Sadly still for their new film, ‘Strange World’, is a bit of a miss because instead of moving bold and creative the film leans too heavily on films from the past.
Directed by Don Hall (Big Hero 6) and first time director Qui Nguyen, Strange World opens with a young Searcher Clade (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal – Brokeback Mountain) on an epic journey with his explorer father, Jaeger Clade (voiced by Dennis Quaid – The Day After Tomorrow), in search of a power source that can provide electricity to their home of Pando.
Throughout the journey Searcher and Jaeger clash due to the fact that Jaeger just can’t accept that Searcher has no desire to be an explorer. Ironically though, Searcher is the one that finds the energy source and sadly Jaeger disappears after deciding that he must know what is over the mountains.
The film then picks up years later. Searcher is now a celebrity in Pando – but it is a tag he wishes he didn’t have to wear because instead he is happier simply being a farmer who continues to bring energy to his hometown. He is also now married to pilot, Meridian (voiced by Gabrielle Union – Bring It On), and together they have a son – Ethan (voiced by Jaboukie Young-White – Rough Night).
However, when their energy source begins to ‘die’, Searcher is recruited by his father’s old second-in-command, Callisto Mal (voiced by Lucy Liu – Charlie’s Angels), to go on a journey to discover what is happening. Once again father/son tensions come to the fore, with Searcher forgetting what life was like with his father and now him pushing his career aspirations onto Ethan.
The biggest issue with Strange World is that this is a story that we have seen countless times on the big screen previously. Basically the film is taking the general idea of the classic Journey to the Center of the Earth (and all of its adaptations) and mixing it with films like Planet 51 that are still very fresh in people’s minds. Sadly, that means the film becomes predictable and at times very, very bland.
At times Hall, aided by Nguyen’s screenplay, tries to make the film a little different by revealing in fact that Pando is indeed a strange world, but because the film is so predictable even bringing in cute creatures in a bid to win over the audience simply just doesn’t work. Seasoned film lovers will very easily be able to work out where the plot is going to next while some of the conversations throughout the film will not only wash right over children’s heads but will more likely make them tune out from the film.
At its centre Strange World does have a great moral in that parents need to be very careful not to push children to follow in their footsteps while children should be encouraged to explore their own way in this world They are worthy morals but sadly the film just isn’t strong enough to be memorable which means likely those worthy morals will be forgotten straight after the credits roll – just like the film.
At some stage Disney Animation will bounce back to be the creative studio that it once was in the past. Unfortunately for the studio and for cinema fans right around the world, Strange World is not the film that sees it heading back in the right direction. Bland and predictable, this is a film that most people will see straight through right away while most children will find themselves losing interest very, very quickly.
Strange World is currently screening in Phuket and has been rated ‘G’
David Griffiths has been working as a film and music reviewer for over 20 years. That time has seen him work in radio, television and in print. You can follow him at www.facebook.com/subcultureentertainmentaus