It’s getting harder and harder to have a soft spot for 1980s films, seeing as how all of them are getting updated for high profile remakes, thus ruining a lot of what made the originals so special and 1980s-ish. The latest of these retro classics to go the remake route is 1985’s sci-fi family adventure Explorers, director Joe Dante’s oft-forgotten follow-up to the equally genre-bending Gremlins. If anybody wants to build a spaceship with me to send Hollywood into space, just send an email.
Beyond being a load of fun for kids who wish they could do things beyond their means, Explorers served as the feature debuts for Ethan Hawke and a bespectacled River Phoenix, who starred as two best friends who team up with a third (Jason Presson) to create a spaceship out of a fair ride inside a home laboratory. Unfortunately, this wasn’t a movie that had an enviable production, with the studio changing owners in mid-filming, and a flimsy third act that was rewritten as it was hurriedly being made to match an adjusted early release date. If this remake does nothing else, it will probably have a full script by the time it starts filming.
Paramount has brought in the relative newcomer screenwriters Geoff Moore and Dave Posamentier, whose only produced effort is the drugged-up dramatic comedy Better Living Through Chemistry, which opens this weekend. As of now, no directors have been set, but I’m thinking it’ll be a similarly unpolished talent, given this is coming from Paramount’s indie banner Insurge Pictures, who were responsible for such hits as Katy Perry: Part of Me and Justin Bieber: Never Say Never. They’re also co-producing Dean Israelite’s upcoming sci-fi thriller Welcome to Yesterday, a film that may serve as a plot template inspiration for Explorers, according to THR insiders.
Also stepping in as producers are Josh Appelbaum and Andre Nemec. They’re the screenwriters behind Brad Bird’s Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, as well as the Americanized remake of the British cop drama Life on Mars. These are obviously guys with big ideas, so let’s hope they can convey them to Moore and Posamentier.
I can’t tell if any of this is good or bad news. For once, Hollywood is tackling a remake that wasn’t very successful upon its initial release, and they’re apparently limiting themselves financially, so there’s no chance of this being a $100 million bust. That said, they could have just made another movie about kids building a spaceship without officially calling it a remake. But that’s how buzz gets built, I guess. I hope they bring Ethan Hawke back for a dad role, and that the sci-fi references are just as plentiful and fun.
Relive the childlike glory below.