not come as a surprise that I frequently favor doing things the old fashioned way. And so it was with The Explorers. I spotted it a decade ago but only had a for-sale copy cross my path a few years ago. And then it sat on my shelf.

There's something about a movie with four kids on the front that can sometimes be difficult to feature for date night, or even a Friday night party. And so it awaited its day. That day has finally come. Like the long journey of my attainment of the tape, so is this film well outside of what we have consensually agreed to call the bounds of time and space. Seriously, what age group is this film made for? On one hand, we have said children, played by none other than Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix, among others. I had no idea how famous River Phoenix was before I watched this movie (my bad, I know).

Of course I recognize him as Young Indy, perhaps his most iconic part, if judged only by how many times I've seen it (it's my blog, I can judge however I want). I was surprised, to say the least, to hear that his death was ranked #16 on most shocking entertainment events (2003), after which REM and Red Hot Chili Peppers dedicated albums to him. Milton Nascimiento even wrote a song about him before he died. A few years after this movie came out, Phoenix was nominated for an Oscar for his work in Running on Empty. In contrast, the other kid didn't go anywhere. No, not Ethan Hawke: the other one. He's a home developer in Texas now. Nickname: Tiger. (wow, it seems like he's actually deleted the IMDB evidence of his prestigious run as Steve Jackson in this film = regrets?).
One the other hand, there's the plot. That and the *gasp* $25 million dollar budget. Don't worry; I never give too much plot away. What I do give away, much like an overly generous neighbor on Halloween, will likely make you both giddy and slightly nauseous. And so...plot points of interest:

1) This kid is having dreams about flying and controller boards, so he gets together with his friends to build a ship that can sit inside the power field they created

2) There's a giant robot spider that searches them

3) Everyone's mind is blown

4) Is this kid really flirting with this alien?

5) Aliens act out commercials in front of a crazy demented TV screen, using TV voices. This part may have been last sanity straw for me.

6) Space pirates, scourge of the universe. Related = Ice Pirates and Space Truckers, both exceptional pieces of cinematic legacy.

Final Judgement: I am too stoned for this. Or I am not stoned enough; I can't tell which/Stop motion, robots, kids in space = this movie has it all/"If this is all a dream, then what happens when we wake up?" -"I don't know, but I can't wait to find out"/ "And we didn't even get to tell you the secrets of the universe"
Trivia, direct from IMDB:
"The actual computer that was used to make the screen display for Wolfgang's computer was not an Apple IIc, it was an SGI Iris 1400 Workstation that cost $35,000. It contained a 73 megabyte hard drive, 1.5 megabytes of memory, weighed 130 lbs and required a custom portable wooden crate to house it on set. The movie needed a program written in C language that could redraw a 3D wire-frame scene in real-time, a feat not possible before SGI produced this specialized hardware. The movement of the energy sphere on screen was controlled by a mouse and happened in real-time for each scene and take, in response to the director's instructions. The workstation was modified to synchronize with the motion picture camera (to eliminate flicker) by tapping into one of the circuit boards. The workstation had no windows operating system: all programs were controlled with Unix commands."