Film Reviews Films

Three Generations, One Mission!

Written by Omair Alavi

When Journey to the Center of the Earth meets Fantastic Voyage meets Avatar, it’s definitely a Strange World!

When Journey to the Center of the Earth meets Fantastic Voyage meets Avatar, it’s definitely a Strange World!

Disney animated flicks are usually considered entertaining as well as educational but when the makers take them way too seriously, Strange World is born. The animated flick featuring a star cast could have done well had the producers stuck to a couple of things but when you add generational differences, saving the world, LGBT characters, and a frequently used plot, the net result isn’t successful and that’s why Strange World came and went without anyone noticing it.

The Plot

Legendary explorer Jaeger Clade (voiced by Dennis Quaid) deserted his family a quarter-century back when he chose to carry on a mission than accompany his son Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) back home. However, when the world Searcher, his wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union), and their son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) live in, is in danger for its existence, the father and son have to bond together to save their people. Things go awry when Grandpa returns and instead of helping his son and grandson, he makes them pursue his mission which he thinks he is finally about to complete. Add a pet dog Legend, and an unknown blue species Splat and you have a team that wouldn’t stop until they save the day, but after solving its own issues.

The Good

Strange World revolves around the importance of family which sets it apart from most of the animated flicks released last year and also looks fantastic on screen. It has a stubborn grandfather, an insecure son, and a grandson who is more like the father’s father, making it an interesting take on the Circle of Life. Due to breathtaking animations and a free hand to design any world, the animators have done a great job. The pace is neither slow nor fast, taking the audience on a journey to the unknown where underwater life makes you wonder whether there could be something like that in real life.

The voice-over cast is chosen smartly as well; both Dennis Quaid and Jake Gyllenhaal have loads of experience and they use it to add life to their characters. They are helped in this regard by Gabrielle Union and Lucy Liu while Jaboukie Young-White perfectly fits the mixed-race teenager who has issues of his own. The eco-friendly storyline, the Jules Verne feel, and the chemistry of three generations don’t let the viewers fall asleep, which is something that makes it different from the Avatar sequel.

The Bad

Although Strange World might be marketed as a family movie, it is more of a ‘been there, done that’ kind of flick. It is one of those flicks where you neither remember a dialogue once you are through, the background score, or are unable to relate to any character. The plot has more issues than the last five Disney flicks combined and will only appeal to avid National Geographic followers more than fans of animated flicks. Which kid or grownup who loves movies will understand that a land named Avalonia works on a fossil fuel Pando, and when it’s running out, they go to the ‘center of the problem’ to solve it. Yes, neither could I understand it!

The thrill of meeting new characters might have been entertaining had the film not been released anywhere near Avatar: The Way of Water and while the multi-generational track holds the viewers’ interest for some time, in the long run, it isn’t that catchy. For a movie that’s nearly 100 minutes long, it moves in 100 directions before ending on a happy note, which isn’t that happy, to be honest. Co-directors Don Hall and Qui Nguyen could have done a better job but just like too many cooks spoil the broth, too many agendas spoiled what could have been a memorable film.

The Verdict: 2/5

Nothing in Strange World is strange because the viewers have seen it in Hollywood films in the last fifty years. Like Fantastic Voyage, the team has to fight monsters they have never heard of; like Avatar they have to survive in ‘alien’ conditions; like The Guns of Navarone they have to complete the mission before it’s too late and like Godzilla, they have no idea who they are up against. Using an openly gay teen might be a first for Disney but it isn’t significant at all, and if the character would have been straight, that wouldn’t have mattered at all.

The film might be an end-of-day environmental disaster flick but it has too much on its plate which doesn’t help it at all. It ends up like a product that wants to be everything but ends up lifting pieces from everywhere. Also, its release clashed with that of Avatar: The Way of Water which was a far superior and much-anticipated flick and nearly drowned Strange World in its own set of expectations. Had it stayed on the course of being an entertaining movie it might have had a longer run at the box office, but it ended up being something that you would like to forget before it’s even over.

About the author

Omair Alavi

Omair Alavi is a highly regarded journalist, critic, and commentator, specializing in news, sports, showbiz, film, blogs, articles, drama, reviews, and PTV drama. With extensive experience and a keen eye for storytelling, he captivates audiences with his insightful analysis and compelling presentations. His expertise and contributions have made him a prominent figure in the media and entertainment industry.