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Today’s Prayer Focus
MOVIE REVIEW

Strange World

also known as “Un Mundo Extraño,” “Strange world - Un mondo misterioso,” “Čudesni svet,” “Čudežni svet,” “Divnosvět,” “Dziwny świat,” “En annorlunda värld,” “Eritrea,” “Estranho Mundo,” “Fura világ,” “Ihmeellinen maailma,” “Mundo Estranho,” “Mundo extraño,” See more »
MPA Rating: PG-Rating (MPA) for action/peril and some thematic elements.

Reviewed by: Keith Rowe
CONTRIBUTOR

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Family
Genre:
Animation Sci-Fi Fantasy Action Adventure Comedy Family
Length:
1 hr. 42 min.
Year of Release:
2022
USA Release:
November 23, 2022 (wide release)
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Relevant Issues
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

A mysterious planet that is said to be in grave danger and is inhabited by surreal lifeforms

Family relationships

EARTH’S ENVIRONMENT—Should Christians be concerned about the environment? Answer

What is man’s responsibility to the environment? Answer

Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

GAY—What’s wrong with being Gay? AnswerHomosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born Gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone’s business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

What about Gays needs to change? AnswerIt may not be what you think.

Can a Gay or lesbian person go to heaven? AnswerIf a homosexual “accepts Jesus,” but does not want to change his lifestyle, can he/she still go to Heaven?

What should be the attitude of the church toward homosexuals and homosexuality? Answer

Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality

Kid Explorers
Adventures in the rainforest! Learn about the Creator of the universe by exploring His marvelous creation in Christian Answers’ site for kids—activities, stories, answers to children’s questions, coloring pages, and more
Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Copyright, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Featuring Jake GyllenhaalSearcher Clade (voice) —a farmer, Jaeger’s son, Meridian’s husband, and Ethan’s father
Gabrielle UnionMeridian Clade (voice) —a pilot and natural leader, Ethan’s mother, and Searcher’s wife
Dennis QuaidJaeger Clade (voice) —Searcher’s father and Ethan’s grandfather
Lucy LiuCallisto Mal (voice) —president of Avalonia and fearless leader of the exploration into the strange world
Jaboukie Young-White … Ethan Clade (voice) —Searcher’s 16-year-old son who longs for adventure beyond his father’s farm while also navigating a school crush
Alan TudykDuffle, a pilot (voice)
Karan Soni … Caspian
Adelina Anthony … Captain Pulk, the second-in-command
Abraham Benrubi … Lonnie Redshirt
Jonathan Melo … Diazo, Ethan’s love-interest
Nik Dodani … Kardez
Francesca Reale … Azimuth
Director Don Hall
Producer Walt Disney Animation Studios
Walt Disney Studio
See all »
Distributor Walt Disney PicturesWalt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

“To explore strange new worlds. To seek out new life and new civilizations.”

That was always my favorite part of the opening narration from the original “Star Trek” TV series.

It seems clear that the new Disney animated sci-fi film, “Strange World,” derives its name from the above quote.

Unfortunately, “Star Trek” this ain’t.

The film opens with a back story involving a group of explorers ascending an icy peak. The headstrong leader of the expedition, Jaeger Clade (Dennis Quaid), is adamant about searching beyond the mountains. His son, Searcher Clade (Jake Gyllenhaal), wants to return home and study a plant he found that gives off energy. Jaeger strikes out on his own, leaving behind his son and the rest of the team.

25 years later: Searcher is hailed as the discoverer of Pando, the “power plant” that provides electricity for the entire city of Avalonia. But when the energy-producing green pods on the Pando plant start dying, Searcher is enlisted to join a team that will determine the root of the problem deep below the planet’s surface. When their ship arrives at a strange new world, Searcher and his fellow explorers, including his son Ethan Clade (Jaboukie Young-White) and wife Meridian Clade (Gabrielle Union), encounter an array of bizarre creatures—some benign and others hostile.

You guessed it; “Strange World” is riddled with clichés and references to classic adventure yarns of yore.

When the ship descends through a giant hole and enters the bowels of the planet, we’re reminded of “Journey to the Center of the Earth” (1959, 2008). When the explorers fight their way through gross creatures, we’re reminded of “King Kong” (particularly the disgusting giant insect scenes in Peter Jackson’s 2005 remake). When Searcher and Ethan learn that the island (eye-land) they live on is really a gigantic life form, they realize the creatures inside its body are merely red blood cells and antibodies; navigating the ship through these microorganisms to the being’s giant heart is reminiscent of “Fantastic Voyage” (1966).

