How Studio Executives Ruined Joe Dante’s Vision of 1985 Sci-Fi Adventure Film EXPLORERS – GeekTyrant
Joe Dante1985 sci-fi adventure film explorer was one of my favorite movies as a kid! I loved the damn thing. However, when I watched it again as an adult, I could totally see that this film had issues. I still like the film and it has managed to keep its charm, but there are a lot of things I didn’t know about the film and it actually had quite a troubled production. In fact, Dante doesn’t like the film, what was released wasn’t his vision. The studio pretty much tore the film apart in the editing process, and as a longtime fan, I’m sure I’d love to see the Dante cut explorer!
In the film Young Ben Crandall (Ethan Hawke) spends his free time watching science fiction movies, playing video games, and reading comics. Surprisingly, his affinity for all things fantastic leads to a real result – when he has a vivid dream about technology, his science-loving friend Wolfgang Muller (River Phoenix) manages to create a working spaceship. Along with her pal Darren Woods (Jason Presson), the boys take off into space and encounter a very strange extraterrestrial life.
For those of you who are also fans of the film or are just curious. I wanted to give you a little insight into what happened to Dante’s original cut during production.
The original cut of the film that Dante and his team put together was 3 hours and 15 minutes long! Sure, they knew they had to trim it down, but that was the starting point. The film was actually in an extended post-production period when the studio suddenly decided to bring the release date forward.
With the release date being brought forward the editing of the film had to be rushed and at one point the studio simply told the director it was done when he wasn’t and they decided they would just go ahead and release what he did had at that point.
The filmmaker recalled, “They ruined it by releasing it before it was done and then not supporting it with any publicity – so it bombed and they lost a fortune.”
The film began shooting under the direction of the President of Paramount Studios Michael Eisner and production manager Jeffrey Katzenberg. Both eventually left the studio for Disney while Dante was shooting the film. At that time he was asked to stop his work explorer of the new executives taking over so he could rush out gremlins 2that’s a story for another day.
Dante further explained this production explorer was going so fast and the planned date they originally had was so ambitious that: “When the kids got on the spaceship set, it wasn’t even dry yet. Your feet went into concrete!”
Under Parmaount’s new leadership, Dante attempted to edit a film that would make the unfinished film make sense. Discussing some of the subplots missing from the film, the filmmaker said, “There’s a whole subplot that was cut out with the bullies. Our boys go back to school and there’s this magical something they got from the aliens and the kids’ clothes are disappearing. We shot all that stuff and we just never got a chance to put it on film.”
Dante had to cut out a party scene at the last minute where Ethan and Amanda have their first kiss. Dente recalls, “He gives her a hideous moonstone ring that he thinks looks great. At the end of the film, when they’re flying, he’s looking at her hand while she’s looking at the ring – and of course we had to trim that down.”
There were other aspects of the film that were cut that would have explained a few things that includes a cool and wild concept of how consciousness is part of a giant being. It’s a pretty deep theme for a children’s film and it would have been cool to see it played out in the film. Speaking about this, Dante said: “Pierre Teilhard de Chardin had a philosophy [outlining] how all consciousness is part of one vast being. That was once in the movie. It was about them [adult] Dick Miller Character and how he has a psychic connection with the kids – because that’s how he felt when he was younger. All that stuff got mixed up and didn’t really come through.”
No, no it didn’t. It’s a shame because it’s stuff like that that would have taken the film to a whole new level. It’s something that young fans would have appreciated more and more over time as they revisit the film. Now we only see remnants of great ideas that could have been.
When it came to marketing the film, Dante was very disappointed. In fact, he hated the published poster. He shared, “Much to the detriment of my career, ‘From the director of gremlins.’ The poster was black on black and showed a backyard fence with a light coming from behind. It just looked awful. When you put it on billboards and it looked like tar paper.”
As you might imagine, Dante doesn’t visit the film very often. It didn’t turn out to be the film he wanted to make. He explained, “It’s a tough film for me to watch because it’s not what I was trying to do. It’s just a transitional period set in stone. Although I’m really happy that people come and say they liked it – they show it to their kids and all that, and I think that’s wonderful.”
He added, “It’s charming, but it’s just not what it could have been.”
While it would be nice for Dante to release his original cut as I would love to see his 3 hour and 15 minute version of the film, all footage that was cut from the film is lost. Dante says it’s gone forever and that’s such a shame! He could never put together a director’s cut even if he wanted to.
That said, I still love and enjoy the film for what it is. It may not be the film Dante wanted to bring to theaters, but it definitely captured my imagination when I was a kid and I appreciate this nostalgic connection I have with the film.
We talk about this film on our secret level Podcast much more detailed and share many additional insights. We’re also talking about many other movies, so check it out if you haven’t already!
https://geektyrant.com/news/the-troubled-production-of-joe-dantes-1985-sci-fi-adventure-film-explorers How Studio Executives Ruined Joe Dante’s Vision of 1985 Sci-Fi Adventure Film EXPLORERS – GeekTyrant