Saturday, September 25, 2021


Movie Name:
Year of Release: 1985
Director: Joe Dante
Starring: Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, Jason Presson, Bradley Gregg, Amanda Peterson, Danny Nucci, Dana Ivey, James Cromwell, Taliesin Jaffe, Brooke Bundy, Robert Picardo, Dick Miller
Genre: Adventure, Comedy
Score out of ten (whole numbers only): 7
Watch it on Amazon

Synopsis and Review:
Following the success of "Gremlins", director Joe Dante tackled another fantastical story, which had a decidedly mixed reception, but has since then been more appreciated. The film follows the story of Ben Crandall, a young teenage boy who lives in a suburb of Maryland. Ben loves classic science fiction films and has these vivid dreams where he flies over the city, which also looks like a circuit board. After waking up from his dreams, Ben usually draws that circuit board he sees in his dreams. Ben shares his drawings and dreams with Wolfgang, who is a school friend, and also a prodigy. With the help of the rebellious Darren, they set out to bring that circuit board to life. Wolfgang manages to build the actual microchip, based on Ben's drawings, and once they do, they realize that the chip enables the creation of an electromagnetic bubble which surrounds a pre-determined area. They soon decide to create a scrappy spaceship, based on parts they uncover, and with some additional refinements of the chip, they're soon venturing out to space. On their maiden voyage, they're lassoed by a larger spaceship, and they soon become acquainted with the passengers of that craft. What they uncover surprises the boys, but also explains all that has been happening.
Joe Dante's films always have at their core an unexpected hero, who finds himself confronted with a situation that quickly becomes much grander and at times, riskier than what it originally started as. In this case, the narrative focuses on this trio of young boys, who just embark on this adventure of making their dreams a reality, of being able to fly. It's a rather simple premise, but one that Joe Dante illustrates and peppers with his particular touches and film references, such as the science fiction films from the 50s and 60s, which are part of his own childhood, and something that clearly has left a mark in him (which can be witnessed in the film "Matinee" as well for instance). While this film doesn't feel as well resolved from a storyline perspective, as "Gremlins" for instance, it still has plenty to capture one's attention. It's a film that captures the easy friendships of childhood, and the fearlessness that comes with it, married with the thirst for adventure towards the unknown. It has some influences from Steven Spielberg's "ET", but it ends up being something quite different, with comedic tones, more so than dramatic ones. The film marked the debut of Ethan Hawke's career, the same going for the fantastic River Phoenix. In supporting roles, there are great talented actors such as James Cromwell, Dana Ivey, Dick Miller, Robert Picardo, the latter two, usual collaborators of Joe Dante. The cinematography from the late John Hora is great, as is the score from Jerry Goldsmith. An entertaining film always worth revisiting, from an underrated and very talented director.