The MickeyBlog Review: Strange World
You’ll hear a lot about Strange World in the coming days and weeks…but not for the right reason.
Critics will point to the film’s box office relative to its production budget to imply Strange World is a disaster.
In reality, Disney hasn’t promoted its movies the same way since the introduction of Disney+. And you shouldn’t judge a film based on its box office anyway.
So, how is Strange World as a movie? Read on…
Truth in Advertising?
The early marketing for Strange World hinted that it was a combination of throwback black & white science-fiction adventure and modern visual wonder.
Only half of those things are true. Any and all hints of black & white scenes were blatant false advertising. Instead, the teaser merely established a tone for the premise.
Strange World tells the story of the son of a legendary adventurer, Jaeger Clade. The child, Searcher, joins his father on dangerous expeditions.
That setting may sound familiar to you, as it’s the basis for several old cartoons like Johnny Quest and the more recognizable spoof, The Venture Bros.
However, the similarities are surface-level only. Searcher doesn’t experience lifelong psychological trauma due to all the near-fatal adventures.
Instead, Searcher struggles with the knowledge that he and his father reached a literal impasse one fateful day. That’s the closest thing to trauma in the film.
Jaeger chose one path, while Searcher fittingly found his own solution. The father and son never saw each other again.
Searcher’s choice profoundly impacted his town of Avalonia. So, when the story picks up, he’s the favorite son of the region.
Matching statues of Jaeger and Searcher decorate the town square, signifying the duo’s importance to Avalonia.
Generally, in stories where a parent is an accomplished adventurer, the child struggles with identity. That’s not the case with Searcher at all. He’s remarkably comfortable in his own skin.
But the story does include a familiar trope. Searcher has married the love of his life, Meridian, and they’re perfect together.
The struggle involves their son, Ethan, who somehow shares the qualities of both his parents but also the grandfather he has never met.
That’s the crux of Strange World right there. If anything, this story is a sci-fi take on The Incredibles, just a lesser one.
About the Strange World…
You may not realize until late in the game, but you’re trying to solve a mystery throughout the film. I suspect that some professionals will guess it much faster than most.
Still, you don’t need to play along with the guessing game. It’ll solve itself toward the end.
Instead, you’re likely to focus on the unexpected exploration of a Strange World. The people of Avalonia live in a steampunk environment.
One day, the President of Avalonia, Callisto, arrives at Searcher’s house. She was a former associate of Jaeger who has traveled with Search. She needs his help.
Avalonia is suddenly losing power, and Searcher only has a short time to discover why.
He and Callisto embark on a voyage into uncharted territory below Avalonia’s surface. And I’m not spoiling anything that isn’t in the trailer when I say that it becomes a family adventure.
Jaeger, Meridian, and Ethan wind up meeting for the first time in this alien realm that is so bright and colorful that it may take your breath away.
Strange World is Walt Disney Animation’s 61st production, and while it’s no Encanto from a storytelling perspective, it’s one of the most gorgeous Disney films ever.
This underground realm hosts any number of strange creatures, all of whom serve purposes that aren’t immediately clear.
Disney had plenty of fun coming up with the ideas, especially the character of Splat, who is basically sentient goop.
This creature and a three-legged dog named Legend provide the comic relief and adorability factor in the film. Some of the humans could use a bit more work, though.
The Good and the Bad of Strange World
Strange World technically features 12 characters, but only half of them play any significant factor in the story.
Beyond the Clade family, Callisto and an incompetent doof named Caspian are the only ones with memorable roles.
So, the story relies on the Clades to determine its success or failure. And I must level with you that as I left the theater, I leaned toward failure.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t dislike Strange World in any way. It was just…generic. In truth, it forcibly reminded me of Treasure Planet.
That’s a previous Disney sci-fi animated movie that should have been better than it was.
With Strange World, the comedic moments are largely predictable, and the villainous actions frankly don’t make much sense.
Thankfully, those aspects don’t matter as much as you may think. In truth, Strange World delivers a much more measured storytelling experience than I initially grasped.
Frankly, I owe my wife a debt for pointing out some aspects that I’d missed.
I was too busy hoping for a Sci-Fi Dine-In Theater type of movie-going experience that I missed the obvious.
The Clades provide one of the most accurate family portrayals in Disney history. We don’t have a Bambi scenario here or some other lazy way of orphaning a child.
Instead, the story faces the very real problem of three generations of a family, all of whom are struggling with identity.
A grandfather has regretted a choice for decades, a father pushes his son to be something he’s not, and a child/grandchild struggles under the weight of expectations.
Meanwhile, Meridian is Mother of the Year, Decade, and Century for Disney. This woman can do it all. She’s a pilot, a dancer, a cook, a mother, and a heroine. I adore her!
My Thoughts on Strange World
In truth, I regret that Strange World has failed at the box office, as it’s a perfect Thanksgiving family film. Maybe it’ll find its audience on Disney+ down the line.
Still, despite my admiration for the nuanced aspects of multi-generational family struggles, I wish Strange World had more oomph to it.
The action sequences are rarely memorable, the humor — while comfortable and enjoyable — lacks originality, and the big mystery isn’t a huge surprise given recent societal events.
So, I’m conflicted about how I feel about Strange World.
The Incredibles is my favorite Pixar movie ever, but I’m not sure it approaches parental challenges as deftly as Strange World.
In a way, this film feels like a well-intended made-for-television holiday movie rather than a full-throated Disney theatrical release.
Despite the visuals and the setting, the story is remarkably small in scale. It’s a simple tale about overcoming one’s personal weaknesses.
Even so, the radiating love throughout the story makes the whole thing affable and charming. The Clades care deeply about one another and work together to defeat their inner demons.
Don’t get me wrong, though. If your choices are Encanto and Strange World, you’re picking Encanto 10 times out of 10. But Strange World is still a comfortable B+ of a movie.
To a larger point, we need more movies with this underlying sense of innate positivity.
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Feature Photo: Disney