Director – Alan Johnson, Screenplay – Walon Green & Douglas Anthony Metrov, Producers – Jack Frost Sanders & Irene Walzer, Photography – Peter MacDonald, Music – Maurice Jarre, Visual Effects – Boss Film Co (Supervisor – Richard Edlund), Makeup Effects – Steve Johnson, Production Design – Anthony Pratt. Production Company – Brooksfilm.
Jason Patric (Jason), Jami Gertz (Terra), Lukas Haas (Daniel), James Le Gros (Metron), Richard Jordan (Strictor Grock), Peter De Luise (Tug), Claude Brooks (Rabbit), Peter Kowanko (Gavral), Sarah Douglas (Shandray), Charles Durning (Warden), Adrian Pasdar (Darstar)
It is 41 years after the holocaust and the Earth is a desert wasteland. An all-powerful corporation, the E-Protectorate, controls the water supplies. Children are taken from their parents and raised in isolated orphanages to be trained as the E-Protectorate’s security force. At one of these orphanages, two teams – the Scorpions and the Solarbabies – are indulging in an illicit after-dark game of skateball – hockey played on rollerskates. Daniel, the youngest member of the Solarbabies team, falls into an old mineshaft where he finds a glowing ball of extra-terrestrial origin. Back at the orphanage, they find that the sphere is intelligent and has miraculous powers, including the ability to hear thoughts and heal Daniel’s deafness. The Eco-warrior commander Grock wants the sphere at all costs and pursues the Solarbabies as they flee into the desert. There the sphere guides them on a quest to free the Earth from the E-Protectorate’s control.
It is hard to believe one could come up with much more of a miscalculated idea for a science-fiction film than Solarbabies/Solarwarriors. The sum conception of Solarbabies as a film has been to retool Mad Max 2 (1981) on rollerskates, or maybe conduct a Rollerball (1975) written for juveniles.
Nobody seemed to have any idea what they were writing a film about. When it is not being a derivative potpourri of elements taken from other contemporary science-fiction films, the film is an incoherent mess on the level of ideas – vague anti-big business themes, a handful of post-holocaust clichés and a vaguely sketched totalitarian future that are thrown together with a few vague nods towards eco-consciousness and an even vaguer Christian mysticism.
Little is explained about the social milieu of the post-holocaust future and even less about the nature of the extra-terrestrial artifact. (For some reason, this is named the Sphere of Longinus, a deliberate homonymic solecism on the Spear of Longinus, which is, according to Richard Wagner’s opera Parsifal (1882), the spear that pierced Christ’s side and contains mystic restorative properties. The Spear featured heavily in Nazi mysticism and was also reputedly sought by them as an actual artifact). The dialogue is often wince-inducingly bad.
Solarbabies was produced by Mel Brooks’ production company Brooksfilm. Outside of Brooks’s often variable work – Brooks films listed on this site are Young Frankenstein (1974), Spaceballs (1987) and Dracula: Dead and Loving It (1995) – Brooksfilm has otherwise made some quite respectable productions such as David Lynch’s The Elephant Man (1980) and David Cronenberg’s remake of The Fly (1986).
Similarly, screenwriter Walon Green had an impressive number of credits under his belt, including the screenplays for The Wild Bunch (1969) and William Friedkin’s Sorcerer (1977), and has worked as producer and writer on highly estimable tv series such as Hill Street Blues (1981-7), Law and Order (1990-2010), NYPD Blue (1993-2005) and ER (1996-2009), so its hard to understand where he ended up getting lost. Although Green did later redeem himself by writing a worthy venture into sf with the script for RoboCop 2 (1990).
Director Alan Johnson is better known as a choreographer and has arranged numbers for the Grammy and Oscar ceremonies and several of Mel Brooks’s films. His previous directorial outing was Brooks’s To Be or Not to Be (1982). Alas, Brooks and company flopped badly with this one, where all concerned showed that when it came to science-fiction nobody had the slightest clue what they were doing.