Wednesday, November 23, 2022

Strangely Familiar World

Opening with heavy pulp-themes before shifting into a story of fathers and sons set against an unremarkable 4os or 50s sci-fi background, Strange World, much like Pixar's Onward (which also set sights on parental issues in a fantasy-sci-fi setting) is more underwhelming than anything else. While not a bad film, Strange World is simply okay thanks more to vibrant visuals of the hidden world discovered by our characters than the characters themselves or the plot they get wrapped up in. Without its visuals, Strange World would be as forgettable as many sci-fi films of the era it pulls from.

Our main characters are Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal), his father Jaeger (Dennis Quaid) who chose exploration of the unknown over his son, and Searcher's own son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) who has more of his grandfather's wanderlust in him than Searcher would like.

Opening with the discovery of a miraculous power source, which inexplicably isn't enough for the stubborn elder Clade who abandons his son in the wilderness to continue his own quest, we jump decades into the future seeing how the discovery Searcher made has fundamentally changed his world. But when that discovery is threatened, the happy farmer will have to draw from his explorer roots and make an expedition into a hidden world under their own searching for answers.

Along for the ride are Ethan, Searcher's wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union), a search team led by former explorer turned president of the town (Lucy Liu), and the family dog. We also get Alan Tudyk providing some narration setting up our tale. Against the strange landscape (which may provide nightmare fuel to younger audiences) we get the reunion of the Clades and their unresolved conflicts while searching for a cure to their current dilemma which will eventually force everyone aboard the ship to reconsider their views of the world, themselves, and each other.

Keeping very much to the genre of a kid's film, the movie makes Ethan the smartest of the characters who is best able to adapt to the strange world (rather than tame it like his grandfather or make use of it like his father). The theme of living in concert with nature is far from subtle, we even get a game between the three generations of Clades to explicitly spell out the idea for the slower members of the audience.

While I think the film can still find an audience to enjoy its tale, Strange World is certainly lesser Disney on-par with Treasure Planet or The Black Cauldron than Disney's more memorable films. Those looking for an alternative could seek out Disney's superior 2001 film Atlantis: The Lost Empire which also deals exploration and discovery of a strange new world with far more interesting characters and stakes at its disposal.

Watch the trailer
  • Title: Strange World
  • IMDb: link

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