In a future in which most water has disappeared from the Earth, we find a group of children, mostly teenagers, who are living at an orphanage, run by the despotic rulers of the new Earth. The group in question plays a hockey based game on roller skates and is quite good. It has given them a unity that transcends the attempts to bring them to heel by the government. Finding an orb of special power, they find it has unusual effects on them. They escape from the orphanage (on skates) and try to cross the wasteland looking for a place they can live free as the stormtroopers search for them and the orb.
There are several movies from the 1980s that I grew up watching. The big ones were 'The Goonies', 'Labyrinth', and 'The Dark Crystal' to just name a few in this particular 80's genre. Another film from this time period that I watched probably too many times was 'Solarbabies'. It certainly wasn't as good as the previous films I mentioned, and it certainly hasn't held up to the test of time, but for some reason, as a kid, I really loved 'Solarbabies'. Even though virtually nobody liked the film back in 1986, I was still excited to re-live this movie again in 2016 in high definition.
I know 'Solarbabies' missed a ton of people's radars back in 1986 and has stayed hidden until now. The film is a very odd collection of talent that basically imploded on itself during production and never achieved the status of an amazing film. First off, Mel Brooks had a production company called Brooksfilm, and in 1986, this studio put out two films. One of them was 'The Fly' with Jeff Goldblum and the other was 'Solarbabies'. We all know how successful and iconic 'The Fly' became. 'Solarbabies'... not so much.
One of the factors of that might be that the studio gave this sci-fi/adventure film to Alan Johnson to direct, who was the choreographer for some of Mel Brooks's films. Yes, the choreographer who became somewhat of a director of a fairly big budget movie. Not only that, the film starred quite a few people, including Jason Patric and Jami Gertz (The Lost Boys), a very young Lukas Haas (The Revenant), Adrian Pasdar (Heroes), Charles Durning (O' Brother Where Art Thou), and Richard Jordan (Logan's Run). You can add to this the fairly decent-sized budget for 1986, as the sets and visual effects look impressive, massive, and done right. Right off the bat, you can tell the multiple writers and directors wanted to make their own version of 'Mad Max' with the desert waste land, post-apocalyptic setting where water is the most precious commodity, and most people are slaves to a ruthless leader.
Trouble is, it never really worked, due to the hilarious over-acting, ridiculous side stories, and poor editing. The film is set in the year "41" of the post-apocalyptic world where all kids are assigned to dorms or prison camps in the desert. A lot of the kids play 'Skateball', which is a mix of lacrosse, disc golf, and roller derby on roller skates. Early on, a young Lukas Haas finds a white orb, which is actually an alien sphere with a heart of gold that cures Lukas's hearing loss and makes it rain indoors. The warden and prison guards are on the look out for this orb that is named Bodai as the above mentioned young actors are part of a 'Skateball' team known as the Solarbabies and are trying to save Bodai from certain doom and look for water. It seems simple enough, but nothing ever flows freely and things seem to go off on weird tangents throughout.
In addition to that, the dialogue and characters are painstakingly bad. The token black guy of the 'Solarbabies' has a moment with Bodai, and instead of something normal happening, the writers and director had him beatbox, spin Bodai on one finger like a basketball, and breakdance. It was pretty painful to watch in 2016. Not only that, these Solarbabies are supposed to be amazing skaters, but it's hilarious to watch them actually skate, because they're pretty bad at it, hence the quick edits. 'Solarbabies' still has some sense of nostalgic value to it and is by no means a low-budget endeavor, but its other short-comings have not allowed this movie to age well at all.
The Blu-Ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Solarbabies' comes with a 25GB Blu-ray Disc that is Region A locked from Kino Lorber. The disc is housed in a hard, blue plastic case. There are no setup options on the main still frame menu, but only a play, chapter, and trailer option.
'Solarbabies' comes with a 1080p HD transfer presented in 2.35:1 aspect ratio from Kino Lorber. There are some issues with this presentation for sure. The overall image doesn't really pop at all and looks murky and dusty throughout. Sure, it's an upgrade from your DVD or even VHS copy, but I wouldn't say this is a fantastic looking Blu-ray by any means. Detail is mostly soft, with the exception of some closeups in natural light that showcase some beads of sweat and facial lines. Other than that, almost everything has a soft tone to it with some varying degrees of grain throughout.
Colors are never bold or bright either. In fact there isn't much color at all, aside some of the faint and faded primary colors on the uniforms of the Solarbabies. The color scheme sticks with muddle blues, grays, and browns for the most part. Skin tones are somewhat natural, but seem a little weak and the black levels aren't as deep and inky as they could be. There are some issues with banding and aliasing as well. There are some establishing shots and wide shots that are just plain blurry as well. This is not the best video presentation I've seen.
This release comes with a DTS-HD MA 2.0 mix and is a much better presentation than the above video. I only wish there was a 5.1 option here, because there are some fairly decent action sequences that could have fully immersed myself with this 2016 high definition presentation. Sound effects and ambient noises of other teens and kids yelling and working in the prison-like scenario are well balanced and loud.
I wouldn't say they're overtly loud or even compare to a modern day action flick, but it gets the job done nicely. The score and songs in the film sound lighter than I expected, but still add to the overall suspense and 80's feel to the movie. Dialogue is always crystal clear and easy to understand, and free of any pops, cracks, hiss, or high shrills.
Theatrical Trailer (HD, 2 Mins.) - The trailer for the film.
'Solarbabies' is actually quite a hardcore movie for being geared towards kids and PG-13. There are some intense situations and scenes thrown in here with a couple of pretty good villains. Unfortunately, it's just too cheesy, over-the-top, silly, and jumbled to make any bit of coherent sense. It's fun to see all these actors in their younger days though. Still, I think the studio and the director missed the mark here, as this is one of those movies that definitely doesn't hold up. The video presentation is less than desired for a Blu-ray, but the audio portion sounds good. The only extra is a lone trailer for the film. I guess nobody wanted to come back and talk about this movie. For die-hard fans who haven't seen this movie in a while, consider renting.