Friday, December 30, 2022

Not Strange Enough, Sadly

Strange World? More Like Ordinary World.

Like many people, I wasn't aware that "Strange World" (Disney, 2022) even existed: I saw one brief commercial for it on the television at work and nothing else. I began to see reviews of it trickling in that all seemed to bemoan Disney's lack of promotion for this film over any real criticism of it, and I have to say... I didn't like it.

What's it about?

This is the story of an expedition to an underground world cut off from the surface, where mankind must save its most precious natural resource from disaster. Along the way they discover that what they seek to preserve may not be what they first intended.

I will just say it: This is a pretty bad movie.

Not all is lost 

First, its good points: The animation is spectacular. It's got a really colorful palette, characters squash and stretch like they should and solidifies that the stiff computer animation of years gone by is a thing of the past. The design aesthetic is solid, with a steampunk-inspired flavor, and living, breathing textures for the environments and creatures. I cannot fault the visuals.

I personally don't care that same-sex relationships are depicted in the movie (I know that some people do care; we call them "bigots"). It's not a central focus of the story but it's still nice to see diversity in any studio film.

So much for the good points...

I really wanted to like it, I really did

The story is awful. It is cliche to a fault on every single level; the father and son legacy conflict is some of the most hamfisted I have ever seen, the twist of the expedition was telegraphed from the beginning moments, the pointless conflict at the end is almost as half-baked as its resolution. Main characters are given rushed backstories while ancillary characters fade almost completely into the background, meanwhile the same two story beats are endlessly repeated.

Even a bad story could be salvaged with a good enough cast, but the actors they hired are not known for voicework and it shows in their performances. Jake Gyllenhaal's subdued delivery alone was disappointing, but add Dennis Quaid trying to sound like the cartooniest of cartoon characters and the contrast just doesn't mesh. Add some of the blandest dialog and misfired jokes I have heard in the last twenty years of major studio animation and you have nothing remotely quotable to remember it by.

The score was written by the same composer as "Big Hero 6," but while serviceable there's no standout music here to get your blood pumping, probably because there is no "first flight" moment in this entire movie.

In short, this is a beautifully visualized film with a mediocre plot, an annoyingly obvious twist, and an underutilized cast. If you missed it, don't feel bad: You didn't miss much.

Where can you see it?

"Strange World" is currently streaming on Disney+ if you're somehow still interested.

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