Explorers - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Explorers Reviews

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September 24, 2016
A mostly forgotten 80s sci-fi movie from once popular creature director Joe Dante, Explorers is a perfect example of a movie that has some truly excellent buildup but ultimately falls short with an unbelievably nonsensical ending. Like with practically every 80s film, the chemistry of Explorers' three child actors is top notch and wonderfully natural. Young Ethan Hawke shows us that he had some tremendous acting chops, even back then. The enthusiasm and love of science among the three leads is also so infectious that it'll make you want to go outside and do some exploring of your own. In his heyday, Joe Dante managed to elicit strong feelings of nostalgia, innocence, tension, and childlike wonder into practically all of his works. This unfortunately makes the finished product all the more frustrating as the final third is hampered by some truly awkward looking and poorly made special effects and some clunky storytelling. Without giving anything away, let's just say that all of the questions and ideas raised throughout the film are not given any satisfying closure and we are capped off with what feels like a scene out of a Looney Tunes cartoon (and not in a good way). The underwhelming ending combined with some pointless subplots that go nowhere make for a movie that feels unfinished and thus unsatisfying. Still, there's enough good here to at least make it worth checking out at least once.
September 12, 2016
Muito divertido como só Joe Dante sabe fazer. É legal ver RIver Phoenix e Ethan Hawke crianças com excelentes atuações.
August 31, 2016
I tend to agree with the Critic's Consensus, where it praises it for wit, effects, and charm. It was fun seeing the kids "dream" without being so sugary sweet that I wanted to turn it off, and to not have to cover the eyes of little ones, even while watching so-called "kids" movies. It charmed me. No deep messages here except for one which does, in my opinion, deserve attention. No hard sells or repeated themes to nausea here, and enough to keep you watching without pain. Some better kid acting than most offerings on the Disney channel, too. (Go little Ethan!)
August 6, 2016
When I first saw this movie years ago, I watched in total fascination! Not bad for an unfinished movie.
½ June 12, 2016
Pas franchement passionnant, mais diablement sympathique et original, Explorers est un pur film des 80s, un film d'aventures enfantines mais pas infantiles, dirigé de main de maître par un Joe Dante rôdé à ce genre d'oeuvres. C'est un plaisir de découvrir les débuts d'Ethan Hawke, entouré de River Phoenix, Jason Presson et Robert Picardo avec des effets spéciaux parfaitement désuets mais qui devaient être novateurs pour l'époque. On ne peut alors que regretter que le film s'écroule dans son troisième acte, en manquant totalement son côté fantastique. Il n'empêche qu'Explorers reste une sympathique carte postale de son époque, à l'image des Goonies.
May 5, 2016
I would love to remake this movie.
½ April 30, 2016
solid adventure film. probably would have been one of my favorite movies if i saw it as a kid.
March 20, 2016
the kids are great, and the story is not bad, but when they finally reach the spaceship, the film completely loses me. i feel like this could have been a much better film with a better script, but the casual direction made it feel sloppy and thrown together. now i didn't grow up with this film, my husband has nostalgia goggles for it, but it's only ok for me.
½ March 17, 2016
One of the things I miss most about my childhood was the way my mind could so easily wander. During the day's most banal hours, I could escape into my own head, devise fantasy scenarios in which I could escape. An avid reader of the "Harry Potter," "Spiderwick Chronicles," and "Septimus Heap" franchises, I spent my afternoons drawing otherworldly beasts on notebook paper with Ticonderogas and Crayolas and writing mini-pieces of crappy fantasy fiction during recess in the library. At eight, I even penned a story about a group of preteens who gained magical abilities through an ancient book of spells, only to be sucked into a faraway land where they were enlisted to destroy an evil sorcerer. It was sixty-four pages long, and I sent it to Scholastic for possible publishing. They said no, which upset me then but tickles me now. What audacity I had as a kid, thinking I could be a boy genius of an author.
1985's "Explorers," Joe Dante's follow-up to 1984's esteemed "Gremlins," is a cinematic embodiment of all those high-strung, imaginative jolts I had a decade ago, jolts I'm sure most of the population experienced during their youngest years. Only "Explorers" goes further than purely focusing on kiddos with wild imaginations - they live out their innermost fantasies, and the film's buoyant sense of humor and copacetic wonder are contagious, quick to turn us back into the children that we once were.
Among "Explorers's" best features is its young cast, who sidestep kid actor adorability and really and truly play their roles with the conviction of professionals twice their age. A surprise that two of them became big names? Not a bit. It stars a fourteen-year-old Ethan Hawke as Ben Crandall, a gifted middle schooler who dreams of someday visiting outer space - in love with films like "The War of the Worlds" and "The Day the Earth Stood Still," he's less concerned with becoming the next Buzz Aldrin and more so with discovering alien life and exploring distant planets. Currently, his hopes and wishes don't seem to be so far off; recurring is a dream that finds him flying above a city that resembles a circuit board, which he considers to be a sign of something greater than simple imagination.
Scribbling his visual recollections down on a piece of paper repetitively, he soon takes his findings to Wolfgang (River Phoenix), his best friend who also happens to be a scientific prodigy. As expected, Ben's drawings do mean something - Wolfgang is quickly able to concoct a microchip based on the concepts presented to him. Not long after do the boys begin working on a spaceship, whose power is mighty thanks to Wolfgang's many creations. Days pass and ideas are refined; the friends very well could be the first set of youths ever to man a mission to outer space.
"Explorers's" premise is far-fetched to say the least, but our own doubts are not much of a concern when pitted against its innovations and overall good nature. It is, as mentioned before, the cinematic representation of a child's playtime adventures becoming as real as the back of one's hand, and there's something extraordinarily endearing about that. A shame Dante, one of the great sci-fi/B-movie directors of the 1970s and '80s, was not able to present the film as he wanted; convinced it could be a summertime hit, studio heads rushed its production so harshly that they dropped it into theaters before it was completely finished.
Even then, "Explorers" is a sweet, clever, and heartily unique family movie that makes the most of its premise and makes the most of its young leads, whose talent is even more prominent knowing of where their careers would soon take them. Dante will forever be a filmmaker whose fanbase is cult at best, and "Explorers" is among the most underrated moments of his fascinating career.
January 20, 2016
Featuring the debuts of both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke, Explorers sounded like a fun front for some young talent.

