From the moment the title screen flew at my face, I knew I was in for something special. And I was right! “Solarbabies” is not just special, it is exceptional, mind-blowing, earth-shattering (sometimes literally). The movie has a whopping 0% approval rating on Rottentomatoes (though in its defense there are only 10 accumulated reviews, and none of them is mine).
The film takes place in the year 41 of the New Time, when the E-Protectorate controls all the water on Earth… and therefore all life on Earth. They dominate the population through the E-Police, though we quickly learn that this narrative voiceover is completely wrong, and there is plenty of civilization outside of the E-Protectorate’s control. There are native Chicani tribesmen, wasteland tire people, bounty hunters, and desert-dwelling Eco-Warriors galore!
Yes, it is that kind of movie.
I should also mention that, in accordance with Chicani legend, an alien consciousness in the form of a glowing orb, called the Bohdai, has returned to Earth to free its water supply.
Yes, it is THAT kind of movie.
Now, this movie was made in 1986, and it is ostensibly for children. So, to all of my previous descriptions I also need you to add rollerskates, lots of rollerskates. Also, a brooding boy, a clean-cut boy, a nerdy boy, a runty boy, a dumb jock boy, a token girl, and a token black boy (apparently the only black person in the entire community).
Our hodge-podge group of kids (who have, for reasons unknown, dubbed themselves the Solarbabies) comprise a Skate Ball team at an orphanage in the middle of the desert. The orphanage has a bumbling warden who has inexplicably wandered out of the Deep South and onto a post-apocalyptic set (he also played Pappy O’Daniel in “O Brother Where Art Thou” if you want the gist of it). The orphanage is also ruled by a member of the E-Police named Grock, who I will hereafter refer to as Herr Jerkface because he is very obviously a Nazi Colonel dressed in a blue plastic Gestapo uniform. Pappy O’Warden doesn’t like being too hard on the kids, but Herr Jerkface? Forget it! HE WANTS YOU DEAD. Or at least humiliated at the hands of his pet Skate Ball team, the Scorpions. The Scorpions are captained by Gavial, the most badass teen villain of the 80s. I mean, he has an earring, and a bleach blonde skunkhawk, and he sneers all the time! Badass.
Oh god. I’ve gotten off track. How can one summarize the glory that is “Solarbabies?”
So the runty Solarbaby, Daniel, finds the glowing orb Bohdai hidden in a cave, and the Bohdai—screw it, I’m calling it the Buddha Ball now, because that’s what it is and I keep spelling it wrong anyway. The Buddha Ball cures Daniel’s deafness, and makes it rain in the Solarbaby club house, and it plays Skate Ball with them (think lacrosse plus roller derby). Thusly does it win their love.
But then the Buddha Ball is stolen by Darstar, another orphan who wants to escape and bring the magical ball back to his Chicani tribesman. Now, Darstar was taken to the orphanage at two months old, so it is not clear how he learned the ways of the Chicani (from rune writing to hairstyling to bird-summoning to picking his own name).
None of that matters though, because Darstar is dead sexy. He’s dark, he’s brooding, his best friend is an owl, and he rocks the side ponytail. SWOOOON!
Nobody has ever escaped the orphanage before, but within a few hours Darstar is gone, Daniel has gone after him, and the rest of the Solarbabies have gone in search of Daniel. Oh, they are all in rollerskates of course, so it is a good thing the desolate wasteland is well-paved.
Of course Herr Jerkface is on their trail. He wants them lobotomized and the “Sphere of Longinus” destroyed. He neglects to explain how anybody knows about the Buddha Ball, why it is called the Sphere of Longinus, or… well, anything really. The film defies explanations.
I could go on forever about this film (or at least I could go on for 94 minutes) so I will distill the rest of it down into highlights.
- The E-Police are closing in on the Solarbabies. They form a skate-line and begin to spin in a circle. Using the magical properties of centrifugal force they fling one another across the enormous gap in a broken bridge. Motorcyles cannot make the jump, but kids on rollerskates can.
- At the center of the Chicani camp there is an enormous hollow demon’s head. Inside the demon’s head there is… an abandoned wax museum!
- The E-Police are closing in on the Solarbabies. They climb into giant tires and roll away to safety. Behind them the Tire Town distillery explodes. What were they distilling from tires, you ask? Water, of course!
- Oh yes, Tire Town is also full of prostitutes wearing leather bikinis and sporting CRAZY big ponytails.
- The Magnetron: a marvel of technology, it can create a force field powerful enough to rival the Earth’s gravitational pull. It could hold a comet! But can it destroy the Buddha Ball?
- The Terminac: a robotic masterpiece with a birdlike head and many claw arms ending in specific tools. “He can squeeze the color from a ruby, or deftly pluck the eye from a living bird. And he’s been programmed to enjoy what he does.” A torture robot that enjoys what it does? I SEE NO PROBLEMS HERE.
Phew. Suffice to say by the end of the film the Buddha Ball has been captured and subsequently rescued. Every villain has come to a sorry end. The token girl has learned that she is a princess from the Eco-Warrior tribe, who live in a desert oasis next to a glacier that slowly melts and provides them with water (I gave up comprehension at this point, and so should you). And all the water is released back into the world in the form of a great big ocean, yeah!
THIS IS SOLARBABIES!