Explorers (1985)

River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke in Explorers (1985)

Space Hawke

Many years ago I watched "Explorers" and despite at the time being a teen loved the first half and was disappointed by the second half. Now revisiting the movie which gave both Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix their big screen debuts I find my opinion pretty much unaltered in my opinion as the first half is a wonderful kids adventure movie but the second half now left me bemused. Despite what I honestly think is a seriously weak second half "Explorers" stands up well with a first half full of excitement and adventure, and the fact the technology in the movie is now comically dated adds something extra to be entertained by.

Asleep whilst "The War of the Worlds" is on, Ben Crandall (Ethan Hawke - Daybreakers) has another dream of flying over a huge circuit diagram and when he wakes with a start he not only draws what he can remember but wakes up scientist friend Wolfgang (River Phoenix - Sneakers) on their walkie talkies to tell him the news. Along with other school friend Darren (Jason Presson) they discover the circuit diagram which Ben has been dreaming about is used for space travel and after trawling the junk yard for bits to put together their own space craft the trio of friends find themselves heading off into space.

River Phoenix in Explorers (1985)

First things first and it has to be said that parts of "Explorers" is now seriously dated especially when it comes to Wolfgang's workshop in his basement with a seriously old Apple computer. But rather than being cheesy with all the techno mumbo jumbo the fact it is dated and corny adds something extra to the movie, it is amusing to listen to Wolfgang spout of about the 8mb of ram that his system has. And also dated but highly enjoyable are the 80s special effects which whilst a CGI generation might find cheesy I actually find entertaining for their creativity and elements of being b-movie like.

Anyway as to the actual movie well basically the first hour of "Explorers" is brilliant but is sadly let down by the last 40 minutes. In that first hour we have adventure as our young friends build a space ship out of a carriage from a fairground ride. It is full of fun and imagination as they fit it out, paint it up, do the welding all at night and then fall asleep in lessons during the day. And in typical childhood adventure they bring a bag of snacks with them for whilst they work and test out their machine.

All of which is simply great fun especially when we have them flying through the air in this machine powered by a single car battery, talking of which you will die from laughter at a scene of a computer powered by a single 9v battery. But unfortunately this sense of imagination and wonderment is lost during the final 40 minutes which sees are trio of friends head off into space. Now I am not going to say what happens as it tries to be funny and clever but unfortunately lacks the excitement of the first hour and ends up weak in comparison.

What this all boils down to is that "Explorers" is still worth a watch thanks to an imaginative first half where the young cast of Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix and Jason Presson really excel. But unfortunately the final 40 minutes seriously lets it down as sadly it becomes too stupid.