Explorers is an example of one of those films which tries to get young viewers interested in science. But the script itself is a little off in doing so. The scientific language enters the film without hesitation and viewers are given no time to adjust to expecting it, rather just getting it thrown at them. And as well as that, the screenplay is full of popular culture references which are more adult-oriented since children are likely to be too young to understand much of the humour. Some of the jokes such as when Ben Crandall exclaims "This is like 'Journey to the Center of the Earth' or something" are obvious but not funny. Many of them will just go over the heads of viewers, but I got most of them without finding a lot of amusement. There is a natural sense of energy in Explorers, but the jokes themselves manage to achieve only sporadic success.
Also, Explorers is a film all about concept but short on content. If one actually considers what happens within the story they can easily come to the realization that almost nothing actually occurs. It is merely a matter of how that nothing serves to keep viewers caught up in stylish appeal of the film.
The fun really takes off when the visual effects begin to take place and the titular characters go on an exploration of the world through a journey of flight. Explorers stops pretending that its characters matter or that there is any depth or innovation in the story and becomes focused on captrivating viewers through production values, and Joe Dante manages to shine in this area. His artistic sense in handling the production values manage to compensate for the shortcomings of the narrative for a fair amount of the time which means that the feature is fueled with the appeal of both imagery and a fitting musical score, but ultimately the insistance on fretting over a story which offers nothing outside of nostalgic value and occasional cheap laughs effectively render Explorers a rather dull experience which definetely stretches on for far longer than it needs to.
Attempts for there to be anything more within the story prove to go nowhere. For one thing it is said that the character Charlie Drake was supposed to return in the third act. Since all he does is appear briefly and foreshadow a mystery which is not explored, his lack of return leaves the story in Explorers leaves an all new level of frustration for viewers to cope with. However, the fault of this lies in the hands of studio interference which left about an hour and a half of footage and subplots on the cutting room floor. Who knows what kind of story is buried within the unused footage of Explorers, but studio interference ultimately left Explorers with a plot significantly more simple than it could have been and a rushed release. Since lacklustre box-office returns left Explorers as a failure upon its original release, there is at least some satisfaction that comes from knowing that nothing was accomplished by studio interference.
The story eventually takes off and progresses to a point where the main characters reach their destination. They go on an exploration of a science fiction set which is clearly constructed and filmed to maintain the same kind of image as the science fiction serials that dominated the market during the 1950's. The aliens themselves are designed in a similar manner, and though some contemporary viewers may not appreciate that as much as audiences actually familiar with what the film is referencing, the stylish appeal of Explorers cannot be denied. As well as serving as a fun throwback to the 1950's, the genuine 80's feel of everything merges into the equation for a fairly effective comic benefit. The sense of humour in the film and its genuine fun nature serve as a distraction for viewers which works most of time to divert their attention away from the thin nature of the premise for at least some of the time.
And I will also admit that the charms of the young cast in Explorers bring some further prominence to the experience.
River Phoenix gives it a decent effort. The actor who went on to be frequently compared to James Dean and nominated for an Academy Award is seen in a way different light than ever in Explorers, being a chubby young fellow with a bowl cut and glasses. It is a role that pins him with cheesy material and demand he flex his comedic muscles as a result, achieving mostly effective results. Occasionally you can see that the hammy nature of some of the dialogue is forcing him to churn out a character who is very far from who he actually is, and his greater talents would later prove to lie in more dramatic material than anything. Still, he manages to work the script into creating a legitimate sense of intelligence out of Wolfgang Muller while maintaining a friendly nature and a juvenile sense of adventure to match it. River Phoenix makes the material in Explorers work for him easily, proving just how much he can work his natural talents into creating making it his own.
Ethan Hawke is an interesting face in Explorers. While I couldn't forget for a second that River Phoenix was in the film, Ethan Hawke's debut performance is so far from any other notorious performance he has ever given that it is easy to forget that it is the same multiple Academy Award nominee from films such as Dead Poet's Society (1989) and Training Day (2001).
Jason Presson also tags along to deliver his own solid effort.

