60 of 65 people found the following review helpful
on August 22, 2004
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
Explorers is a must for all true science fiction film collectors. The plot elegantly captures the dreams of a typical young sci-fi fan / space enthusiast. Hawke, then about 12, receives schematics from outer space in his dreams. His buddy Phoenix builds a circuit from the dream-diagram and hooks it to his computer, generating a miraculous force field capable of driving a space ship - which they build, with a third pal from school (Presson), from junkyard parts!
Joe Dante's 1985 space adventure pays homage to classic sci-fi in a number of allusions: the videos Ethan Hawke watches in bed (The War of The Worlds and This Island Earth), the old sf paperbacks and Classics Illustrated comics in River Phoenix's basement, the mouse named Heinlein (after the great American science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein), and the usual supporting roles of Dick Miller and Robert Picardo (The Burbs, Matinee, etc.). Watching this movies always puts me in the mood to reread the Heinlein juvenile novels (Have Space Suit, Will Travel, Rocket Ship Galileo, etc.).
If anyone says they're disappointed in the ending, that's only because the first 90 minutes of the film are so excellent, it's hard for any ending to live up to the oustanding buildup, including exploring the interior of a huge alien spacecraft. Take it for what it is, and if you're into space ships or sci-fi, you'll love it.
30 of 31 people found the following review helpful
on June 22, 2005
Format: DVDVerified Purchase
I agree the ending leaves a LOT to be desired, but even the ending can't ruin the real meat and potatoes of this film, and in it's own silly way somehow actually works.
I must emphasize that this film is as much about nostalgia for me, as it is about a simply good family film. As a child I loved Sci-fi, and this was one of the films that truly captured my imagination. I cannot look at a truly starry night without almost hearing the harmonica music Ethan Hawke's character plays on the rooftop, and knowing exactly what that character was thinking and feeling at that moment. Beyond awe, beyond wonder, beyond hope.
As I child spending my summer in upstate New York, occasionally the sky would be so clear you could see something akin to what he saw, so deep so vast, so wonderful.
I could also see a seriously good sequel being made to this film if the powers that be ever considered it. One that could wipe away the goofiness of the ending of the original and replace it with a more grown up ending. Sadly however I'm sure the magic, dreamlike quality of a movie set in the 80's will never be recaptured. To say nothing of the childlike wonder the movie inspires in me even today.
So needless to say I'm more than a fan of this film, one of these days I'm going to clear out the garage, find a tilt a whirl, and build my own version of the ship, even if it doesn't have force field bubble technology, it will be one hell of a conversation piece.
Anyone who was of the age at the time of this movies release and likes sci-fi, and doesn't mind the goofy ending, will enjoy this film, and nobody that I know who recalls this movie would ever say it wasn't a wonderful film. Maybe not quite on a par with the Dark crystal, or as popular as the last star fighter, or Flight of the Navigator, but this film has a magic that is undeniable. A magic that's certainly due in no small part to the great casting of the main trio. I recommend this film highly, Nuff said.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
on August 27, 2004
Format: VHS Tape
Fans of movies like "Galaxy Quest" will probably find this dated but still entertaining. If you enjoyed "Goonies" you should like this movie. Three teenage boys build a spaceship from plans that are sent to them by aliens. The fact they build it from a carnerval ride and other miscellaneous items only shows the imagination. A fun adventure for kids of all ages. The young aliens that sent the plans to the teenagers have modelled their behavior based on our TV shows. The alien comedy is like Robin Williams did in Aladdin, off the wall imitations of celebrities. I enjoyed it when I first saw it as someone in my twenties and I still think it is fun to watch.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on December 9, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
"Explorers" continues to be a perpetual favorite film of mine ever since I first saw it the theatre in July 1985! This story enthralls it audience, albeit mostly with kids, with imagination, adventure, and, as all Joe Dante affecionados know, campy humor and sci-fi homage. Nowadays, "Explorers" has come to be quite the nostalgia film, especially when seeing Ethan Hawke and the late River Phoenix in their starting roles, each at age 15. However, it has stood up quite well in terms of its Industrial Light & Magic-produced visuals and Rob ("The Thing", "Total Recall") Bottin's intricate creature/make-up effects. Acclaimed composer Jerry Goldsmith's score is one of his best works ever, written to accentuate a whimsical & ethereal dimension that lies among the vastness of outer space, as well as in a kid's dream. While on the latter subject, the flying dream sequences really treat the audience to some eye-candy graphics and camerawork, which really jabbed me awake when I first saw them on the big screen...such scenes do cry out for a widescreen DVD version! The only real vexation I've known in this film are the aliens "Wak" and "Neek's" 50's-TV personalities.
Highly recommended for family viewing, "Explorers", along with "Gremlins", "Innerspace", & "The Howling", is one of Dante's best and most memorable works to date! It's great that Paramount has re-released it for video after being nearly out-of-print for most of the last decade. Do rent or purchase it for yourselves...