“Strange World” weaves the theme of yet another classic novel into its story: “Moby Dick.” Jaeger’s obsessive quest to reach the other side of the mountain causes him to abandon his wife, son and the rest of his team. This Captain Ahab style character flaw was also present in the title character of this year’s Pixar release, “Lightyear.” Perhaps Disney/Pixar should give this particular literary allusion a rest for a while.

The movie’s creativity is one of its bright spots. Though the overall aesthetic is decidedly Seussian, some of the creatures in the strange land are cleverly and beautifully realized. This is particularly true of the blue, stretchy blob that Ethan names Splat (yep, a toy version of the creature has been mass produced by Disney in anticipation of the holidays).

What’s disappointing, though, is that the movie doesn’t take the time to properly showcase its many inventive invertebrates. Writer/Director, Qui Nguyen, must have ADD, because he rushes from one bizarre creature to the next without giving us a chance to really enjoy the teeming life or immersive environment of the imaginary world. Despite its cornucopia of colorful creatures, the movie fails to awe… which is a prerequisite when constructing a strange new world.

The movie also shortchanges the dramatic potential of having three generations of men as its central characters. Yes, there are a few meaningful moments, like when Jaeger teaches Searcher how to throw and Ethan how to use a flamethrower, but the movie’s attempt at establishing generational reconciliation as a theme falls flat. At different points in the movie, Searcher calls Jaeger a bad dad and Ethan says the same to Searcher, despite the fact that Searcher has spent his entire life trying to be the opposite of Jaeger. It’s ironic how we often become that which we despise.

The closest we get to a warm fuzzy ending is when Jaeger tells Searcher, “My legacy isn’t those mountains, it’s you.” Since Jaeger never made an attempt to return to his wife and son during his 25 year absence, that sentiment seems hollow and too little too late. Ultimately, the movie fails to deliver that one satisfying moment to button up the story and leave us with a smile on our face as we exit the theater.

The ending isn’t the only area of the movie that wasn’t satisfying.

Spiritual Aspects

Though there are many minor aspects to consider, the movie’s two major areas of concern are…

Indoctrinating the Future

Personal confession: there are few things in life that infuriate me more than adult advocates forcing their politics and worldview onto kids by using an animated movie as a vehicle. Such an approach is pathological. Sadly, it’s nothing new.

Perhaps you’ll recall “FernGully: The Last Rainforest” (1992), an animated movie that glorifies magical fairies who live in a forest, and vilifies humans who are polluting the environment and cutting down trees with a “monster” bulldozer.

In “Happy Feet” (2006), Mumble’s (Elijah Wood) inability to sing, and ability to tap-dance, makes him a deviant among fellow penguins—a thinly-veiled reference to homosexuality. Also, the movie casts humans in the role of the antagonists, both when human researchers invade the penguin’s island and imprison Mumble in an arctic exhibit, and when overfishing practices in the Antarctic are called into question.

What marred those earlier animated films also afflicts “Strange World.” In fact, my harsh critique of “Happy Feet” also applies to this film. In my review I wrote:

“…the movie’s political slant is so transparent and so in-your-face, it’s almost nauseating. How cowardly of leftist Hollywood and environmentalist wackos to use an animated film to espouse, disseminate and otherwise foist their alarmist and fear-mongering doctrine upon audiences; offending many adults and unduly influencing the minds of future generations with a ‘green’ theology.”

My, how I miss that fiery young man!

So how does “Strange World” seek to corrupt the minds of youngsters? In a very crafty way. (Note: Spoilers in this section)

As the source of all power in Avalonia, harvesting Pando is vital for the society to function. When the characters learn that their civilization has been built upon a living being, they’re faced with a fateful decision: in order to save the creature, they must destroy the Pando roots that are killing the creature’s heart.

The movie ends one year after the Pando roots have been eradicated. A voiceover narration praises people for their ability to be resourceful in the face of hardships. Everyone lights a candle and the entire village has a Kumbaya moment, happy in the knowledge that their sacrifice has saved their planet.

To the discerning eye, the analogy here is plain: Pando = petroleum/oil/fossil fuels. Fossil fuels, the movie (and liberals) argue, is killing our planet (Mother Earth/Gaia). The only way to save our planet, then, is to go back to the way things were before we started using fossil fuels, or to embrace Green sources of energy.