So despite Joe Dante's stylish direction giving Explorers an edge of 80's charm and visual appeal, Explorers is an overlong film with the pretentious shell of a story and far few laughs to sustain it all.
January 5, 2016
it pains me to write a negative review since I generally really like Joe Dante, and this got generally good reviews, but I just didn't get this movie, the attitudes/behavior of the kids was weird and often changed, Ethan Hawke's obsession with the girl is straight up creepy, a subplot with Dick Miller's character is introduced and then just abandoned, and the scenes on the alien ship just go on and drag, and I guess the final reveal was clever, but the aliens were pretty gross looking tbh, wevs it still has some funny moments, and a good premise, but just didnt deliver
½ November 16, 2015
Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix were fun to watch in this 80's family movie, but overall the film could of used a little more. The story told is of a group of friends who somehow find a floating alien object, then magically figure out a way to control it with a computer and build a ship to fly into outer space. Parts of the film are just outlandish but it is fun to watch the kids figure everything out and plan their trip. It is very corny at times and when they do encounter the aliens, things kind of took a nosedive for me. There was one scene in particular, a dancing-singing segment that was just pointless and I could barely watch it. The conclusion was decent and left some imagination in the minds of the viewer. Explorers could be fun for kids to watch but there are so many other 80's fantasy/adventure films out there that are much more entertaining then this one.
Super Reviewer
September 20, 2015
There are glimpses of what could have been, but as it is it remains a cautionary tale of what can happen when a studio interferes with production.
September 18, 2015
You stole your dad's car?

A boy obsessed with watching classic science fiction picture keeps having strange dreams of blueprints to design an alien device. He creates a bubble machine that becomes a space craft that they can control. When they expand its capabilities, they have an adventure they will never forget!

"Does she get naked?"
"Yeah, but she has three naval rings."

