“Strange World” is the third of three movies I saw during the Thanksgiving weekend. This animated family adventure received a CinemaScore rating of a B by moviegoers. Being the first Walt Disney Animation Studios movie to score below an A- in 30 years. I had three serious problems with this movie that could explain why it bombed at the theaters.
“Strange World” begins about the famous explorer Jaeger Clade, and his young son, Searcher. They search for a passage through the snow-bound mountains surrounding their town. No one has ever traveled beyond those mountains to see what was on the other side.
Father and son have an argument when Searcher wants to look at a plant in the snow. Jaeger dismisses the plant—and his son—as being unimportant. He continues on without the expedition team.
The story fast forward 25 years.
Searcher is a farmer raising acres of Pando, the plant he discovered in the mountains. The Pando fruit is used as an energy source for the town. The town’s technology shifted from horse and buggy to flying vehicles.
Searcher’s son, Ethan, wants to be an explorer like his missing grandfather and doesn’t want to be a farmer. A constant source of friction between father and son.
One evening, Callisto Mal, president of the town and former member of Jaeger’s expedition team, drops in with her airship. She tells Searcher that the Pando plant is dying off elsewhere and its root system is rotting underground. She wants him to go with her into a massive sinkhole to find the root cause.
Searcher agrees to go despite protests that he’s not an explorer anymore. Ethan and his dog, Legend, stow away on the airship. And Ethan’s mom, Meriden, chases after the airship in her crop duster. You can’t have a family adventure without the entire family.
Searcher and Legend get separated from the airship on the way down. They encounter Jaeger who spent 25 years underground after failing to go through the mountains. The father-son conflict between these two starts all over again. Especially when Jaeger finds out he’s a grandfather and Ethan wants to be an explorer.
They discover that they’re inside a creature that is falling ill from the Pando plants. Saving the creature means killing off the Pando plant. Callisto doesn’t like that as the town will be without an energy source and she tries to stop the Clades.
A little blue creature convinces all of them to take the right action that saves everyone.
Problem 1: Family Dynamics
The first problem was the father-son conflict across three generations being heavy handed throughout the movie. That was appropriate when Jaeger and Searcher parted ways at the beginning. The heavy handedness continued for Searcher and Ethan, and after Jaeger and Searcher reunited.
Moviegoers don’t want to be browbeaten with a family dynamic that they could get at home.
Problem 2: Strange World Ending
The second problem was the satellite view of the town and the creature that it was on. A ginormous sea turtle on a water world without any visible landmass. This ending begs for more questions.
- How did these people get on the back of a ginormous sea turtle?
- Where did this ginormous sea turtle come from?
- Could a water world give rise to this kind of life?
If they went with the Gaia hypothesis, where the planet was a living entity, that would make sense.
If they went with the cosmic turtle, where the world exists on the back of a turtle in space, that would make sense.
But a town on a ginormous sea turtle on a water world doesn’t make sense.
Problem 3: Wakanda Forever
The third problem was that “Strange World” came out two weeks after “Wakanda Forever” hit theaters. “Wakanda Forever” had a better family dynamic, an ending that made sense, and a built-in audience that wanted to see it.
“Strange World” wasn’t a bad movie but it does deserve the solid B-rating that moviegoers gave it. Starts streaming on Disney Plus on Friday, December 23, 2022.