- Directed by Don Hall and Qui Nguyen
- November 15, 2022 (El Capitan Theatre) / November 23, 2022 (US)
- Searcher Clade-Jake Gyllenhaal
- Jaeger Clade-Dennis Quaid
- Ethan Clade-Jaboukie Young-White
- Meridian Clade-Gabrielle Union
- Callisto Mal-Lucy Liu
- Caspian-Karan Soni
- Narrator, Duffle-Alan Tudyk
- Captain Pulk-Adelina Anthony
- Lonnie Redshirt-Abraham Benrubi
- Diazo-Jonathan Melo
- Kardez-Nik Dodani
- Azimuth-Francesca Reale
When a civilization’s power source begins to fail, the son of a legendary explorer must journey with an expedition to figure out why and save their world.
Strange World on the surface is a science fiction adventure film modeled after pulp stories but not too far below the surface it is an environmental message film. The ultimate message is that in order to save the planet we must go back to a much less technological world with the irony being the amount of CO2 put into the air to produce this very movie.
Message films aren’t bad but when they do them heavy-handed as this one often is they are a bit of a turn off. Nobody wants to be lectured after plunking down several bucks. It isn’t as bad as others but it’s not as subtle as it could’ve been. Any message, no matter what it is, should be done so that you only realize it near the end or after the credits roll. Star Trek: TOS could certainly do that consistently. This film only sometimes can.
After the legendary explorer Jaeger Clade disappears while trying to get beyond the mountain range that surrounds the city state of Avalonia, his son Searcher who was travelling with him discovers an energy producing plant called Pando whose fruit (or are they vegetables?) naturally produce electricity. Twenty-five years pass and Avalonia is a technological paradise with a renewable energy source that mysteriously begins to fail so a mission is sent out and father and son are reunited and some wacky adventures ensue.
Searcher seems somewhat to significantly resentful of his father and is ultimately repeating what he feels are the mistakes his dad made with him with his son Ethan who quite possibly has the most average name of anyone in the movie. What could have/should have been done with the narrative is that both fathers and sons realize their dads were doing what they thought was best and all come to and understanding but instead it becomes about the dads realizing they sucked as fathers and feel a strong need to apologize to their sons. The children teach the adults here and such a thing is so common in film these days it is cliché.
Despite a cast of professionals, the voice acting is only okay. Not bad but what they deliver is nothing you could not get from voice actors. Why hire major talent if they do not give something special? It is not as if you will be seeing Jake Gyllenhaal or Dennis Quaid or Gabrielle Union or Lucy Liu on screen. You are seeing the characters they are voicing. Hire Peter Cullen or Frank Welker. You would get better results at a smaller cost.
Something that bothered me in seconds once I noticed it was Ethan’s clothing. Why is he dressed in the Ms. Marvel costume? Or similar to it anyway. Anybody else notice that? In this world the MCU does not exist! That really bothered me and that was something I could not take my eyes from the whole film. Is this a bad example of corporate synergy?
A lot has been made by certain individuals about Ethan being gay. A gay character is all fine and dandy but the whole romance/crush with Diazo was extraneous to the narrative. The potential love interest never came on the trip or was involved in the main plot. It never provided much of a point of emotional conflict between the father and son or the grandfather and either of the two. It felt more like it was put in because they could put it in.
Visually Strange World is absolutely stunning. It’s just all fanciful and imagination was used to the fullest. And once you understand the truth about the world in which they inhabit it all makes perfect sense.
There are some questions that you will be left with once the movie is done. How do the people of Avalonia fit in with all this? How are they not aware of how everything else apparently was? Is that all that there was? Was there nothing more? You’ll understand once you get to the end of the film but those were things I thought about. Not huge narrative issues but questions that come up organically because of the narrative.
From an adventure perspective this is a great story. It’s exciting and just plain thrilling. As a message film it can be heavy handed at certain points. And as a conclusion to the narrative it seems as if everybody embraced the new status quo with a windmill type power source providing a few patio lights in the town square and giving up all the conveniences they had for decades with the realization that there were those who knew no other way.
With impressive visuals Strange World is an entertaining film. It’s not great but it’s not as terrible as some would have you believe. At the minimum you will not be disappointed if you watch.