TL;DR – A visually stunning romp through an unknown world with danger at every turn
Post-Credit Scene – There is no post-credit scene
Disclosure – I paid for the Disney+ service that viewed this film
Strange World Review –
There is always a particular joy when you sit down to an adventure film and get to be taken into a majestic new world with wonders at every turn. It is where danger and joy can switch in a moment or be intertwined. It is easy to give lip service to this genre without exploring the depths necessary to bring it off. But today, we look at a film that plums those depths both literally and figuratively.
So to set the scene, we open in Avalonia, a beautiful land cut off from the rest of the world due to a ring of impassable mountains. Many people have tried to find a route, but all have failed, and most of them gave their lives in the process. But one family, The Clades, decided to buck that trend as father Jager (Dennis Quaid) and son Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) fight through every obstacle to find a way through the mountains. However, one day when finding the way through the mountains, Searcher finds a green plant brimming with energy that could be Avalonia’s future. The two fight, and Jaeger walks into the icy gloom alone. Twenty-five years later. Searcher has married Meridian (Gabrielle Union), and they have a son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) and make their lives farming and selling Pando. But when the Pando starts dying off, Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu), the president of Avalonia, arrives at the farm to go on an expedition to discover why, and Searcher, son of Jaeger, gets roped in, as does a stowaway or two.
I will say that the first thing you see and one of the film’s core strengths is worldbuilding and design. Every creature and landform in the underground labyrinth is a wonder to see. Every new phenomenon is a delight to see, and I enjoy the moments when the film is just like ‘sit back and enjoy all these new creations for a while’. There are these sequences where Henry Jackman gets to blast his score while we discover some other wonder. I love films that take those moments to live in the worlds they build.
Where this film will live or die for you is in relationships. At its heart, this is a film about fathers and sons. We dabble with legacy, drives, expectations, rebellion, blind spots, damage, and generational divides. That moment when you are so desperate not to follow in your father’s footsteps that you thoroughly follow in your father’s footsteps. It is a conflict that I think many people can relate with, even if they take it to an extreme here. This is all brought to life by a fantastic voice cast that step into this world and delves into the wonders they see. There are a couple of moments when I think they chew the scenery a bit too much, but then that might just be some sympathetic embarrassment on my part.
When it comes to the overall narrative, there is nothing ground-breaking here, but we get a solid run through the film with a couple of decent twists and turns. It did shine in all the small details, like a pretty accurate depiction of what Board Games are like. Or an exploration of why you really should not follow granddad’s dating advice. While I think you might suspect where the film is heading, I feel that it deftly hints at the direction, so the big reveal still has some weight, even if you thought that was a possibility. I also like that it raises many interesting questions that make you wonder and want to see more instead of being frustrating.
In the end, do we recommend Strange World? Well, I will say that the film absolutely lived up to its title. There were many moments of joy when they introduced all the different creatures, and you got to see more of this ecosystem at play. There was a solid story and characters, and the adventure elements were all there. If you liked Strange World, I would also recommend to you Luca.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Strange World
Directed by – Don Hall & Qui Nguyen
Screenplay by – Qui Nguyen
Music by – Henry Jackman
Cinematography by –Tracy Scott Beattie & Brian Leach
Edited by – Sarah K. Reimers
Production/Distribution Companies – Walt Disney Pictures
Starring – Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union, Lucy Liu, Karan Soni, Alan Tudyk, Adelina Anthony, Abraham Benrubi, Jonathan Melo, Nik Dodani & Francesca Reale
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: 6; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: U; United States: PG
Good review…..I felt like this movie was just okay, but slightly disappointed with it. It’s nowhere as near as good as recent Disney hits and lacks a good strong world building and several other key areas. That being said, I did like the animation style and the voice cast.
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