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Solarbabies (1986)

I watched a film last night. Not a great event, I'll grant you. I watched one a few nights ago as well. I just felt that last night's was the sort that I, as a kind and generous person, ought to share with the rest of the world. Yes, it was that sort of film.

I should have guessed, really. I mean, let's face it, Solarbabies is hardly an inspiring title - and the fact that it's a teenage science fiction movie made in 1986 should probably have set off all sorts of alarm bells. It did set off quite a few, I have to admit. It stars Jason Patric, though, and the fellow alleged teen who was his love interest in The Lost Boys. (I could look her name up, by reaching all of six inches to my left to look at the DVD cover of TLB, but I'm not going to). Come on, be honest - who could possibly resist an eighties teenage science fiction adventure starring Jason Patric? On rollerskates? With an owl?

So, the plot. It's a deadly, dystopian future world. Aren't they all? You don't get that many futuristic action adventure movies set in Happy Land, unless you're watching Star Trek. All water has disappeared (either in the whole of the world, or just in this bit of it, we're not told), and the remaining supplies are under the control of a tyrannical government that takes children away at birth, and raises them in isolated orphanages in an effort to brainwash them into serving the State. They do this mostly by making them play hockey on rollerskates. No, I didn't get that bit either. The brainwashing seems to be remarkably inefficient, since only approximately one boy in the entire orphanage has been successfully turned into a proper little soldier. Everybody else just runs wild in the desert on rollerskates, occasionally with an owl. Owls like the desert.

Then, one day, the token little boy (who will, naturally, be spending the rest of the film getting into danger, and having to be rescued) finds a glowing football that talks to him. It magically cures him of the deafness that he hasn't bothered telling the audience that he had before. This is slightly less celebratory than it might be, since we're not actually aware that we're supposed to be celebrating anything. There's quite a few bits like that, actually. The film is about ninety minutes long, but I suspect it was originally longer, and got snipped. This means that several bits of necessary foreshadowing have fallen by the wayside, but I doubt they'd have made the film any better. Anyway, the boy takes his glowy football best mate to meet the others, and they use it as a ball in one of their interminable games of hockey, because apparently it looks like it might enjoy it. In repayment it makes them all glow and giggle, and giggle and glow, and then hold hands and giggle and glow all together, in a circle. Then they run away because one of them was a Native American, and all his tribe's knowledge was lurking in his blood somewhere, so... oh, they just run away, okay? On rollerskates, because that's the best way to travel in the desert.

Meanwhile Richard Jordan, last seen in The Equaliser, and here dressed as a wannabe Nazi, chases them with his favourite pupil in tow. They're in beach buggies, which should give them an advantage, but doesn't. In a tangle of outlying settlements that have clearly been heavily influenced by Beyond Thunderdome, the gang lose the glowy football, which gets kidnapped and tortured by Richard Jordan and his assistant, a woman who seems to be channelling Servalan to a quite fabulous degree. Then the gang turn up and pretty much horribly murder all the adults who stand in their way. Always a good conclusion to a movie, that. There's nothing remotely off-putting about watching a gang of kids commit murder on a grand scale. Although admittedly I was cheering them on when it was Alexei Sayle's turn. Because, really, Alexei Sayle? He's never even bothered to pretend that he knows how to act.

Then a robot explodes, which for some reason makes the government collapse, and causes a local dam to crack, which gives the entire world its water back. Or this bit of it, anyway. And the glowy football flies off into space, and the gang hold hands again and giggle and glow just to prove that they don't need a glowy football to make them weird. Then they jump in the lake, to the strains of Smokey Robinson singing a rather unexpected song about praising God. Or possibly a glowy football. He doesn't actually specify, although the song's an old one, so I'm guessing it was probably God that he meant.

It was really bad. I was quite impressed. I've watched some rubbish films in my time, but this one was quite spectacular. Full marks to Jason Patric, who can generally be counted upon to do his best whatever the material, but most of the rest of the cast might as well not have bothered turning up. Except the Servalan clone, obviously. She didn't get to do a great deal, but I'm glad she was there.

Pictures, then, for those who can be bothered to look.

Probably the best bit of the film.

Jason Patric, in sore need of a good glower and a pair of fangs.

Token girl. Turns out to have a subterranean father who lives in a puddle created by a melting glacier. They identify each other by a secret mark that nobody bothered telling the audience about beforehand. Otherwise known as an entirely pointless subplot that just sat there for ten minutes and didn't do anything.

Small boy. Gets into peril a lot, and is at the centre of some spectacularly bloodthirsty carnage. Best friend is a glowing football who runs away into space just to get out of the movie. Is presumably not destined for a hugely well adjusted adulthood.

Supposedly Native American boy, magically capable of recreating his tribe's hairstyle, jewellery and accessories, despite having been taken away as a baby.

Token clever kid. Does some clever things. Wears glasses, in time honoured, token clever kid fashion. Doesn't do a whole lot else.

