Strange World Review: Jake Gyllenhaal’s Animated Adventure Is Formulaic But Has Visual Appeal

Name: A strange world

Director: Don Hall

Actors: Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White

Grade: 3/5

Language: English

Summary:

Strange World follows the Clade family, adventurer Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid) and his son Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal), whose botanical enthusiasm for being an explorer often turns into a sour point for his dad. Set in the land of Avalonia, surrounded by giant mountains that many have tried and failed to cross, Jaeger and Searcher embark on an adventure to explore this unknown land, but differences eventually tear them apart. A searcher stumbles upon a mysterious plant called pando, which seems to hold electricity in it, and believes that the expedition should end with the discovery of the plant as it can be used for the benefit of Avalonia as opposed to what lies beyond the mountains is unknown.

While Jaeger insists on continuing, a group of explorers end up siding with the Searcher, leaving the father-son at a separation point where Jaeger pleads with his son to continue his exploration. Nearly two decades later, Jaeger is still missing, but Avalonia is thriving after Searcher discovered pando, and its energy has been able to power up the planes of an entire planet. Searcher, a panda farmer now also has his own family consisting of his pilot wife Meridian (Gabrielle Union) and their son Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White). While a new adventure knocks on Searcher’s door as President of Avalonia, Callisto Mal (Lucy Liu) learns that pando is losing its energy and asks him to join her on an exploration to find out how to save their planet . Unexpected discoveries await Searcher and his family as the exploration to the heart of the pando begins.


Inspection:

What’s most appealing about Strange World is how it harkens back to the Disney days of adventure films like Atlantis: The Lost Empire and Treasure Planet. Not one of the studios strongest points but in the action-adventure space, Strange World is in a decent position given that it combines a plot that doesn’t stray too far from the Disney template, but manages to make some minor tweaks that make it a little ambitious for the studio. What is most appealing about this film is how well-rounded its main characters are. Amidst all the innovations that a planet like Avalonia introduces, it’s the characteristics of the Searcher (Gyllenhaal) and his family that stick with us the most. While sometimes bordering on being too idealistic than real, Strange World also falters when it comes to having richer dialogue as the Jager-Searcher banter gets tiresome sooner than you’d think.

In terms of animation, it’s a rich and exciting world where we explore Avalonia and its other exotic parts. Magnificent ecosystems are vividly captured consisting of fascinating creatures created in palettes that seem most soothing to the eyes. A character that immediately stands out among these characters that will be important to the story is Splat. The relationship between Ethan (Jaboukie Young-White) and Splat is wonderful to see. Where Disney takes an impressive step forward with this film is also how well it captures Ethan’s life as a queer character without making it feel like a dynamic diversity show. Ethan’s teenage love life is beautifully captured as his crush on Diazo’s (Jonathan Melo) character is sweetly explored. The film boasts a talented voice cast and there are certainly no complaints in that department as each actor brings their best work to the film.

Director Don Hall and co-director Qui Nguyen also managed to send a great eco message with this film. While maintaining the focus of the main story on family ties and heritage, Strange World’s underlying message of building a sustainable environment is cleverly added.

Plus points:

One of Strange World’s strongest points is probably its forward-thinking plot. The film presents a visually innovative world with characters connected to a story that is charming with an organic message rather than being forcefully preachy. Ideas such as symbiosis are cleverly woven into the story without appearing as superficial elements. The diversity of the characters is also commendable, and we love how it’s not just limited to Ethan’s bisexual family. The attention to making matriarch Meridian (Gabrielle Union) easily the most influential character in a story that revolves mostly around fathers and sons is also a great move.

Minus points:

Strange World doesn’t take enough risks to push itself to become a new age Disney classic. It mostly sticks to the formulaic elements and therefore never reaches the point of blowing our minds with the execution, instead it gets stuck in a fascinating space of exploration where most of the studio’s films have been stuck for a while.

Highlights:

  • A lovely rendition from the voice actors
  • Visually immersive animation
  • Splat! (You’ll find out when you watch the movie.)

Result:

All in all, Strange World isn’t the best Disney movie to come out in years, but it’s nice to see the studio pushing itself to tell more inclusive stories like this one. For a relaxed family watch, the Clade family offers plenty of entertainment and lively visuals certainly impress too.

Strange World review

ALSO READ: EXCLUSIVE: Dennis Quaid recalls memories of Parent Trap, Jaboukie Young-White in ‘thrilling’ Strange World role

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