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Joe Dante’s ‘Explorers’ to Become a TV Series From Cary Fukunaga and David Lowery

Another ’80s classic of childhood wish fulfillment gets a reboot makeover.
By  · Published on November 7th, 2018

There is nothing quite like the excitement of seeing your favorite filmmakers daring to spread themselves too thin. Both Cary Fukunaga and David Lowery are burning the candle at both ends. Fukunaga just completed a triumphant return to the small screen with Maniac (if you haven’t already, you need to check out our fearless leader’s righteous support for the Netflix series) and he was recently anointed the next director of the James Bond franchise. Lowery still has The Old Man and The Gun in theaters and also recently announced an adaptation of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Those projects should keep them rather busy for a while, but nope, they’ve got another massive undertaking they’re equally interested in pursuing.

According to Deadline, the two artists are constructing a pilot for Paramount Television based on Joe Dante‘s kiddie science fiction adventure Explorers. Wow. I thought I couldn’t still be surprised by a production announcement. Every brand under the sun seems ready for re-discovery these days (even Alien-frickin-Nation), but Explorers is the last movie on the planet that I thought would get this loving adulation.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the 1985 film. The tale of three eager preteens (Ethan Hawke, River Phoenix, and Jason Presson) that build a spaceship in their backyard and propel themselves into deep space where they encounter an exuberant Robert Picardo trapped behind a delightful rubber alien costume was a significant staple in my childhood imagination. But the film was released on the same weekend that the Live Aid concert dominated pop culture conversation, and Explorers died a miserable death at the box office. Even among Dante fanatics, the film gets little play.

Well, I now know that there are at least two other fans of Explorers out there in the universe.  Fukunaga and Lowery are constructing the show’s bible together as well as the pilot script. While it has not yet been decided, one of them will also direct the first episode. How will that be determined? Coin toss, or battle royale grudge match? As shown in True Detective and Maniac, Fukunaga loves maintaining his vision throughout an entire series.

The adaptation will spin from the idea of three friends designing and assembling a craft to break free from the miserable gravity of Earth. They could go nostalgic and lean into its ’80s origins a la Stranger Things, and while Lowery doesn’t mind tripping down the whimsical memory lane (again, see The Old Man and the Gun, plus his Pete’s Dragon redo), Fukunaga tends to be a forward-driving creator. Explorers doesn’t require a period setting, and witnessing three modern teens attempt to escape the doldrums of the 21st century seems relevant. The final frontier is much more of a private endeavor today.

Regardless of your familiarity with or love for Explorers, or lack thereof, you’ll still want to follow this adaptation of the movie closely. Whatever Fukunaga and Lowery express interest in is worthy of attention, and their partnership on a Dante gem is about as intriguing as entertainment can get.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)