Remember when Disney made classic animated movies? It seems like a long time ago to me. In my opinion, the last good animated film by Disney was “Zootopia”, and the last one by Pixar was “Coco.” Now it seems that Disney doesn’t think about or care about the most important aspect of any of their movies, which is the story.
Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) is a courageous explorer who leads an expedition team to find life beyond their country of Avalonia. He is accompanied by his less-than-courageous son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), who accidentally stumbles upon an energy-producing plant he calls Pando. Jaeger wants to push forward, but Searcher feels it is more important to return home to use this new energy source to provide power and technological advancement for their entire village. Years later, Avalonia became a mini-utopia thanks to the discovery of Pando. One day, Searcher discovers that something is infecting and killing the Pando, and if something is not done to stop the infection, Pando may become extinct. Searcher goes on a new expedition below the surface to find the root of the problem. His wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union), his son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) and a team of explorers join him. They must encounter a strange new world to prevent a life-shattering disaster.
I will say that “Strange World” was more fun than Lightyear, but that’s not saying much either. I could tell this movie was going to be a tough sell just from the trailers that were released. This is just another mediocre movie by Disney. At most there were ten people in my screening of “Strange World” and no enthusiasm. It’s great that “Strange World” is a strange world, but it also needs to be a beautiful world and, more importantly, an interesting world so that audiences can’t get bored. The designs are just not very interesting, and everything looks too similar. There is an abundance of pinks and oranges in this world. The creatures are either of a plasma or a squid design and, again, lack any kind of fascination. One of the main characters, Splat, is just a walking blue slime. I will give credit to Disney for allowing this creature to express itself through pantomime instead of giving it an annoying celebrity voice to interact with other characters.
There are many messages in this movie. The main message is about saving the environment, but the other one has to do with fathers and sons. Both fathers in this movie have their sons’ future planned for them without giving them a choice. And it’s the back-and-forth arguments that lead to the eventual acceptance of their sons and their dreams. “Strange World” also introduces the first openly gay main character in a Disney animated movie.
As far as dealing with Ethan’s sexuality, it’s refreshing to see that Ethan never has to struggle or worry about acceptance by his family or society. It is also important to note that the character of Ethan is not defined by his sexuality, but by who he is as an individual and what he dreams of achieving. Ethan is not perfect, unlike other characters in the movie. He fails sometimes, but he never gives up and keeps trying. And because of this aspect, most people will be able to relate to Ethan, and he becomes the most attractive character in the movie.
“Strange World” does a good job with messages about saving the environment and acceptance, but the story must always come first. Focusing on writing a compelling story should always be Disney’s main goal. If Disney wants to put messages or views about society in their movies, leave it later, but don’t overdo it and never preach to your audience. Ultimately, an audience should leave entertained. Let’s hope that Disney starts to entertain us more in the future.
I give Strange World a 6/10.
Editor’s note: This article contains the opinions of the author, Joe Hogarty. These opinions may or may not reflect those of WDWNT LLC, Tom Corless, or anyone else on this planet. Please feel free to voice your own thoughts in the comments section below.