Crater once was a word of unrivalled interest. Whether it was Greeks mixing wine within a crater or the surface of distant planets with mounds and rough edges. Crater heads for the latter, obviously, as a Disney-backed feature about the process of mixing water and wine is not of interest to their demographic. Also, it is a krater, not a crater. It is both. Crater, the latest Kyle Patrick Alvarez feature, is neither. It is nothing but the empty shell of what could be where a crater is. How a director goes from chilling social experiment adaptations of The Standford Prison Experiment to under the boot of corporate dictators in less than a decade is surreal, especially when he is tasked with directing Space Dogs but the dogs are children and already in space.
For all this youthful cast may be mocked, it is not their fault they are levelled with the cheap and wry music and breakneck story. As the gang of unique characters argue and steal their way to freedom, it feels as though part of the film is missing, as though the slow build is of no interest to those watching. Reason can be revealed later, throwing viewers into the action. Apps have ruined attention spans and Disney merely adapts to that. Crater has a sincere message at its core, a desire to deal with grief in an always-evolving world, but the “earlier that day…” shift feels awkward and unnecessary. It proves nothing. Nor is Isaiah Russell-Bailey given a chance to show his worth. A solid hand for later down the line, that is for sure. Crater at least highlights that.
Sacrifice of the older generation is not a gift to the younger if times change. Crater, surprisingly, holds firm with this message and attaches it to enjoyable character studies. Where it may be brief in this role, it is at least attempting. Alvarez has something to his work which consistently shines through, and the well-displayed set designs and rough-around-the-edges attempts made throughout this mining community turned space-based adventure, are rather nice. Colourful enough to warrant engaging the minds of the young, dark enough and detailed enough to bring out actual development. Whether such development is hooked to characters is beyond Alvarez and company. At least all the parts are there. Better than nothing.
But that is the trouble for Crater, an often-frustrating piece because of the strong message it has and the application of its charm in the form of flashbacks with an incredible, well-reasoned turn from Kid Cudi. More entertainment for families can be found in a clip of Leonard Cohen laughing and saying the word “monkey” out of context. Still, if children can maintain level heads in space, perhaps travelling beyond the stars will not be too bad. Disney hopes to use this psychological warfare, this training tool to distribute to the forced astronauts of the future, as a way of getting into their own space race. Surely that is the aim here. Line up the children, fire them off in rockets beyond the stars, the illusion of travelling beyond our means a cheap trick to get us in Victorian-era mines on a moon somewhere unpronounceable. We were brought up on the Space Race, now they expect us to clean toilets. How can you make do with that?