Taglines: The adventure begins in your own back yard.
Ben Crandall, an alien-obsessed kid, dreams one night of a circuit board. Drawing out the circuit, he and his friends Wolfgang and Darren set it up, and discover they have been given the basis for a starship. Setting off in the ThunderRoad, as they name their ship, they find the aliens Ben hopes they would find… but are they what they seem?
Explorers is a 1985 American science fiction fantasy family film written by Eric Luke and directed by Joe Dante. The film stars Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix (in their film debuts), and Jason Presson as teenage schoolboys who build a spacecraft to explore outer space. The special effects were produced by Industrial Light & Magic, with make-up effects by Rob Bottin.
Rushed into production, the film was never properly finished. Dante revealed that the studio demanded that he stop editing and rush for a July release where it was overshadowed by the Live Aid concert. Despite being a box office flop upon its release, it attracted a cult following when it was later released on VHS.
About the Story
Ben Crandall is a young teen living in the suburbs of Washington DC who experiences vivid dreams about flying through clouds and over a vast, city-like circuit board…usually after falling asleep watching old sci-fi films (The War of the Worlds is a favorite). Every night, upon waking from the dream, he draws the circuit board. Ben shows the sketches to his friend, child prodigy Wolfgang Muller.
At school, Ben develops a crush on Lori Swenson – but he isn’t sure whether it’s mutual. Both boys meet punkish-but-likable Darren Woods, with whom they share their circuit board-concepts. Wolfgang builds an actual microchip based on Ben’s drawings. The chip enables the generation of an electromagnetic bubble which surrounds a pre-determined area. As the boys discover, the bubble is capable of moving at near-limitless distances and speeds without the usual ill-effects from inertia.
They construct a rudimentary spacecraft out of an abandoned tilt-a-whirl car; they name their ship the Thunder Road, after Bruce Springsteen’s song of the same title. Their experiments with the Thunder Road draw attention from the US Government, which sends agents to scout the area for unidentified flying objects.
After Ben receives more dreams about the circuit board, Wolfgang discovers a means of producing unlimited sustainable oxygen; this means longer flights, whereas previously they were limited to whatever a typical oxygen tank could hold. They finalize their plan to explore the galaxy in search of alien life. The boys complete lift-off, despite interference from the authorities (one of whom silently wishes them well). Shortly after breaking Earth’s orbit, something overrides the boys’ personal computer-controls.
Directed by: Joe Dante
Starring: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Bobby Fite, Bradley Gregg, Amanda Peterson, Danny Nucci, Dana Ivey, Taliesin Jaffe
Screenplay by: Eric Luke
Production Design by: Robert F. Boyle
Cinematography by: John Hora
Film Editing by: Tina Hirsch
Costume Design by: Rosanna Norton
Set Decoration by: George R. Nelson
Art Direction by: Frank Richwood
Music by: Jerry Goldsmith
Distributed by: Paramount Pictures
Release Date: July 12, 1985