From the once executive producer of Supernatural and the director of Terminator Salvation, comes his newest Netflix action adventure, Rim of the World. With hints at films like Super 8, Stephen King’s It, and most importantly capitalizing on the popularity of the Netflix Original, Stranger Things. Unlike that series, this film fails to utilize any of the qualities that make Stranger Things work so well, only keeping with minimal success the constant nostalgic references.
McG isn’t a name that I’d go to for quality film, however I do understand that there is fun to be had in a few of his earlier and even most recent entry. Unfortunately Rim of the World is another demerit on his record as it showcases everything the director fails to be able to capture and his uncomfortable sense of direction while shooting humor in his features. One scene in particular contains a bonding scene between the four main characters early on in the film, where they have to teach one of them how to properly ride a bicycle, however this scene is incredibly odd and just as most other things in the film, is incredibly rushed. What director McG does fairly well is action and when the CGI delivers, his action generally does as well, with a scene in a school bus being quite possibly the best shot and tense scene in the film, showing what he can do, but chooses not to. In a lot of ways, he’s a lesser Michael Bay and for true cinephiles those are relatively harsh words coming from anyone. His direction for the new Netflix original however is average at best, still failing to properly capture the humor in the film, while delivering on a few action set pieces aside from some problematic digital effects.
The story follows a group of teens with nothing in common, stranded at a summer camp when aliens attack the planet. Suddenly they are sent on a perilous mission to save the world. Screenwriter Zack Stentz (Thor, X-Men: First Class) penned the screenplay and while the story has potential, the story-beats suffer from an unfortunate sense of being rushed into a hour and 39 minute runtime. There’s a lot happening within the story that we rarely get time to see develop, such as a moment (which does get some redemption later in the film) where a soldier the teens just met is about to die and our lead, Alex takes it as if he’s known him for longer than two minutes. There are scenes, which I can’t go into without entirely spoiling the film that irritated me to my core, namely a scene where someone who can help stop the invasion from continuing just gives up with little to no need for it, then minutes later exclaims that the teens are “their only hope”. The basic premise of the story is brilliant, a little dark sense of humor here and there, as well as charming preteen characters - this film with a slight change of pace could of been something at the very least incredibly fun. However as we’ll dive a little more into in the next category, the children in the film are not likable protagonists… It’s the weak writing at times multiplied by the fact that a director like McG got his hands on it that drives this one home, straight into the recycle bin.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
The humor may not be particularly my cup of tea, so that may be why I didn’t find the teens or adults dialogue overly humorous, from my perspective the dialogue is unsettling coming from this young teens and even at times may be viewed as culturally insensitive. The young teens have a constant arsenal of pop culture references, mainly movie related (Jurassic Park, Gladiator, Star Wars) and they go from seeming like neat easter eggs to an obnoxious addition to the dialogue. The young actors aren’t amazing, but they’re satisfactory enough to function in their roles. The teens make jokes that would never come out of a person their age and if they would it would come off as incredibly overbearing. All the characters have their dominant trait: ZhenZhen is reluctant of trust, Alex is a “nerd”, Dariush has unlimited sex jokes, and Gabriel is a felon. There is a The Breakfast Club element to these characters, so much in fact that the characters make a The Breakfast Club reference in the film that is supposed to come off as heartwarming but is played off so quickly that it is laughable. There are rivalries, romances, friendships - bonds that we as an audience hear happening throughout their proposed dialogue but never witness with our eyes the bonding between characters. One of the few scenes that works well is a scene where the group must contemplate letting a jailed felon out of the local police station - the fight between them felt the most genuine of all the scenes that far into the film and resembled that of which teenagers would be squabbling over. All adults in the film are introduced to us and within seconds to minutes vanish entirely from the plot, from counselors to army personnel to jailed felons, they all just disappear.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The Goonies comes to mind during moments of the film when the kids find something important, are about to be in a fight or SPOILER look out into the distance at the place they once came. Bear McCreary’s score isn’t incredibly memorable, however it functions incredibly well during scenes that wouldn’t have worked otherwise. The lyrical music are easily forgettable and hold no impact with the scenes they’re associated with; reminding me of comedic moments from This is the End but without the hilarious nature of that film.
Rim of the World focuses on the kids escaping constantly from a single alien and his “dogs”, which means the alien design is incredibly important to the final product. Unfortunately at moments the CGI resembles a claymation quality, but a majority of the runtime provides us with horrific CGI - to the level of The Scorpion King, which holds one of the worst CGI in cinematic history. Beyond the crucial alien figures, the action set pieces don’t look all that bad, although aside from a scene or two do look ridiculously cheesy, instead of intense or scary to the degree that McG wanted them to convey. The design reminds me of the Ben Stiller lead The Watch which had a very similar alien in it and strangely enough had similar issues, minus the teen characters. One of the worst qualities the film possesses is the odd, never explained overlaying filter that changes from a vibrant orange in the day to a blacklight effect, violet at night - creating a distracting visual for the audience to star through to get to the underwhelming action taking place on screen. Costume design was fantastic in the film though I must say, from The Purge costume joke to the matching pajamas, the costume department were one of the only people to get everything right
Rim of the World comes a few months after the excellent teen adventure film, The Kid Who Would Be King and it may be a comparison for some people who have seen this newly released feature, since it follows a group of teens on an adventure to retrieve an item and bring it back to save the world from an invasion - a very similar premise. That doesn’t seem entirely fair for the filmmakers involved with Rim of the World, however the content provided within Rim of the World doesn’t know what type of audience it is trying it reach. With young teens not being able to comprehend a majority of the jokes, and adults, most of whom will likely just sulk at the film from beginning to end. The film’s demographic seems incredibly small and even for those it may be meant for, it will most likely not make the cut with all the equivalent content coming out these days on Netflix alone.