Sometimes, in order to imagine a new future, you have to leave the world you know behind.
Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Crater tells the story of Caleb Channing (Isaiah Russell-Bailey), a young man who has grown up on a lunar mining colony. For Caleb and his friends, this world is the only one that they have known. However, a select few are allowed to relocate to ‘Omega’, a faraway planet designed to be Earth’s next utopia. After Caleb’s father passes away, he discovers that he has been invited to permanently relocate. Terrified about leaving his home and friends, Caleb and his pals set out on a mission to fulfill his father’s last request: to set out into the unknown to explore a mysterious Crater.
Now available on Disney+, Crater is a delightful and charming film that feels like a throwback to classic Disney adventures. Much like other films like Bridge to Teribithia, Tom and Huck and Escape to Witch Mountain, this is very much a story that speaks to the adventurous spirit of youth. While the stories differ in structure, all of these films had childlike energy about them that invited kids to step out and experience life for themselves.
With a heart of youthful fire, Crater capitalizes on the ‘road trip’ movie mentality. With their eye on the horizon, these children break free from their constraints, learning who they are along the way. Backed by animated performances from its cast, this is a story taht almost feels as if it was made ‘for kids by kids’. (Admittedly, this may not necessarily a film made for adults, but there is a surprising maturity about it.) Fueled by innocence and childlike wonder, there’s a genuinely inquisitive mindset to this story that feels authentic to the age. These characters don’t know exactly what they’re looking for—in fact, one is convinced that they’re looking for gold—but they all remain open to what lies on the other side of their trek.
Here, the value lies in the journey as opposed to the destination.
Interestingly, Crater also reminds us of the importance of the sacrifices that our parents have made on our behalf. This is not a “hate the adults who hold us back“ type of children’s film. Underneath their trek into the unknown lies a spirit of gratitude for those who have come before. Each young person learns to appreciate the loving actions of their parents and understand that their stories are directly affected by the past.
At the same time, the film also looks towards the future. There’s also a hopeful spirit at the bottom of this Crater that wants to empower young people to take on the issues of the world. Although it isn’t the driving force of the narrative, this is a world of injustice and social inequality amongst the people of the colony. This is a place where people have been convinced that this is ‘simply how things are’. (After all, only a select few have the opportunity to move forward and start their life in the paradise of Omega.) However, over the course of their journey, these young characters are challenged to step forward. Even though the world that they know may seem immovable, the begin to see that their voice matters. In this way, these young characters begin to understand that they can be the ones to exact change. In their lifetime, they will have the opportunity to shape the world for the generation that comes after—and help them to develop a new story as well.
In the end, although Crater may lean a little heavily into its childhood vigor, that’s also what gives it its magic. As these kids set out into the vast unknown, they begin to believe that anything is possible. For this generation, that’s definitely worth its weight in gold.
Crater is available on Disney+ on Friday, May 12th, 2023.