starring: jake gyllenhaal, gabriel union, dennis quaid, and lucy lui
REVIEWER: lyall carter
The legendary Clades are a family of explorers whose differences threaten to topple their latest and most crucial mission.
Jaeger Clade and his son Searcher are adventurers who brave the wilderness to discover a way over the mountains of the land of Avalonia to help secure its future. On one such adventure, Searcher discovers a plant that gives off energy which he dubs Pando. While Searcher and the rest of the expedition team believe that Pando will greatly help Avalonia, Jaeger disagrees, heading off on his own.
25 years later, Searcher has become a farmer of Pando, turning it into a fuel resource, and bringing Avalonia into a new age. But one day Callisto Mal, the leader of Avalonia, comes to Searcher with terrible news: Pando is dying and she needs Searcher to come with her on an expedition into the heart of Avalonia to stop it all before it's too late.
Strange World director Don Hall is familiar with building vast, new worlds. From Raya and the Last Dragon to Big Hero 6, the Disney animation veteran knows how to build heart-felt stories in the midst of a fantastical new frontier. While Strange World is a beautiful, lushly realised fantastical world with some cracking action sequences, it’s missing a comedic lightness and heart deep below the surface that we’ve come to expect from Disney animated films over the decades.
Narratively, Strange Worlds follows the fairly well trodden path of the quest flick, with nods to Disney’s other adventure films like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Atlantis: The Lost Empire. But it does so with a swagger and inventiveness that is all its own. From the use of gorgeously rendered comic book-like images in the film's prologue to the design and depth of the world it inhabits, Strange World is a look all of its own.
Where Strange World stumbles is that there isn’t a deep emotional hook at the centre of its plot. While there are family and relationship dynamics, especially addressing the relationship between fathers and sons, which while a pertinent theme to explore, doesn’t add any emotional heft to the main mission which is the saving of Avalonia. Again, while the environmental messaging is very much needed, it's rather obvious and ham fisted in its execution.
While Strange World is a beautiful, lushly realised fantastical world with some cracking action sequences, it’s missing a comedic lightness and heart deep below the surface that we’ve come to expect from Disney films over the decades.