Aside from the fact that the science behind Green energy (wind turbines, electric vehicles, etc.) hasn’t been satisfactorily explained or verified, most conservative estimates suggest it will take us at least 20-30 years to fully switch over to Green energy.

But the movie paints a very different picture. It suggests that we should just turn off the electricity and light a candle—the transition from fossil fuel-based energy to Green energy is just that easy. The movie’s conviction that a shift from one form of energy to another can be accomplished in just a year without any major complications (such as a breakdown in society that can lead to a violent upheaval) is not only dangerous, it’s egregiously disingenuous.

But don’t just take my word for it. Director Nguyen says, “Two things that are always a battle are the conveniences of today versus the need for tomorrow. If we lost certain energy sources, it would make things harder, but ultimately might be better for the world and make the future last.” There you have it; the movie is conditioning our children to prepare for less convenience and more hardship in the future.

No matter which side of the debate you fall on, you have to admit that this underhanded dig at fossil fuels is done in a deceptive manner, and is propagated for the sole purpose of indoctrinating young viewers. The movie is trying to convince them that to save the planet we must end fossil fuels and adopt Green energy. Anyone who disagrees with that agenda is complicit in dooming the planet. You can see how this flawed ideology can create a militant activism in today’s kids/tomorrow’s leaders.

This begs the question: why is such a controversial subject being broached in an animated movie? Also, is it fair to take sides on an issue that kids should be given the right to choose on their own, preferably when they’re older? The way this film seeks to indoctrinate the young members of the audience is downright malicious.

So, what does the Bible have to say on the matter? First of all, it’s important to know where children rate with God. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matthew 19:14). Jesus is even more explicit in Matthew 18:3-4, “And he said: ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’”

There can be no mistake about the punishment that awaits those who would seek to harm, deceive or corrupt children: “If anyone causes one of these little ones—those who believe in me—to stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea” (Matthew 18:6). Are you listening, Disney?

Normalizing Homosexuality

In several scenes we see Ethan’s parents, Searcher and Meridian, kissing. When Ethan walks in on his parents smooching in the kitchen, he makes a retching sound—a not too unusual reaction from a teenage boy. However, Ethan’s revulsion to his straight parents kissing has a deeper layer since he’s attracted to another boy, Diazo (Jonathan Melo). One wonders if all the heterosexual kissing in the movie is a sly attempt at counterbalancing the less demonstrative Gay romance budding between Ethan and Diazo.

Early in the film, Ethan flirts and pals around with Diazo. After arriving at Strange World, Ethan constantly pines over Diazo. Ethan brings up his same-sex attraction to his mom (Meridian), dad (Searcher) and granddad (Jaeger). Sadly, they all condone, and even encourage, Ethan’s Gay desires. In one scene, Meridian tells Ethan he should explore the feelings he has for Diazo.

Worse still, Jaeger asks Ethan if he has a sweetheart. Ethan replies, “His name is Diazo.” Jaeger doesn’t even bat an eyelash at this revelation and gives Ethan pointers on how to win Diazo’s heart (Jaeger tells Ethan he should force Diazo into a dangerous situation and then rescue him—truly strange advice). The fact that Jaeger seems unfazed by his grandson’s sexual preference is dubious, since he’s been out of circulation for 25 years. Surely societal norms have significantly shifted in that time (as they have on our world).

Since Disney is a brazenly pro-homosexual company, it was just a matter of time before a Gay couple would be featured in an animated movie. Still, it’s utterly detestable that the formerly family-friendly company is promoting this lifestyle to impressionable young viewers. As we saw in the section above, when anyone attempts to harm or corrupt children, the punishment will be severe.

GAY—What’s wrong with being Gay? AnswerHomosexual behavior versus the Bible: Are people born Gay? Does homosexuality harm anyone? Is it anyone’s business? Are homosexual and heterosexual relationships equally valid?

What about Gays needs to change? AnswerIt may not be what you think.

Read stories about those who have struggled with homosexuality

As for the sin of homosexuality, the Bible is explicit about the punishment that awaits those who unrepentedly practice this lifestyle. In Leviticus 20:13, homosexual acts are called detestable and the punishment for Israelites was death. Those who commit sexual acts with a member of the same sex will receive a penalty for their error (Romans 1:26-27). Also, according to 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, unregenerate homosexuals won’t inherit the kingdom of God (Heaven).