The token black kid. Why, having been raised all his life in the same, faceless, grey institution as all the other kids, does he still speak in American Black slang? And eighties American Black slang at that. He even attempts a breakdance at one point. Hollywood can sometimes be very confusing in its attempts at equality. Actually, forget the sometimes.

Somebody else. If he had a point at all, I didn't notice it. Still, he was there, in the gang. Bet he's grateful.

The orphanage's sole success story on the brainwashing front. Cheerfully named Scorpion.

A glowing football. With optional small boy accessory.

Servalan. The actress is actually British, so it's quite likely that she really was channelling everybody's favourite space psycho. She's certainly been raiding her wardrobe.

An insanely cute robot that's been specially programmed to enjoy torturing people. I don't know how. I don't care.

Richard Jordan, also quite possibly channelling Servalan.

Hockey on rollerskates (and occasionally lacrosse on rollerskates, which it seems to morph into at unexpected moments). They make quite a big deal about it having no rules, but since it's still less violent than actual hockey, I don't know what the fuss is about. I bet rollerskates can't cut your hand off like ice skates can, either.

A glowing ball found underground makes the gang glow as well. Nobody seems to think that this might be something worth worrying about. Actually the token brainy one does briefly, though nobody listens. Instead they decide that they'll all go rollerskating off into the desert for the rest of their lives for a lark.

Alexei Sayle captures the gang. They then escape, take away his boots, tie him to his own cart, and kick him off into the desert to die a slow death. Presumably with very blistered feet.

Still, he's Alexei Sayle, so in all fairness he does deserve it.

Jason and Scorpion have at it with spectacular enthusiasm. They should just have made the whole film about this. It's the only bit that actually looks like it was fun.

Jason (that was actually the character's name as well) appears to be wearing two rollerskates here, despite one having just been eaten off by a guard dog. So apparently in the future people have evolved self-repairing roller-feet. Which is nice.

Servalan gets set on fire and electrocuted by the youngest member of the gang.

Richard Jordan gets dismembered by the robot, also largely the fault of our pocket-sized serial killer. The robot then explodes, when Scorpion gets a bit wildly excited about trying to save the madman who's been brainwashing him his entire life.

Isn't loyalty nice.

The exploding robot then manages to take the entire complex out with it. Don't know why, don't care. Things go boom, this is all that's important.

The gang escape, getting at least one of the guards torn to pieces by ravening guard dogs in the process. Presumably the dogs then explode along with everything else. Except for Scorpion, who seems to escape. We don't see where he goes, though. Lurking somewhere in the hope of a sequel?

Further glowing, in what I suspect is meant to be a triumphant fashion. Then the film ends, or just gives up and goes away. Presumably to sob in a darkened room. There then follows a full five minutes of people actually admitting to having had something to do with making it.

So, there's Solarbabies, folks. Heartily recommended, obviously. Away and buy yourselves a copy. Or, on the off chance that it would be more entertaining, pull all your nails out one by one with an interesting assortment of kitchen utensils.

And I promise that the next film I watch will be better. Probably not by much, but it will be better. Mind you, there's little chance that I'd bother talking about a good one, so this may not be especially relevant.


( 6 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )
Oct. 18th, 2011 08:27 pm (UTC)
Oh, I love solarbabies! I can't believe your dismissiveness of Peter Deluise from Jump Street. My housemate fell in love with Peter Deluise and we have seen a great number of his films and they're nearly always LOVELY because he is so LOVELY. Not all his films have Jim Profit with an owl, though. So solarbabies wins.
Oct. 19th, 2011 10:13 am (UTC)
I didn't dismiss Peter Deluise! The scriptwriters did that. He didn't have a single thing to do in the entire movie. Which is a shame, as you can usually count on a Deluise to be entertaining, and it might have made the film better if he'd been given some plot. Or even some dialogue.

I could never get in to Jump Street. I think I've got the season one boxset somewhere. Maybe I should give it another try.
Oct. 19th, 2011 10:16 am (UTC)
That's really odd, I watched it with Clare, who is very SINGLE TRACK about Peter Deluise, so in my memory the film is basically about him. Although no, I don't really remember him actually doing anything I suppose.

I quite like Jump Street, but it's not big on the sword fights.
Oct. 20th, 2011 10:44 pm (UTC)
*high fives jekesta!*

Nice to see I'm not the only one to remember Jim Profit. What a dark, twisted, excellent and compelling show Profit was.

Don't even recognize Richard Jordan in the screencaps you posted, swordznsorcery.
Oct. 21st, 2011 03:41 am (UTC)
I loved every bit of Profit, and then I got so used to talking to people about it to be met with blank faces and polite nothings, but since he showed up in Heroes more people seem to have seen it now.
Oct. 19th, 2011 12:31 pm (UTC)
Oh, remember this one as well. Only saw it once though.
( 6 fierce growls — Growl fiercely )

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