Kehr’s Weekly Recap: Explorers (1985)

Joe Dante‘s 1985 film seems to crystallize the tragic position of a strong directorial personality in the assembly-line 80s. With one hand, he builds up a slick, pseudo-Spielberg fantasy about a 12-year-old’s innocent dreams of reaching the stars; with the other, he slashes into the burnished, sentimental drama he has worked so hard to create with a savage satire that exposes those innocent dreams as grubby, media-induced hallucinations. When our hero (Ethan Hawke) and his two buddies (River Phoenix and Jason Presson) do reach the great unknown, it turns out to be a gyp — a drab, awful place populated by creatures even more cretinous and childish than those they left back on earth. But where Dante’s cynicism ultimately carried the day over Spielberg’s piousness in Gremlins, Explorers remains a hopelessly schizophrenic film, obscenely eager to compromise its own originality. With Dick Miller and Robert Picardo.

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