Cocoon was clearly inspired by the enormous then-recent success of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) it is fairly much E.T. where the aliens come to touch the lives of geriatrics rather than a young kid. Indeed, the film seems not much more than an uninventive rewrite of Spielberg themes it borrows Spielbergs vision of geriatrics rediscovering their youth from his Kick the Can segment in Twilight Zone The Movie (1983) and the belief in magical salvation by UFOs and transcendent beings of light from Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977).
In all other regards, Cocoon comes across as a nave wish fulfillment fantasy of rejuvenation. One suspects the reason that everybody liked it so much was that the people reviewing it were the ones nearest to the age group featured and the film became a wish fulfillment fantasy that spoke directly to their lives. Not to mention that it brought out of retirement an amazing cast of actors and actresses that were popular during the 1930s and 1940s. In the cold light of day Cocoon is a nave feelgood fantasy and one that has little to do with science-fiction. It is shabby sentiment that wields a handful of science-fiction elements UFOs, Atlantis, alien beings of light, rejuvenation with only surface depth. All it seems to reach for is banally transcendental images of lovemaking scenes with beings of light flying around a pool, of people rejuvenating and suddenly bursting into breakdancing and has nothing of intellectual substance to say whatsoever.
Cocoon kicked around Hollywood for several years with actor Michael Douglas as producer and was originally to have been directed by Robert Zemeckis of Back to the Future (1985) and Forrest Gump (1994) fame. It was eventually inherited by Ron Howard who had just had a hit with the mermaid comedy Splash! (1984). At the time, Ron Howard was still known more as Richie Cunningham from tvs Happy Days (1974-84), but Cocoon poroved to be the film that consolidated his reputation as a serious director. From this point onwards, Howard has made a number of popular films such as Parenthood (1989), Far and Away (1992), The Paper (1994), the Academy Award-winning A Beautiful Mind (2001), Cinderella Man (2005) and Frost/Nixon (2008), as well as his Imagine Entertainment having become a major production company in Hollywood. Howard has subsequently directed a number of other genre films, including George Lucass sword-and-sorcery epic Willow (1988), the true life space mission disaster Apollo 13 (1995), the Dr Seuss adaptation How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000), the supernatural Western The Missing (2003), the adaptation of the mega-bestseller The Da Vinci Code (2006) that purported to unveil the true history of Christianity and its sequels Angels & Demons (2009) and Inferno (2016).
Cocoon did win that years Academy Award for effects, overshadowing the nominations of the far superior likes of Return to Oz (1985) and Young Sherlock Holmes (1985). There is an excellent climactic UFO sequence, otherwise though the effects seem a misstep for Industrial Light and Magic the creatures of light never seem in proper perspective with their surroundings.
Producers David Brown and Richard Zanuck had previously produced the mad scientist film SSSSSSSS! (1973), Spielbergs Jaws (1975) and would go on to produce another Oscar-winning geriatric feelgood fantasy Driving Miss Daisy (1989) and the disaster movie Deep Impact (1998).
The sequel was the awful Cocoon: The Return (1988), which reunited most of the cast.