I Saw a Film!
In a desert post-apocalyptic future (or maybe it’s just hippy-era rural Cali), a bunch of rollerskating orphans discover a glowing orb that seems to provide them some form of contentment, oh, and also seems linked to much needed rain. Hunting them across their skate friendly desert is a surprisingly Nazi SS fashioned Richard Jordan (Duncan Idaho from Dune) and the perennial and great supporting actor Charles Durning as the orphan’s house mother.
Tiny, bat-eared Lucas Haas is an owl-eyed charge (yup, bat eared and owl eyed, you know it’s true) who finds the glowing orb, and immediately regains his hearing. Jamie Gertz fresh off Facts Of Life, is a pretty leader who takes care of her team of former jai alai mixed with lacross (or whatever game it was) players as they flee to a strange far flung place called Tire-town (though, I must remind you, they rollerskate there). She has a few teammates but honestly she’s the only one who really stands out, and looks tremendously like one or two of the young ladies I was in love with in high school.
Eventually they have to rollerskate away from Tiretown and locate a kind of Utopia of eco-warriors where the water runs freely from an underground glacier. There is a lovely mad scientist in a very shoulder-padded outfit and hair borrowed from Bladerunner (in fact, all the elements of this film seem just lifted from other well liked movies). And mad scientist and Richard Jordan try to laser open the captured orb. This leads to problems first, which eventually, and much like Dune, results in moisturizing the desert.
I’ve forgotten to mention a tall, dark, quiet Latino with a pet owl, it’s never explained how he manages to keep said owl, and unfortunately owl comes to a sad end, but through his devotion and seeming attachment to nature he manages to endear himself to a troop of future native Americans maybe? Said troop is a little confused and uses hubcaps as tribal art, but whatever, we all make mistakes.
Now for the title, solar babies, no idea what the heck that’s supposed to mean. It occurs to me that the film-makers had a title, decided to make a film wrapped around the title (in the way Springsteen purportedly writes songs) and ended up with less of the “solar” and “babies” bits than they intended. The film, remember this is 1986, would have looked much like Road Warrior, and Dune to our eyes at the time, and it’s likely this thing suffered from that obvious similarity-but as we know it’s not the only such film to copy a popular trope and the landscape is littered with the skeletons of dozens and dozens of such copycat productions. So that alone doesn’t impugn this title. There’s nothing at all wrong with a youth fantasy (orphan is THE MOST common and popular kid fantasy from Harry Potter to artful dodgers and everything in between, kids love the idea of being orphans in fantasy) and of course, nothing wrong with a post-apocalyse tale. What ends up feeling trifling and twee here is really the lack of effort toward fleshing out the world these kids are supposed to navigate. Add to that the fact that they clearly spent some money on the sets. There is enough menace and enough motivation, it’s really all in the fact that we’re over run with little characters and they all feel a bit like puppets who only live when we’re looking at them. But it’s really not bad, silly and a bit overwrought but when’s that ever slowed a film down (hell it might be a defining trait of a blockbuster!).
This is running free on Prime (usa) if you don’t calculate the monthly. Sadly Jordan did not live long, he was always an enjoyable screen presence he was last in Gettysburg (1993). Alexie Sayle has a small roll as a desert marauder the kids have to overcome.