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Review: Solarbabies (1986)

by Ursa McKracken – electronsexparty.blogspot.com

Best bad quote:

“Cut your breath before you betray your putrid thinking!”

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Solarbabies is a strange film that screams 1980’s CHEESE so loudly you almost can’t hear the whispers of the decent film that attempt to permeate its cheesy surface. The film is set in a post-apocalyptic future where some sort of fascist, Earth hating police force control the water supply. They also run a prison for children, called the Orphanage, where children they’ve captured are indoctrinated into their ways in order to become good members of their police force.

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For some reason, they also are indoctrinated into the way of roller skating. Our heroes,  the Solarbabies, are a team of Skateball players (Lacrosse on skates). This really has no bearing on the plot, except to maybe establish why the heroes are friends, and to give the heroes faster means of getting around rather than walking. I don’t know. Was roller skating cool in the 1980’s?

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The adorable Lukas Haas, called Daniel, discovers a glowing, sentient extraterrestrial sphere that communicates telepathically and does magic things. The sphere heals Daniel’s deafness and later creates a thunderstorm in the Solarbabies’ club room that results in a cheery, awkward water fight.

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Unbeknownst to the Solarbabies, they have a stalker who witnesses this little display. He’s Darstar, some sort of gorgeous not-quite Native American falconer who is one with his owl. He’s also played by Adrian Pasdar, he who gives all those blessed with sight a serious boner. (Guys and girls.) He decides to steal the sphere -for some reason- and runs away.

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The movie already feels like it is running at a fairly fast pace, though a lot of time is spend watching the characters fuck around, but it is here that the story telling becomes noticeably choppy. We the audience know that Darstar stole the sphere, and it is conceivable that Daniel will go after it as he has a connection with it. But, we never see the Solarbabies find out about the theft, nor do we see Daniel leaving. The girl, Terra, tells the leader, Jason, that Daniel has gone after the sphere and the Solarbabies decide to go skating after him. It feels very rushed, like a lot got left on the cutting room floor. I felt like I was being told to “MOVE MOVE MOVE” by a gruff Colonel Director who was really eager to get on with it.

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What follows is a montage of skating and running away from the police, complete with terrible ’80’s music and impossible stunts. The Solarbabies were standing in the danger zone, but love just wouldn’t leave them to ever stand alone. How’d they end up in Danger Zone anyway? Doesn’t that highway have signs? At one point, the kids launch themselves over a huge crevice, like twenty frikin’ feet, with just the power of love and their sweet ass wheels.

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We find out, through a couple of slaughters and scenes of horrific torture, that the bad guys want to destroy the sphere for some reason. The heroes just want to keep the sphere away from them because, well, I guess it wouldn’t be cool if it was destroyed. I said “for some reason”  and “I guess” because, really, we never really find out what the sphere really does (besides magic things).

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At the end of the movie, it destroys the dam that holds in all the water, creates a thunderstorm and then goes back to space. The breaking of the dam gives everyone free water. But, really, an extraterrestrial being came from space to free water for some humans living in a specific region on Earth? Did it jumpstart Earth’s natural processes in order to get things growing again? Is it from a race that just really hates evil monopolies of life sustaining substances? Is it Jesus? We never really find out.

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Solarbabies is an interesting, if flawed, ride through 1980’s apocalyptic fiction. There are many things I found laudable, but also many things I found laughable to the point of being awful. The laudable? The sets are cool. Tiretown had this awesome Mad Max crossed with a carnival thing going on that I found appealing. I was compelled by the sentient, alien sphere and what it was. (Though, we disappointingly never really find out its purpose.) Also, the effects are rather well done for the time period.

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The back story was interesting, with the fascist police state fighting with people called Eco Warriors and then stealing their children to be indoctrinated in prison-schools. Unfortunately, a lot intriguing ideas (more than I can cover here) have been reduced to half-baked threads that don’t go anywhere. The film seems to have been reduced to bare bones, and that’s a shame. And, the roller skating. It’s just awkwardly shoved in there, like they needed something to appeal to kids. The roller skating scenes could have been better spent filling out the more interesting plot points.

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This movie is much better than its title and premise suggest, but overall, disappointing. As a big fan of post apocalyptic movies and fiction, I think they often tend to try to do too much and end up having to skim off the basics in order to even have a viable movie. Solarbabies is certainly guilty of this. We are treated to too many interesting concepts that can never be fully explored within the time constraints. And, then, we waste time with fucking Lacrosse on skates.

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Rating:

3 out of 5 Glowing Extraterrestrial Balls

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