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Nobody expects your average Hollywood movie to have a moral. But sometimes you find one that does, or at least tries to. What's really interesting though is when a movie seems to have a moral the makers weren't intending, possibly even the exact opposite of what they orginally had in mind.
Take Explorers for example. The main character, Ben, spends the first half of the movie dreaming about outer space, at least when he's not dreaming of the girl he's crushing on. Ben is so wrapped up in his fantasies that his school work and even his friendships get short shrift. Then he begins having a series of strange dreams, from which he eventually gleans technology for space travel. He teams up with friends Wolfgang and Darren, and together they build a spaceship with their new-found knowledge. For a while they enjoy flitting about town, buzzing drive-in theaters and police helicopters, but then something else take over the controls, and the trio is whisked off into space. Ben is overjoyed by this, believing his dreams have come true. However, once in space, things don't go quite the way he thought they would.
So, assuming the movie is supposed to have one in the first place, what's the moral here? The studio probably would say something like, "Follow your dreams!" or, to borrow a quote from another movie released the same year as Explorers, "When you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything!" However, I can't help but come away with something more along the lines of, "Your dreams will disappoint you if you take them too seriously," or, more succinctly, "Be careful what you wish for." Ben gets his chance to go in space and meet aliens, but he discovers his alien hosts are little more than a couple of thrill-seeking teenagers who stole their dad's "car" after watching too much television. Here I must give credit to Ethan Hawke, whose acting abilities were established long before he became famous. He perfectly captures Ben's starry-eyed excitement during his first few steps into the heart of the alien spaceship, and then Hawke also perfectly captures Ben's growing disappointment as he learns he's not going to spend the rest of his life zipping around the galaxy, unlocking the secrets of the universe.
Of course, there aren't too many Hollywood productions that manage to carry their morals, intentional or otherwise, all the way to the end, and Explorers is no exception. Like any good summer popcorn movie, this one gets a happy ending, with Ben, apparently not so disappointed by his brief venture into space after all, getting another chance. Not only that, the girl of his fancy gets to join in this time. Maybe now Ben's dreams actually will come true, exactly the way he wants!
That's what you're supposed to believe, anyway. Unfortunately, this hopeful ending doesn't really fit in with the rest of the movie, but then I'm sure that's because the rest of the movie isn't exactly what the movie makers had planned to begin with. "Be careful what you wish for," is certainly a valuable lesson in life, but how many movie goers want to be taught such things when they're trying to escape their lives for a couple of hours?
The moral of the story? "Mind the message!"
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