‘Strange World’ Review: A Fun Adventure Filled With Fantastic Performances
Almost a year since their mega-hit Encanto was released in cinemas, Walt Disney Animation Studios returns with Strange World. While Encanto wasn’t a box office success, it quickly became a mega-hit once it was made available on Disney+. It went on to win the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature and recently earned three Grammy Award nominations. But will Strange World capture the same magic that still has audiences hooked one year on?
Strange World follows the Clade family who are recruited by the president of Avalonia to lead a mission to discover why their revolutionary plant, Pando, is dying.
Disney Presents Jules Verne’s Strange World
Strange World has a fittingly retro science-fiction aesthetic and takes inspiration from pulp magazines and serials. The colourful design of the world and the quirky characters we meet along the way all make for a fun adventure for the whole family, but I couldn’t help but think that Strange World would have made for a better Disney+ series than it did a movie, especially if they played up on the pulpy tone.
Jules Verne is another clear inspiration for Strange World, particularly Journey to the Centre of the Earth. At times, it felt so similar to the story that Strange World felt more like an adaptation of it. But if you’re suffering from franchise fatigue and are looking to watch something that isn’t a remake, Strange World is still a good palate cleanser.
Adorkable Characters & Talented Performers
The most gripping part of Strange World was undoubtedly the characters, all of which are gloriously animated and well-rounded.
Strange World is led by the father-son duo Searcher (Jake Gyllenhaal) and Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White). Being the son of the Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid), Searcher has tried to stay out of his famous father’s spotlight and has settled with his family on a farm. Searcher is as boisterous as he is adorkable and Gyllenhaal helps round him out with a performance so good that I hope he makes more animated movies in the future.
As for Young-White’s Ethan Clade, a lot is riding on this character as news has broken that he is the latest addition to Disney’s many “first gay characters”, however I think LGBTQ+ audiences will be pleased to know that he is 100% openly gay before the movie even begins and he even has an established love interest with Diazo.
Some may be disappointed to hear that Diazo is not in the movie for too long, but his role seems to have been purposely written so that it is uncuttable. Diazo may be absent, but his presence remains throughout as there are a number of conversations about him, all of which help strengthen the subplot of Ethan’s want for independence from his dad.
Gabrielle Union voices Meridan Clade, Searcher’s wife and Ethan’s mother. While Union is as fantastic as she typically is, I felt as though she could have been given more to do. Searcher has his issues with his newly rediscovered father, Ethan has his love for Searcher but wants to have his own separate life, but Meridan is just sort of… there. If you removed her from the movie it wouldn’t have much effect on the plot, if any at all.
Last Minute Messaging
Environmentalism plays a pivotal role in Strange World, although I won’t be delving too deep due to spoilers, but I felt like it could have been handled better. The theme doesn’t appear until late into the movie and it vanishes once our heroes reach the end of their journey and we are left with no real idea of what the consequences will be.
Perhaps it was intentional to secure that lucrative sequel greenlight, but Strange World feels like it would have suited a series more than a movie, this isn’t helped by its “chapter play” inspiration.
Strange World may not be as good as its studio’s predecessor, and it fumbles when it comes to its main theme, but it makes up for its flaws in its multifaceted characters and cast of very talented performers.