Featuring the voice talent of Jake Gyllenhaal, Dennis Quaid, Jaboukie Young-White, Gabrielle Union and Lucy Liu, Strange World follows three generations of an explorer family, the Clades, as they try to improve, and then save, their land of Avalonia.
Jaeger Clade (Quaid) is the brawny, always-looking-for-an-adventure, OG Clade explorer who has made it his sole mission to discover what exists on the other side of the mountain that cover Avalonia. He has spent years on this mission, eventually bringing along his son, Searcher (Gyllenhaal), who plods along on his father’s escapades until he is old enough to discover his real interests. However, when he finally does, he and his father part ways. Years go by and we are introduced to his son, Ethan (Young-White), the third generation Clade, who Searcher is trying to keep from becoming like his grandfather. Eventually, they need to set out on an adventure to save Avalonia and we see on this journey that all three Clade men might be more similar than they think, even as they carve out their own individuality.
In a lot of ways, the film feels like a mish-mash of Treasure Planet and Atlantis in its “group of explorers visit a strange world”-ness, and Troy Bolton in all the High School Musical films, with his “that was your dream, Dad, not mine”-esque speeches. (Side note: I was sure that he said those exact words at some point in the franchise, but I just scrubbed through HSM 1,2 and 3 and can’t find that quote anywhere. I’ve put together in my digging that this is a common theme in Disney movies though, so if you can find a movie with that exact quote, I would love to know)
Each Clade son comes to realize that he does not want to do what his father has trained him his whole life to, and each Clade father must come to terms with the fact that his son will not be his replica. The film brings up the question of legacy and asks what it truly means to leave a great one behind. Does it mean creating something that your offspring will carry it on for generations? Or does legacy mean raising said offspring to contribute positively to society–however that may look–enough? I’m not a parent, so I can only imagine that it takes a lot of strength to release your child from your expectations of them and allow them to form their own.
Something that I found interesting about Ethan is that he was constantly asking how everything on the earth can peacefully and efficiently co-exist, a question that he embodies. For example, while his father and grandfather seemed to be extreme opposites of each other, Ethan possessed traits from both of them and used that combination of strengths to figure out a way to save their land.
Ethan’s question makes more sense when you reach the end of the film where Strange World hints that we need to reflect on our relationship with other people and our planet.
Strange World is available in theatres on Wednesday, November 23rd, 2022.