Saturday, April 20, 2013

Day One Hundred and Ten - Explorers, "Some of that Spielburgian Scifi Wonder and Awe."

If you've read the blog or listened to OotV's podcasts you know that I love films like Super 8 that don't really dumb down family science fiction. Movies like Close Encounters and E.T. manage to entertain and inspire without over-complicating the message or resorting to the lowest common denominator, either.

It should probably go without saying that Explorers holds a similar place in my heart.

Focusing on three adolescents who are brought together both by their sense of adventure and the oddly prescient and vivid dreams that they share, Explorers stars a very young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix. Joined by Jason Presson (who sadly didn't have similar star power), the trio discover that the dreams that Ben (Hawke) is having translate into an undiscovered technology that can allow them to travel anywhere in three dimensions.

The film follows their journey (both literal and figurative) as they build a ship to navigate space with this new technology and decided to slip the bonds of Earth and see just what is out there. It's a nifty sort of coming of age story that mirrors the Vision Quest (again, both figuratively and literally).

I really enjoyed the Tron-esque dream sequences that featured early CGI. It was brief and pales by far to today's standards... but, for its day, was pretty impressive.

Plus, any movie that has clips of This Island Earth and the original War of the Worlds just begs for geek support. Hard to say 'no' to that.

That's not to say it's not without problems, though.

Unlike its true Spielburgian cousins, it's rather lacking in scope, has several glaring plot holes that don't resolve, and definitely peters out far too quickly as soon as the extraterrestrial reveal is made. Once the aliens make physical contact, it all becomes a goofy pop culture exploration that feels like it wants to be serious through surreal comedy but is instead very gauche and trite.

I was particularly disappointed with how easily early plot points (the bullies, the helicopter cop) are completely forgotten by the midpoint of the film. There's no continuity with either lost thread and it messes with my sense of balance concerning the film.

Attempts are made to try, such as with Darren (Presson) and his callback line about his father... and Ben's love interest Lori, but a much better job could've been done overall to tie up the loose ends.

It's definitely not a perfect movie, that much is certain, but it still manages to pull off a decent amount of suspension of disbelief.

It's also a semi-decent showing for Robert Picardo. Not his best foray into that wacky character repertoire of his, but the man has been the go-to guy for small roles like this for decades. You can't knock them all out of the park... and, really, when I think about it, the movie's problems aren't his fault at all. For what he was asked for, he delivered his part pretty well. It's just that the effects (especially the alien suit) were crap.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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