If you were a burgeoning young science fiction fan in the early 1980s, it’s reasonable to imagine that you have fond memories of 1985’s Explorers. You remember, it’s the one where a bunch of kids build a spacecraft out of an old Tilt-A-Whirl, the ride featured at every county fair that spins you around until you spew vomit. When you work at a carnival that must be the assignment you get when you’re new or really piss someone off. A new piece of fan art pays tribute to this under appreciated genre gem.
Artist Jeff Victor created this fun, not to mention adorable, picture that pays homage to one of his favorite films. This is part of New York’s Bottleneck Gallery’s show “I Love You Man,” highlighting cinematic bromances. On his blog Victor writes:
Explorers was one of my favorite movies of the 80’s. Well, the first 1/2 anyway. The second half I enjoyed for the crazy makeup and alien effects, but the human characters kind of got lost in the mayhem. The early scenes where they discover this amazing force field technology is by far the most interesting part of the film, so I chose to depict that in my illustration.
Directed by Joe Dante of Gremlins fame, Explorers is also the acting debut of a young, unknown actor named Ethan Hawke, and the feature film debut of a guy named River Phoenix. Phoenix had done some TV work, but this was his first movie gig. You may have heard one or both of those names. After watching late-night sci-fi movies, Ben (Hawke) dreams of a circuit board, a dream he shares with his friend Wolfgang (Phoenix), a scientific genius who makes this dream a reality. They turn this into a space ship called Thunder Road, and go on an adventure into deep space.
Victor’s picture really captures the air of magic and discovery in the initial stages of the movie, where the friends piece together their ship and set out their plan.
One of the big reasons why Explorers resonated with me, is that it is one of the few movies aimed at kids that doesn’t talk down to them. The kids are the heroes, and they’re portrayed as smart, strong, and capable. Over time it may not hold up as well as a movie like Goonies, but they’re similar in that their stories aren’t just young protagonists waiting around for the adults to save the day. I don’t know about you, but as a kid, those movies were few and far between. I wanted to be the hero, the one that saves the day, and through movies like these, I got a taste of that thrill, at least vicariously.
And FYI, Explorers is streaming on Netflix if you’re interested in either revisiting it, or checking it out for the first time.