I wrote, some years back, that the lack of character development in Pacific Rim was acceptable, as the characters were all archetypes. From Eager Rookie to Shouty Leader, not one character in the movie was much more than a stock archetype – many from Japanese media.
Rim of the World doesn’t have that problem. It has character development. Much to it’s detriment. The characters evolve from one barely tolerable stereotype to another barely tolerable stereotype. Seriously. That may be the worst flaw of this disaster, but it is far from the only one. This is a movie with so much promise, and so little quality that it causes a serious cognitive dissonance.
There are good bits in there, but they are swamped by the cliches.
So, the movie begins in space, with the body of an astronaut from the ISS who seems killed during a spacewalk in the fore of the shot, then we enter ISS as a giant alien ship is busy engulfing it. A woman astronaut (Major Collins, played by Lynn Collins) is trying to get info about the giant alien ship to JPL, and then you hear screams in the background.
Cut to Space Nerd (Alex, played by Jack Gore) who is being forced to attend a summer camp, the eponymous Rim of the World Camp, by Well Meaning But Clueless Mom (never named…played by a wasted Annabeth Gish). We then meet Silent Asian Girl (ZhenZhen, played by Miya Cech ) and Wannabe Gangster Boy (Dariush [pro: Darius], played by Benjamin Flores Jr.). Arriving at camp, we meet Jive Camp Counselor (Logan, played by King Back), JCC is trying to be the Magical Negro and Black Savior stereotype, as well as representing all that the writers thought was ‘hip’. It is painful. There is also 80s Asshole Counselor (Conrad, played by Tony Cavalero) and his girlfriend, 80s Slutty Camp Counselor (unnamed [of course], likely played by Andrea Susan Bush).
Jive Counselor tries to bring Space Nerd out of his shell, speaks in what would be considered racist pidgen to Silent Asian Girl (doesn’t get to ‘me love you long time’, but close), and shows Gangster Wannabe how ‘real’ black people act.
Of course, Space Nerd has a crush on Silent Asian Girl, and Wannabe Gangster Boy is a dick to everyone. Space Nerd has a panic attack at the top of a zipline tower, and climbs back down, where 80s Asshole Camp Counselor mocks him, and everyone else looks disgusted. Fast forward to a canoe trip some time later.
The three kids are away from the rest of the group, because Silent Asian Girl wanded off to find a specific view, and Space Nerd and Wannabe Gangster followed. Space Nerd and Wannabe Gangster got further separated, and Wannabe Gangster was forcing Space Nerd to the edge of a cliff to overcome his fear of heights (which feels much, much more like vertigo in how it was filmed) when Mystery Kid (Gabriel, played by Alessio Scalzotto) appears to stop the nonsense.
They hook back up with Silent Asian Girl, and Mystery Kid tells them he lives nearby.
Then aliens attack.
The kids find out when they get back to the canoe area, and no one is there. Then fighters and aliens zip down the river. As they are, understandably, mildly concerned (not in a total panic, like they might otherwise be expected to be), a Dragon capsule drops nearby. Out pops Major Collins, who is too injured to continue, so she gives the kids the key (literally) to activate the Excalibur defense system. As she is choking out her death monolog, the goop on her ship comes to life as one of the aliens.
Look, I have been harshly critical of the CGI in DC movies. With good reason. The CGI monsters in Rim of the World make DC CGI look like masterworks. We are talking Lawnmower Man, Escape From LA, Scorpion King level bad here. Well, no, that’s not really fair to Lawnmower Man, Escape From LA, or Scorpion King – they were working with, likely, the best tech available. This is so not that. It is lower level than some fan films I have seen. It’s just horrible.
Anyway, the kids need to get the key to the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena to save the world. 70 miles away or so. Which makes, based on the time spent not in the woods, the camp located in or near Lake Elsinore or Ojai. It was filmed in locations like Mammoth Lake and Convict Lake, each over 300 miles from JPL. Which makes sense, as 70 miles is too close to LA to get good nature shots.
Why the physical key that is needed to activate the system is in space is never explained. Why they can’t target the ISS without it is never explained. Why they never use the key at JPL is never explained. Oops.
In the course of the journey, we learn that Wannabe Gangster’s dad is going to jail, and his family is broke. We learn that Silent Asian (who isn’t silent, and has no accent once she starts talking) is an orphan, maybe, or abandoned, maybe. She came to the camp alone, since her father wanted a son. Or he is dead…it changes. Mystery Kid is an escapee from juvenile detention after hitting a customer at a grocery store where he worked, being accused of stealing (bad change…really?). Seems he has dyscalculia, and can’t translate spoken numbers into written numbers. Otherwise, no issues. So not really dyscalculia in a classic sense, just enough for the plot.
Events happen, and they get to JPL, where more impossible, unlikely, and contrived bullshit happens, and they save the world. Of course.
Yes, I got sick of recapping.
So, we have the worst collection of stereotypes in recent memory, crap-level CGI and effects, a wholly useless (and unused) McGuffin, and bad writing across the board. So, yeah.
If Stranger Things is a sort of love letter to the 80s, this is a YouTube comment. It is just inexplicably bad, even if only when you think about it. If you shut the brain off and watch it like a zombie, it isn’t so bad. Kind of fun, really. They try to compare it to a modern Goonies or Stand By Me. It’s not. Contrary to one headline, if Netflix wants to keep growing, it needs to never do something this bad again.