11 of 14 people found the following review helpful
on November 30, 2003
Format: VHS Tape
I've read a couple of reviews on this movie that talk about the acting, or the costumes, or the directors, or the cast, and even comparing it with other movies for older audiences. I saw this movie when I was a kid when it first came out, and another 50 times throughout the years, and that's exactly who this movie is for, kids. This movie gets the imagination going and leaves the younger audience with a good feeling after watching it that will last though the ages. I remember wanting to be one of those kids and a few times I may have even dreamt that I was working late at night on the "Thunder Road". That's more than enough for me. I can safely say that the movie ranks right up there with "Goonies", "Solar Babies", the recent "Hook", and other adventure/fiction films that never grow old. Those with the imagination of youth will enjoy this movie and it's a shame the DVD conversion has not happened yet.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2004
After a long wait,Explorers has finally come to DVD.Unfortunately,Paramount decided to make it a relatively barebones release,so anyone expecting all the bells and whistles will be disappointed.The only extras are two additional scenes....there's not even a trailer.And the picture quality isn't the best.The film looks a bit grainy and the colors seem washed out in some parts.The 5.1 Dolby Digital sound is pretty good,however but could've used some more bottom end.As for the film itself,those without an open mind and a vivid imagination probably won't like it.The ending of Explorers has often been the subject of much criticism but I've always found it to be highly entertaining.Robert Picardo(who would later go on to star as The Doctor in the Star Trek:Voyager series) is hilarious in all three parts he plays.And the three young actors(Ethan Hawke,the late River Phoenix and Jason"Where Is He Now?" Presson) all do a fine job of portraying three regular kids who happen to hook up with an alien species.Explorers is lightweight sci-fi but it never tries to be anything else.Hopefully,Paramount will issue a 20th Anniversary special edition sometime next year and get it right once and for all.
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2004
As a kid, I loved this film. I can't wait for the DVD so I can give it to my kids.
Background - If an alien race wanted to make contact with humans, and do so in a way as to assure that we wouldn't shoot at them, what would they do? Contact our children.
Story - This kids in the story are contacted in their subconscious with dreams of computer components and circuit boards. They begin building the parts and find that they are building equipment that could allow them to travel into outer space. They allow the 'auto-pilot' to take them to a predesignated location where they make contact with the alien race.
The film goes through the usual childhood angst. It has the childhood crush, the school bully, etc. It stars some of Hollywood's brightest child actors including River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke, and it's easy to see why they became excellent adult actors (if only temporarily in the case of River Phoenix).
Some people have given this film poor reviews, but to me it's obvious that they are watching it from the perspective of an adult. Since I never grew up, this isn't a problem for me! Get this for your kids, or just for yourself.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 3, 2006
This movie was a great, feel good, imaginative kids movie....3 outcasts, building their dreams, and doing what all kids would love to do...fly their own homemade spaceship. Then the aliens showed up. Silly rubber outfits, and worn out old tv standby gags....ruined the film for me. But it was great until then.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
on October 26, 2004
Joe Dante has forged a unique career by making tiny, personal films that just happen to cost millions of dollars and frequently push state-of-the-art visual effects to the next level. Though many critics and younger audience members view his work as overly referential, those of us who grew up on a Cold War diet of 50s science-fiction films, stories by Bradbury, Clarke and Heinlein, and cultural touchstones like MAD Magazine, E.C. Comics and Famous Monsters of Filmland know exactly where Joe's heart lies. His finest films are love letters to his own childhood.
As much as I admire all of Dante's work, my two favorites have always been MATINEE and EXPLORERS. It's a pleasure to finally see the latter appear on DVD. Although situated smack-dab in the middle of the 80s, the film is a big-brotherly pat on the shoulder to every kid who tried to build a spaceship in his backyard while Dad loaded the final bags of rice into the fallout shelter. Screenwriter Eric Luke (whom, as I recall, had been clerking at a Los Angeles science-fiction bookstore when this script sold) has crafted a tale of supreme silliness laced together with just enough plausible beats to allow the audience its all important willing suspension of disbelief. (No, the kids don't actually build their own spaceship, just the lovely Tilt-A-Whirl-based contrivance that rides within the alien forcefield technology they've happened upon.) The cast is remarkable; joining Dante's regular stock company (Roger Corman stalwart Dick Miller etc.) are 15-year-olds River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke in their screen debuts, the great character actor James Cromwell (BABE) as Phoenix's father (and, apparently, one of Wernher von Braun's V-2 boys), and another Dante frequent flyer, Robert Picardo (Star Trek - Voyager), in a triple role as the alien Wak, his space-trucker dad, and a badly-dubbed drive-in hero named Starkiller (a rather sly riff on the ever-popular STAR WARS trilogy.)
The sets, visual effects and art direction, particularly in the alien spacecraft scenes that occupy most of the third act, are remarkable and still have impact 20 years later. If there's a storytelling flaw to be found here - and I don't happen to think there is but many contemporary critics clearly did - I suspect it may lie in the atypical passivness of our explorers upon finally reaching their goal. Nothing blows up, nobody comes up with any great schemes, universes are neither saved nor lost. It's been argued that the main difference between movies and real life is that movies characters do stuff - they take action and make things happen. In life, mostly, we watch and wait. Well in this movie that's exactly what our heroes do - they strive to get somewhere unique, and once there they watch, they learn, they evaluate, they explore. Anethema to most current audiences (and execs), but exactly in keeping with the tone and requirements of this story, and thrilling for the depth of humor and imagination on display.
Few critics (or paying audience members) gave EXPLORERS much of a break upon first release. Against a crowded field of cute and resourceful kid movies (E.T., GOONIES, YOUNG SHERLOCK HOLMES etc.), it must have seemed like more of the same, differing only in the number of Chuck Jones references. But if you're a fan of heartfelt, literate science-fiction I implore you to take a chance. EXPLORERS's opening flying dream sequence both sets the tone and establishes the underlying theme of this film. This warm, deeply silly and utterly delightful movie surges and flows with a logic and timeless lilt that's usually only found in the best dreams - those all-too-rare ones you just hate to wake up from.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on April 5, 2008
I stumbled upon this movie in our family's archive of recorded videos. I was caught into watching it from the very beginning, a great story, and the acting was good. Then in the last 30 min. of the movie everything went terribly downhill. Either someone was trying to make a point or they ran out of budget, but believe me this movie is not worth watching, well the end anyways. Watch it only up to the point where they get into space, then turn it off. You'll be much happier.