Ethan Hawke

River Phoenix

reviewed by Tom-Tom


Three boys come together to build a spaceship after dreaming the blueprints for heretofore absent technology. This is another film I remembered only in bits and pieces from the 80’s. I only really remembered the momentous takeoff scene but not which one. I’m interested to see how the film fares after almost 30 years since its initial release.

Explorers begins with serene music providing the background for a dream. A early teens Ben (Ethan Hawke!) is flying and gets a bird eye’s view of some images he doesn’t really understand. Upon awakening, he feverishly draws what he can remember. Next we see him getting his ass handed to him in the school yard by a bully who doesn’t understand the big words he uses. A stranger named Darren (Jason Presson) comes to the rescue and they all go to Wolfgang’s house. Wolfgang’s family are German Americans and his parents still speak with slight accents. The children all seem to have the names of famous German speaking composers: Johann, Ludwig, and the most important member of this adventure, Wolfgang. Anyone can dream but Wolfgang has actually constructed the circuit board that Ben dreamed up. With all three present, he fires it up. It results in a row of books getting equal size holes in them. Thousands of questions mostly beginning with What?!?!?! Flood our minds. This unexplained wonder puts us in the same shoes as our explorers to be.

Wolfgang the scientist is undeterred and sups up his 128K computer to better balance the “thing” the computer has created which looks like one of the spheres from Labyrinth David Bowie was always playing around with. After further destroying the scientist’s basement, they decide to try their experiments outside. It’s soon apparent that the sphere can be expanded to let a person or people inside. This leads the trio to construct a ramshackle vessel from junkyard scraps and take it for a spin. This process is giddying and fun to watch. What an adventure. What a fun time. Halfway through their voyage, something tries to take hold of the ship and drags it up and up.

This anticipation and the wonder and wide eyed joy the characters all experience getting there is somewhat more satisfying than who they meet after they come to the end of their true journey. As a child and an adult I found it rather corny and anticlimactic but at least the ending credits leave us in anticipation for what may come next.


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