Friday, March 23, 2018

Why Isn't This Streaming? - Space Camp (1986)

Throughout the 80's, we had so many films about kids going on incredibly imaginative but deeply real adventures, filled with wondrous sights and palpable danger. And these films crossed many different subjects and interests, like discovering pirates (The Goonies,) fighting monsters (The Monster Squad,) battling vampires (Fright Night,) solving crimes (Young Sherlock Holmes,) and helping friendly aliens (E.T.)

The subject that kept our imaginations stirring was Space. The Last Starfighter satisfied every kid's desire to live inside Star Wars. Explorers made homemade space travel seem within reach to our 8-year-old brains. Flight of the Navigator even combined space travel with time travel, a double-whammy of childlike fantasy.

Then, there was Space Camp. This tale of kids attending NASA's summer camp, only to be forced into orbit by an overly friendly robot's sabotage of a systems test, captured the dreams of any kid fascinated by real-life space travel in the 1980's.

Unfortunately, there's currently no legal way to watch the film. It doesn't appear on any streaming platform, and the DVD version is out-of-print.

What's Great About it?

The biggest theme in the film by far is that every person has a purpose, a role to play that they are uniquely suited for, and that even the most impossible task can be achieved with teamwork.

That's not to say that Space Camp is without flaws. The central conceit - that a bunch of kids could be on the space shuttle during a systems test - is preposterous. There are certainly moments of cheese, sudden gravity in Zero-G environments, and a little ham-fisted acting. The film also runs with the idea of men being better leaders in a crisis situation, a common problem in Hollywood film to this day. But these issues don't dampen the story enough to diminish its power.

Why is It Unavailable?

The North American rights to Space Camp are held by MGM. The once-great, now perpetually bankrupt studio has a tenuous relationship with streaming services. You can easily find a lot of MGM's pre-1982 classics out there, but because of MGM's financial trouble in the early 80's, most of those are actually owned by Warner Bros.

Very few of MGM's post-1982 catalog are available streaming. Even bona-fide classics like War Games are nowhere to be seen, so it's no surprise to find Space Camp among them.

What Next?

I don't know. Does letter writing still work? Do people still write letters?