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Crater (2023): Film Review

Kyle Patrick Alvarez’s Crater features one of the year’s strongest endings, but the journey there is unfortunately dull and inconsistent.

Disney+ are still searching for their first big original hit. Sure, they’ve had some successes, but all of them have been entries in pre-existing franchises, riding the coattails of their predecessors, and in most cases, still failing to make any kind of significant lasting impact on pop culture. With that being said though, they’ve still managed to leave more of a mark than any of the streaming service’s attempts at completely original content. In fact, I’m sure most of the general public would struggle to even name a Disney+ exclusive that doesn’t have any kind of connection to an already established IP. Crater is Disney’s latest endeavour at a smash hit à la Netflix’s Stranger Things, and whilst there are some signs of potential throughout, it suffers from an inconsistent script ripe with tonal issues.

Crater, directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, who last helmed the brilliant thriller The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015), is set 200 years into the future, where humanity is now mostly living on the moon. However, after mining it for all of its resources and failing to properly colonise it, the human race decides to move planets again, with miners who fulfil their work contracts getting to move to the planet Omega. The film’s main character, Caleb (Isaiah Russell-Bailey), is set to be permanently moved to Omega following the loss of his father, and so in the last three days before he moves away, he decides to honour his father’s memory and travel to a crater they promised to go see alongside his group of friends.

On paper, Crater sounds like the perfect family adventure movie. The setting of the moon is naturally appealing and it stars a cast of young, talented actors, but it’s ultimately let down by its script. Despite setting itself up to be a fantastical coming-of-age journey, our characters end up discovering surprisingly little, instead spending the majority of their time sitting around explaining their tragic backstories to each other. There’s some good messages for kids packed into the many monologues littered throughout the film, but it results in an experience that is unfortunately too slow and too melancholy to successfully appeal to its target audience in the first place.

loud and clear reviews crater disney plus film 2023 movie
(L-R): Isaiah Russell-Bailey as Caleb and Scott Mescudi as Michael in CRATER, exclusively on Disney+. Patti Perret. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Where Crater truly shines is in the scenes where it gets to lean into its science-fiction elements and the teenage cast gets to actually have fun with the material. The film so often restricts itself, taking this brilliant concept of kids exploring the moon and rather than exploring that, it instead forces its characters into dull, uninteresting rooms in order to talk about their feelings. When they’re let loose and get to actually play with the idea that they’re on the moon, that’s when the film is at its best and most entertaining. Dan Romer and Osei Essed’s brilliantly whimsical score helps these scenes massively, and I can see kids walking away from this movie desperate to play “launch”, a game involving oxygen tanks that the kids come up with. 

One thing the script does get completely right is the film’s bittersweet ending. Out of all of the script’s emotional monologues, it was the only one that truly emotionally affected me, being both brilliantly delivered and the perfect resolution to a generally underwhelming story. The film’s message of appreciating the ones you love and standing up for what you believe is right are noble and respectable, but as it is, the film feels like it has no idea who it’s trying to appeal to. It’s too melancholy for children, and it’s not quite mature enough or profound enough to appeal to adults, leaving it in a weird limbo where whilst it does a decent amount right, I can’t imagine it, outside of its ending, leaving any kind of lasting impact on anyone. 

Crater is now streaming on Disney Plus.

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