The story is set in a post-apocalyptic future in which most of Earth's water has disappeared. The future is bleak and what is left of the water supply is controlled by the Eco Protectorate (a para-military organization that governs the planet's new order). There are also children, mostly teenagers, living in orphanages created by the Protectorate, designed to indoctrinate new recruits into their service.
- The Warden: "I am the warden of Orphanage 43, one of the many orphanages that border the wasteland. Children are brought here at an early age to be indoctrinated to serve the system. It hurts me to do that to them. I too, must serve the system."
The protagonists consist of Jason (Jason Patric), Terra (Jami Gertz), Tug (Peter DeLuise), Rabbit (Claude Brooks), Metron (James LeGros), and a young deaf boy named Daniel (Lukas Haas). The orphans play a rough sport which is a hybrid of lacrosse and roller-hockey. The titular Solarbabies have (through their experiences and friendships on the team) managed to forge a bond that unites them and transcends the futile attempts of the Protectorate to control them.
While hiding in a mineshaft, after a game broken up by the Protectorate, Daniel finds a mysterious orb with special powers. The orb is apparently an alien intelligence called Bohdai, who miraculously restores Daniel's hearing and has other powers, once even creating rain indoors. Daniel takes the orb back to his companions, but another orphan, Darstar, impressed by its abilities and power it promises, steals the orb, hoping to present it to the Tchigani, his native people. He leaves the orphanage with first Daniel and then, as a result, the rest of the Solarbabies in hot pursuit.
What follows is a pretty standard '80s post-apocalyptic child-empowerment romp fueled by the power of friendship as the Solarbabies risk life and limb to protect the orb (and each other) from the machinations of the oppressive Protectorate.
As an interesting sidenote, the film was renamed Solarwarriors in the UK. (possibly to make it sound tougher). However, the dialogue concerning the team name was unchanged.
This movie contains examples of:
- After the End: You better believe it. Bonus points for also being barren due to lack of water.
- Big Damn Heroes: The appearance of the Eco Warriors to rescue the protagonists from bounty hunters certainly qualifies.
- Bounty Hunter: see above.
- Do-Anything Robot: Gentlemen, this is Terminac. He is a multi-capable masterpiece. He can squeeze the colour from a ruby or deftly pluck the eye from a living bird. And he is programmed to enjoy what he does.
- Groin Attack: Never get fresh with a girl holding a shovel.
- Hoist by His Own Petard: After escaping guards and attack-dogs by climbing a ladder, the heroes push another security guard down the ladder's shaft. The sound of the dogs tearing into the hapless guard can be heard as the characters continue on. Gavial gets attacked by his own minions' Robotic Torture Device after it's blinded by the kids.
- Imported Alien Phlebotinum: The Orb (Bohdai)
- Injun Country: Lots of this with Darstar's people the Tchigani.
- Long-Lost Relative: Terra's dad - who happens to also be the leader of the Eco Warriors.
- Meaningful Name: Bodhi. In the Mahabhrata, Bodhi stones are powerful orbs which granted enlightenment to the eight village elders the stones with given to. The word "bodhi" is also the Sanksrit word for "enlightenment."
- Nebulous Evil Organisation: The E-Protectorate.
- Opposing Sports Team: The Scorpions are shown, purely to introduce Corrupt Cop characters Gavial and Strictor Grock.
- Outrun the Fireball: The Solarbabies do this at the end when Bohdai decides to destroy the facility by exploding. He gets better.
- Pinball Protagonist: The Solarbabies.
- Punny Name: Bodhi gets the appelation "Sphere of Longinus". Longinus is reportedly the name of the Roman soldier who stabbed Christ with a spear.
- Recycled In Space: The movie is best described as Mad Max ON ROLLER SKATES!
- Rollerblade Good: The protagonists all ride on roller skates.
- Tech Marches On: Daniel's "electric ear". Nowadays, he'd just wear a hearing aid.
- He would have "just worn a hearing aid" in the 80's as well. The cumbersome junky nature of the "electric ear" was a deliberate representation of the "scavenged tech" theme running through the movie.
- The '80s: If you've ever seen the trailer. In addition, the protagonists use "roller skates" in the far future setting - seemingly having never heard of "rollerblades"
- The Empire: The E-Protectorate.
- Tragic Hero: Darstar is a bit of one. He steals the orb in the hopes of restoring the spiritual power of his people, but unfortunately they've grown corrupt and his act leads to them being decimated or enslaved.Terra: "Why did you take the sphere?"Darstar: "Because I thought it'd do magic for me, like it did for you."
- Wise Beyond Their Years: Darstar dips into this occasionallyDarstar: "I was raised in a Protectorate orphanage. That's all I know."Chief: "What do they call you?"Darstar: "I call myself Darstar."Chief: "The owl, it's yours?"Darstar: "As much as an owl is anyone's."