Do you remember when Disney used to make classic animated movies? It seems like a long time ago to me. In my opinion, the last good animated movie by Disney was “Zootopia,” and the last one by Pixar was “Coco.” Now it seems that Disney just doesn’t give thought or put care into 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 in order to find life outside of their land of Avalonia. He is accompanied by his less-than-courageous son, Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), who accidentally stumbles upon an energy-producing plant that he names Panda. Jaeger wants to forge ahead, but Searcher feels it is more important to return home in order to use this new energy source to provide power and technological advancements for their entire village. Years later, Avalonia has become a mini-utopia thanks to the discovery of Panda. One day, Searcher discovers that something is infecting and killing the Panda, and it if something isn’t done to stop the infection, Panda may become extinct. Searcher goes on a new expedition below the surface in order to find the root of the problem. He is joined by his wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union), his son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White), and a crew of explorers. They must encounter a strange new world in order to prevent a life-shattering catastrophe.
I will say that “Strange World” was more enjoyable than Lightyear, but that isn’t saying much, either. I could tell that this movie was going to be a tough sell just from the trailers that were released. It’s just another mediocre movie by Disney. At the most, there were ten people in my showing 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, even more importantly, an interesting world in order for audiences not to be bored. The designs just aren’t 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 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 communicate with other characters.
There is a lot of messaging in this movie. The main message is about saving the environment, but the other one has to deal with fathers and sons. Both fathers in this movie have their sons’ futures planned out for them without giving them a choice. And it is 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 Ethan’s sexuality is handled, it’s refreshing to see that Ethan never has to struggle or worry about acceptance from 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 accomplishing. Ethan is not perfect, unlike other characters in the movie. He sometimes fails, but he never gives up and keeps on trying. And because of this aspect, most people will be able to relate to Ethan, and he becomes the most likable character in the movie.
“Strange World” does a good job with messaging about saving the environment and acceptance, but the story has to always come first. Focus on writing a compelling story should always be Disney’s main goal. If Disney wants to insert messages or views on society in their movies, have that come later, but don’t overdo it, and never preach to your audience. Finally, an audience has to leave entertained. Let’s hope that going forward, Disney starts to entertain us more.
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 align with 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.