by Dwight Brown film critic for DwightBrownInk.com and NNPA News Wire
It wasn’t enough! Whatever they paid Adam Driver for holding this feeble movie together, it wasn’t enough.
Screenwriters turned directors Scott Beck & Bryan Woods created a winning formula as the writers of A Quiet Place. Build a family atmosphere, then put the wretches in constant peril. It worked once, so why not now? For starters AQP took place in present day Little Falls, NY, a quintessential American town and audiences could buy into the premise. But in this adv/act/sci-fi, set millions of years ago, the preposterous situation requires audiences to suspend disbelief. They would if the movie made it worth their while. It doesn’t.
Sometime in the future, Mills (Driver), an interstellar pilot, takes a job on a long-range exploratory mission. The quest will separate him from his wife (Nika King) and daughter (Chloe Coleman) for two years but is necessary because his family desperately needs the money. As he transports 35 passengers through space, there’s a mishap. The spaceship crash lands on an unchartered celestial body. Turns out he’s stranded on earth, as it was 65 million years ago. Mills: “There’s something alien out there.”
That’s the set up. You know you’re in PG-13 territory because the only other survivor is Koa (Ariana Greenblatt), a 12-year-old. Thus, this pre-historic romp won’t be ultra-violent, foul-mouthed or too edgy. Older males, teens and sci-fi fans may be disappointed. Tweens, especially females considering the co-protagonist, maybe not.
Within the confines of the age-appropriate material, Beck and Woods pour on danger in well-measured increments for 93 minutes (editors Josh Schaeffer and Jane Tones). Alarming animal attacks, daring escapes and fights for life ensue. The constant conflict, anxiety and fear may just be enough to please a young, undiscerning audience. And when the film is streamed on TV, it’s visual imperfections may not be so obvious.
Super loud, bass-heavy sound effects pump up the volume and almost distract attention from the pathetic props: Wimpy plastic-looking laser-beam weapons. Golf ball-size hand grenades that look like trinkets. A handheld GPS machine that talks like Suri and projects hazy 3D images. Also, the deafening noise almost takes your mind off the tacky production design (Kevin Ishioka): The spaceship’s walls, doors and sleep chambers look like a blend of aluminum and recycled plastic. Sets substituting for real terrain don’t work. Fake boulders that look like paper mâché exacerbate credibility as well.
If viewers can get past the cheesy props, interiors and exteriors, then they also have to forgive the shoddy CGI tyrannosaurus rexes and flying pterosaurs and rubbery looking Compsognathus. What’s on view is never splendid (cinematographer Salvatore Totino), but not boring. The directing style on view is never ingenious, but not awful.
Lacking the diversion of mind-blowing images, the audience will focus on Mills. It’s fortunate that Driver, who blazed trails in Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance and shared profound emotions in Marriage Story, commands the screen. His Mills is brave, resourceful, tenacious and caring. Those traits are manifested in his facial expressions and stalwart persona. Somehow you know he’ll protect Koa. Mills: “You and I are going to get home.”
Adam Driver’s fans will hope he books another Star Wars gig, soon. Until then, they can watch his steely acting rise above the material in this underserving movie. He has earned his paycheck—and then some.
In theaters now.
Visit NNPA News Wire Film Critic Dwight Brown at DwightBrownInk.com.