Explorers Studio: Paramount Year: 1985 Rated: PG Length: 106 minutes Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1, anamorphically enhanced Audio: English Dolby Digital 5.1 Subtitled in English, and Closed Captioned in English Special Features: 2 Additional Scenes S.R.P. $14.99 Release Date: October 19, 2004 Joe Dante’s Explorers is one of those films that is more than the sum of its parts. It’s a film that draws its characters too thinly, as if ripped from a comic book. It’s cliched and silly, and has a third act completely out of step with the rest of the film. But with all of its faults, it is still an enjoyable ride for sci-fi fans. Explorers started the careers of Ethan Hawke and River Phoenix, who star as two young teens who dream how to build an electronic circuit board which makes space travel possible, and well within the grasp of a few enterprising kids. Ben (Hawke) is the dreamer and motivator, while Wolfgang (Phoenix) plays the nerdy, brainy type who puts together the electronics. The two hook up with a third boy, Darrin (Jason Presson) who has the street smarts to come up with the parts and build their simplistic craft. The first two-thirds of the film is impressive, as we watch the boys devise and build their ship, and test its capabilities. It’s a dream of many kids that age, realized in a fairly believable fashion. It’s when the boys get to their final destination that things take a sharp turn. The film, at this point, yanks you from your believing in the film and proposes characters so preposterous that it is difficult to accept them at face value. The story becomes, in effect, a Shaggy Dog Story. Still, the film has loads of charm, some great sci-fi references for genre fans, and remains a fun ride. If only it could have lived up to the potential described by the first part of the film... Star Trek fans, be on the lookout for Robert Picardo, who appears in three roles in this film, though you’ll probably only recognize him in one. Explorers is a fun ride of a film, and a good sci-fi movie for kids. The Transfer Explorers is presented in an anamorphically enhanced aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The picture has a good level of detail, offering up good sharpness without presenting noticeable sharpening artifacts. The image is bright and has good contrast. Black levels are a bit inconsistent, but are acceptable - and there is good detail in the shadows. Grain is variable, appearing somewhat heavy in some darker scenes and in some effects shots - but it is much as I remember the theatrical presentation. Colors are a touch on the warm side, and are well saturated. The print is fairly clean for its age, showing only minor dust spots. Overall, this is a very pleasing transfer of this catalog title. The audio is served up in Dolby Digital 5.1. It has impressive directional effects. When Wolfgang’s basement is destroyed by the sphere, you’ll hear sounds all around the room as the sphere impacts objects in 360 degrees. Late in the film, sound effects are again quite impressive, enveloping you in a very active soundfield. Very nice. Low frequency effects are present when called for by the effects, and deliver impressively at those times. Outside of the effects shots, however, bass response is on the mild side. Mid and high ranges deliver adequately throughout. Voices sound natural and clear. This is an excellent sounding mix - even more when you consider the age of the source. Special Features The only special feature on the DVD is the inclusion of two deleted scenes: Wolfgang is Bullied, and Unexpected Thunder Road Ride. These are interesting fodder for fans of the film, but add little to the exposition. They total less than four minutes in length. Final Thoughts Explorers is not without its problems as a film, what with thinly drawn characters and a story that goes off track in the third act - but it is a guilty pleasure of mine. Sci-fi fans will enjoy all of the references to classic sci-fi seen throughout the film. The transfer is strong for a catalog title, and the price is right. Recommended.