The mid-80s was a special time for movies. The Star Wars trilogy was over. We did two movies with Indiana Jones. ghost Buster it was huge. Back to the Future. Revenge of the nerds.
However, the second half of the decade got markedly darker, starting with the explosion of the space shuttle Challenger in 1986. Kids at Space Camp are forced to jump aboard Atlantis, and then worry about oxygen and return at home, but it happened. Someone made a decision and Space field was released in theaters on June 6, 1986.
Wait, did someone make a movie called SpaceCamp?
The premise: a handful of kids at Space Camp in Huntsville, Ala. one thing you can still go to today, they actually accidentally purposely get launched into space and have to learn to work together to get home.
Nearly 40 years later, this isn’t quite the surprising part of what wasn’t (and still isn’t) a particularly great film. The story is as predictable as possible, and there are many clues that indicate the danger ahead and how to get out of it.
But for all its shortcomings and there are many Space field still manages to give you the same feeling that so many space movies manage, whether or not his (spoiler, but not really) Mark Watney is rescued at the end of The Martianor Sandra Bullock’s darker but no less human ending in Ryan Stone Severity. Or, in real life, the modern wonder of seeing a SpaceX rocket land itself over and over again.
That’s all the basic storytelling, though. What really stands out Space field all these years later come with the film’s availability (or lack thereof), unexpectedly stacked cast, and one big musical surprise.
Good luck trying to watch SpaceCamp (legally, that is)
Space Camp (1986) ORIGINAL TRAILER
The first, and this may be the most important, is that the film has fallen into a digital black hole. You can’t buy it unless you want to go the optical route, and while I like it Space field a lot, this is not a movie worth more than $30 on DVD. You can’t stream it anywhere. You can, however, find the full thing on something that rhymes with TooYoube, but that’s not really an avenue we can endorse. It’s annoying and seemingly a bit weird since FAST services like Tubi have all kinds of old movies.
Then there’s the casting. Space field he is full of talent. Ridiculously so.
It begins with adult Tom Skerritt as Zach Bergstrom, an astronaut who now runs Space Camp. (Well, withhold judgment on whether that’s a demotion or not.) Skerritt, by the way, had one more film still in theaters when Space field a small Navy action movie called Top Guns which came out a few weeks earlier.
Kate Capshaw plays Zach’s wife Andie in a sadly stereotypical role that sees her character very competent, but still waiting for a ride into space. Capshaw’s Texan accent comes out in abundance, and it’s still recognizable despite she losing the blonde hair that she sported in some previous projects in a small sequel titled Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.
And this is only the beginning. Considering:
- Lea Thompson, in her second film since Back to the Future landed just under a year earlier. (He would reappear a year later in the So Bad It’s Good version of Howard the Duck.)
- Joaquin Phoenix, the outstanding method actor who could have been 11 when Space field It was shot. He’s a brilliantly annoying 12-year-old here, to the point where you’re not entirely sure if he actually believes he’s living in the Star Wars universe. More surprising was his current stage name at the time Leaf.
- Kelly Preston, with a handful of strong TV appearances under her belt and plenty of movies (and a marriage to John Travolta) ahead of her.
- Tate Donovan, who had an absolutely amazing career despite never becoming that big 80s star that you could tell someone was trying to make it.
- Larry B. Scott, a couple of years ago Revenge of the nerds AND The karate kidit’s fresh Iron Eagle. (Which came out 11 days before the Challenger disaster.)
And don’t blink or you’ll miss Terry O’Quinn’s first appearances (Lost, Stepfatherand much more), Barry Primus (Cagney & Lacey) and Mitchell Anderson (Doogie Howser, MD, Feast of Five).
That’s one hell of a cast in any year of the 80s.
Jaws, Star Wars, Indiana Jones and SpaceCamp?!?
And finally, add some great music. It’s a little strange to remember hearing three huge ’80s hits in one film that too few remember or have seen. But yeah, that’s Eric Claptons Forever man collaborated with Dire Straits So far away AND Life path. Bangers, all but not SpaceCamp’s biggest musical surprise yet.
The score for Space field it was none other than John Williams. Perhaps that’s not particularly surprising given that by then the dude had been scoring movies and shows for 20-something years, and Hollywood maybe isn’t such a big city. But this also puts Space field in the same conversation about the first two Indiana Jones movies, the Star Wars trilogy, ET the extraterrestrial, Superman, Close encounters of the third kindboth Jaws movies, Towering Hell, The Sugarland Express we could continue. (And if you haven’t spotted Steven Spielberg’s plot yet, here it is.)
John Williams – SPACE FIELD (1986) – Soundtrack suite
Space field it had all the makings of a perfectly good-bad movie, and there were plenty of them back then. Maybe it really was timing that doomed him. Missing Challenger mostly because it infringed on the light-hearted nature of the first half of the decade.
But there’s no denying the star power and musical talent, both of which elevate the material. The stories aren’t great, and pretending you can get from Space Camp in Huntsville to the space shuttle launch pad on the beach in just 15 minutes is almost inexcusable, but it’s quite entertaining. (And you have to root for Jinx, the friendly self-aware robot, who is actually the cause of everyone’s problems.)
It’s just a shame you can’t easily (or ethically) watch it anywhere.
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