Objectionable Material

Offensive Language/Vulgarities: There isn’t any swearing in the movie, but one character says he hates the name and face of another character.

Alcohol/Drugs: In one scene, Searcher carries two bottles, which look like beer bottles. He hands one of the bottles to Jaeger, who takes a drink. Though neither man becomes drunk from imbibing the liquid, the appearance of the bottles suggests they contain alcohol.

Sexual Content: A married couple kisses in several scenes. A boy expresses his attraction to another boy (see above). Sex is obliquely referenced in one scene when a character says, “When two people love each other…”. Fortunately, the conversation pivots to a different subject.

Violence and Graphic Content: The movie doesn’t have any graphic violence, but it does have some mild violence when Jaeger uses his flamethrower to burn swarming creatures and when Searcher grinds Pando pods into gunpowder, loads it into his rifle and shoots the pink, manta ray-like reapers.

Final Thoughts

At the risk of overstating my central thesis, I’d like to share another tidbit from my “Happy Feet” review, which is also germane to this film: “…it’s really children who are losing out the most here; for their sake, why can’t Hollywood check its politics at the door and let kids make up their own minds about where they stand on environmental issues… when they’re old enough to do so?” Of course, this argument also applies to the film’s (and our government and education system’s) aggressive push to hypersexualize young people and make alternative lifestyles attractive to kids who are still learning their multiplication tables.

Despite its innocent trappings, this film is the Green New Deal writ large. By packaging its blatant, heavy-handed message into a disarming, cutesy kid’s story, the studio has made its mission clear: to indoctrinate the next generation with a pro-homosexual, pro-Green energy agenda. It’s insidious!

In the end, the only thing strange about “Strange World” is its twisted, perverse and overly-ideological worldview.

A more fitting title would’ve been “Woke World.”

Last Item: The new “Disney 100” opening animation is beautiful and magical; a jaw-dropping sequence that would make Walt proud. But the way his studio is propagandizing innocent, young kids is surely causing poor ole Walt to roll over in his grave.

  • Wokeism: Heavy
  • Sex: Minor
  • Violence: Mild
  • Drugs/Alcohol: Minor
  • Profane language: None
  • Vulgar/Crude language: None
  • Nudity: None
  • Occult: None

Learn about DISCERNMENT—wisdom in making personal entertainment decisions

cinema tickets. ©  Alexey SmirnovEvery time you buy a movie ticket or buy or rent a video you are in effect casting a vote telling Hollywood, “I’ll pay for that. That’s what I want.” Read our article

See list of Relevant Issues—questions-and-answers.


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Secular Movie Critics
a generally humorless and heavy-handed cartoon about an environmental crisis… The film’s stumbling unoriginality, cliched characters and intended jokes that land like flops from a constipated greenhouse gassy cow, however earn every ounce of ire I can summon. …[1½/4]
Roger Moore, Movie Nation
…The first animation from the entertainment giant to feature an openly gay teen, about an end-of-days environmental disaster, tries to shoehorn too much in… The clunky script feels like it’s been re-drafted and re-drafted to the point of incomprehension—blowing any chance of conveying a message. However well-meaning, it makes for a surprisingly dull watch. That said, my five-and-three-quarter-year-old (and clearly a few other younger people in the cinema) were a bit scared by some of the dicier moments of action-adventure peril. …[2/5]
Cath Clarke, The Guardian
…There’s a lot of yelling in this story. …The uneasy marriage of clunky psychodrama and overwrought special effects along with the fact that none of these characters are particularly likable make “Strange World” a chore to sit through. …[2/4]
Soren Andersen, The Seattle Times
…It’s just not very good. …in the end, the story fails. …[2/4]
Kristen Page-Kirby, The Washington Post
…low-thrills… The director Don Hall and his co-director and screenwriter Qui Nguyen (who last year collaborated on a slightly less mediocre Disney picture, “Raya and the Last Dragon”) seem to have put all of their effort into gaudy backgrounds, wacky gadgets and strange ancillary monsters instead of into dramatic urgency or conflict. …Typical of the film’s lack of appeal is one of the most exasperatingly uninspired nonhuman comic sidekicks in Disney history, a many-tentacled blue blob…
Kyle Smith, The Wall Street Journal
…Like the seemingly incomplete creatures in the underworld, you could say that the film’s frustratingly unfocused script could’ve used another pass. [2/4]
Derek Smith, Slant