Strange World: Strange Times

A big blockbuster-Esque Disney animated film came to theaters just last week. Yet barely anyone I know had even heard of it. Such a strange anomaly, given the mass of power that the company holds. You would think that parents and Disney fans would be flocking to the theater and praising its, at times, overdone message. But that is not the case. The film only brought in $27.8 million during its box office opening. Compared to now bona fide Disney classics like 2013s Frozen ($243,390 million) and 2016’s Moana ($56.6 million), the film does not seem set to make much at the box office. Could this be blamed on poor marketing or the identity of a leading character?

            I have seen little to no marketing for Strange World in the past few weeks. So little, in fact, that I forgot that it was coming out! That all being said, I did get to see the film today! I found it quite charming! The intro especially caught my attention. It is ensured that you are pulled straight into an old-school high-tech adventure. The use of classical adventure-styled music and the vintage-looking animation style brings you into an unexplainable world. Our story today revolves around farmer Searcher Clade (voiced by Jake Gyllenhaal) and his son Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) on a dangerous expedition to save what they know. Other characters include Searcher’s wife and flying expert Meridian Clade (Gabrielle Union) and his estranged father Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid), who are mixed in along the way. Whether or not it all work is up to you to decide.

            Our characters exist in a world where society is declining, and the expeditions of Jaeger and Searcher are the only things believed to save them. But when egos clash, their family has broken apart. Jaeger continues on his quest while Searcher finds their answer. Finally, 25 years later, Searcher, Meridian, and Ethan have made strides to help better this world. They live peaceful lives out on a farm, growing the savior plants. Searcher is intent on getting his son to follow in his footsteps, but Ethan has eyes both on his own path and another young man living nearby. But when that is all uprooted in the name of science, they must adapt to their new and strange surroundings.

            I do appreciate the film quite a lot. It’s a cute comic book take on global warming and preserving our own environment. This can come across as heavy-handed and unsubtle, but it was made in an attempt to speak specifically to younger audiences. That should be applauded, given our environment’s troubles. I also cannot get through talking about the movie without mentioning Ethan and his love interest Diazo. Both are young men, and while their feelings towards each other take a back burner for most of the film, I have heard more about it than the actual plot. It is vital for Disney and animated films, in general, to begin inserting more examples of what love looks like. Adults may have forgotten, but the movie from childhood shapes our outlook on society. More examples of love being love can help shape those of us for good. Whether it’s someone seeing themselves in a movie character or understanding another’s love, I cannot see any adverse outcomes. But that is just me.

All that being said, the film is worthy of a watch. While there are some surface flaws, it still has sparks of magic. However, those seeking emotional catharsis be warned. While familial turmoil and serious topics are present, the story stays light-hearted. It never hit the emotional beats that have become expected from Disney. Altogether the film is uplifting, visually pleasing, heavy-handed, and quite strange, to say the least. I hope you all have a wonderful day or night. Stay strange.

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