Joe Dante, director of Gremlins, Piranha, The Howling, The 'Burbs, Gremlins 2, Small Soldiers, The Hole, and Innerspace, delivers The Explorers. The storyline for this picture is very well done and evolves in an interesting way. The special effects are mediocre but fun. The acting is awesome and the cast includes River Phoenix, Ethan Hawke, Bradley Gregg, and Danny Nucci.

"We know what they do to people like us down there."

I came across this on Netflix and couldn't wait to watch it. This was a fun movie that is very family friendly. It's similar to Goonies type fun, just not quite that good. The kids are fun and if you enjoy movies like The Sandlot, this is worth your time.

"Space pirates!"

Grade: B
½ August 28, 2015
Explorers was a fun movie to watch when I was young, and it's still entertaining to watch as an adult. I mean, what young boy didn't dream about accidentally creating a spaceship with his friends? Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix hit the ground running in their acting careers, and the special effects still hold up pretty well. It's a little slow in the beginning and the ending feels rushed, but I'm excited to share this movie with my kids.
Super Reviewer
½ August 20, 2015
I was actually enjoying this movie for the most part. And then they went to the alien spaceship and it all fell apart. Perhaps that's a little strong, but considering that the film pretty much spent all its time building up to the moment when they make contact with an alien species, the execution of it definitely left a lot to be desired, at least in my view. It just felt way too forced and contrived to be effective. It's like, supposedly, meant to be this life-changing experience for these three boys, but it just doesn't feel like it. The comedy is also not very good in this segment. In all, as the climax to the film, it just didn't do anything for me at all and it actually brought the movie down a lot, to me. It actually detracted from the film instead of adding to it and, of course, you want the opposite to be the case. You don't want something in your film to detract from everything that came prior to it, but that's exactly what this movie does. With that said, I was enjoying the film prior to the boys meeting the aliens. I just think there's a certain charm about it that carries a lot of it, it's also a pretty entertaining film. I think the chemistry between the leads is actually quite good and, surprisingly, antagonistic. Not like Charles Grodin and Robert De Niro in Midnight Run where they insulted the shit out of each other, but they were pretty much in each other's cases for the majority of the film, so I thought that was pretty fun. Like I mentioned, everything leading to the meeting was good and entertaining. The acting is real good, particularly considering that both River Phoenix and Ethan Hawke would've been in their mid-teens by this point in time and they were already really good. Jason Presson is also good, but he didn't really do much of note after this film, his most high profile role after this would've been Gremlins 2. I mean he was still good, but Ethan and River, unsurprisingly, stole the show. So the issues I have with the film have absolutely nothing to do with the cast, the cast is great. But, and I've already outlined my issues with the film, so I won't get into that again, but those flaws, at least they were to me, dragged the movie down tremendously. There will, obviously, be some people that'll enjoy this third act more than I did, but the movie just lost a lot with the third act honestly. It benefited no one. With that said, everything else leading to that third act is quite good and entertaining. So I recommend watching this movie until the boys make it clear that they're going to visit the aliens. You'll thank me later, for sure.
July 24, 2015
I am going to admit straight up; I watched "Explorers" a lot as a kid. It was right up there with "The Goonies" and "Ghostbusters" as far as my regular rotation went. Today is the first time I have watched this particular movie since I was a kid, and I really put myself in the mindset for a disappointment, but man was I ever wrong. "Explorers" is a superbly well-crafted movie. It is just wondrous and entertaining at every turn. My memory was that even as a kid I enjoyed the first half and then would zone out for the parts with the aliens. It turns out that the aliens are only there for about 20 minutes, and while they are the least interesting part of the movie, they do not ruin the rest of it by any means. I happened to watch it with my own children, and to my surprise, they were cracking up laughing the entire movie, and not in a bad way. They never complained about the '80s special effects the way they do about more modern live action movies that use CG, instead of practical effects and good old fashioned composite pictures. I have to give this movie an "A". I still find the first hour to be riveting, and then it all wraps up with a fulfilling ending.

Grade: A
July 1, 2015
The effects have dated poorly and it would have been nice to see the film truly completed as Joe Dante wanted, but it's still an enjoyable science fiction with most of Dante's signature flair and a great cast of child actors.
June 16, 2015
Classic 80's, pre-internet teen fantasy. Class-ic!
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