Directed by Joe Dante, Explorers is a very Spielbergian sci-fi 80's film starring a young Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix as two of three kids who, following some rather abstract Tron-like recurring dreams, discover a way to potentially travel inside some kind of glass bubble they manage to control.
The film was rushed into theatres back in 1985, much to Dante's distaste, and it was a flop at the box-office but it's since enjoyed a cult following and, with the popularity of the nostalgia-celebrating series Stranger Things, it's likely even more people will discover or re-discover this little film. The kids, who often communicate with walkie-talkies, are exactly the types you'd expect: Wolfgang is the nerdy one (Phoenix), Darren is the tough one (played by Jason Presson) and Ben is the imaginative one (Hawke). They are bullied at school, of course, and their home lives aren't exactly a joy so when they find this mysterious bubble, they soon decide to build a make-shift spacecraft with the ultimate goal of travelling through space and meeting whoever, or whatever appears to be making contact with them.
Explorers has an excellent build-up as you see the kids' unlikely plan come together piece by piece. It's obviously completely unrealistic but the young actors are so good and the film is so well made, even with the missing footage, you buy it regardless. The effects may be a little dated here and there but they're still pretty cool and far more effective than a lot of CGI nowadays, especially by the time you get to the real spaceship which looks amazing even on the inside as the sets feel appropriately alien. Speaking of which, you probably won't expect the aliens to look and act the way they do as they are loud, weird and rather obnoxious. The decision to have them constantly spout-out pop culture references was maybe not the best idea but even that works in context as you definitely feel Ben's disappointment when he realises that they are not exactly what he imagined.
Explorers has one of the best build-ups in any kids movie and even though the third act nearly jumps the shark tonally and totally, it remains a really enjoyable, atmospheric, charming ride in the vein of Flight Of The Navigator if not quite as polished.
An under-appreciated cult gem.