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  • Composed by Jerry Goldsmith
  • Intrada / 2011 / 77:28

A delightful and enchanting children’s film, Explorers – director Joe Dante’s first film after he gained considerably attention with Gremlins – sees three boys building a spacecraft and meeting aliens.  It’s part of that great raft of kids’ adventure films of the 1980s – while obviously not as well-known as ET or The Goonies etc, it’s warmly remembered by many people of a certain age (which happens to be my age).  Dante’s best films contain a certain subversiveness but he’s always been very competent when playing it straight and I’m surprised his career seems to have fizzled out somewhat.  

The most prolonged and successful relationship with a director in Jerry Goldsmith’s later career was that with Dante and this was their third film together (counting Twilight Zone: The Movie).  Goldsmith’s score is pretty much like the film – warm-hearted, a dash of humour, with plenty of adventure and excitement.  It features one of the composer’s very best themes – one which deserves to be injected into the public consciousness as much as any of the great adventure movie themes of the 1980s, but isn’t – presumably because the film is not quite so well-known.  “The Construction” is seriously good – one of Goldsmith’s most memorable pieces.  Bouncing pianos introduce the piece, soon joined by swirling strings and then the full orchestra for a rousing, stirring anthem which deserves a place on any list of the great pieces of film music.

Jerry Goldsmith

It opened up the original soundtrack album, despite being from the middle section of the film, which made perfect sense – it is a bit like an overture, featuring the building blocks the composer used for much of the rest of the score.  He was a master at doing that – taking fragments from here and there, turning them into something else, linking everything together in a way which was far more complex than most of the audience would be consciously aware of – going the extra mile, to use corporate speak.  He uses parts of it to build a particularly lovely, wistful theme (heard to delightful effect in the previously-unreleased “I Want to Live”), other parts as dynamic action music, still others to underscore the innocent warmth of the central characters’ relationship.

It’s Jerry Goldsmith and it’s the 1980s so of course, there are synths.  These are largely used to add an ethereal sound to various passages, particularly dream sequences – their most up-front appearances were not present on the original album, but do now appear on this expansion.  There’s also very unusual synth rock-and-roll music for the (very amusing) aliens themselves, and even that is done with such enthusiasm and warmth that it is nowhere near as objectionable as it could have been.  I know I’ve mentioned warmth 77 times already in this review, but I can’t help it – that’s the score’s defining feature – and so much of it is just truly lovely, nothing more than the fantastic “Sticks and Stones”.

There’s occasional action music – nothing that heavy – and that’s handled with the composer’s usual aplomb.  The original album focused on the most rousing sections of the score at the expense of the melancholy aspects.  While this new edition isn’t perfect – some of the “new” cues are so short they tend to add an unwelcome piecemeal flavour and it’s hard to muster up much enthusiastic for some of the more heavily-electronic selections – it does offer a different side to the score and I suspect that somebody could produce a really fine album by taking the original cues and adding a handful of the additional ones.  (I’ve given up hoping that soundtrack producers will do it.)  Listening to it from start to finish certainly doesn’t provide the kind of sustained brilliance offered by the original 30-minute programme, but it’s still rewarding enough and of course, it’s easy to reproduce the original programme from these remastered tracks and get it in better sound.  This is a terrific score and every Goldsmith fan should have it in his collection.  ****

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  1. Debbie (Reply) on Wednesday 7 December, 2011 at 04:28

    Hi, These historical reviews are really helpful. Many of these movies I have never seen and probably will never see, however, if the review is strong enough ,I will search out the soundtrack.
    I have made lots of discoveries so far

  2. Rodney (Reply) on Monday 12 December, 2011 at 12:37

    Spot on review! I love this movie and this score so much. ‘The Construction’ is one of my favourite (if not THE favourite) Goldsmith cue and it definitely deserves to be more well-known. It always puts me in such a good mood!

  3. MIles (Reply) on Wednesday 4 January, 2012 at 01:19

    Very good review! So I’m curious – if you had your druthers, what handful of additional cues would you include on an expanded album? I ask because I’m putting together a CD of it for a friend, and since you have a lot of knowledge about this sort of thing, I could use your input.