Netflix’s newest film, Rim of the World is an adventure filled with emotion and excitement. The intrigue, heart, humor and spectacle of the characters are what makes this story tick. The film, written by Zack Stentz and directed by McG, has a Spielberg-ian sense of adventure, with a John Hughes coming-of-age feel. It’s a throwback to the 80s, with a modern sensibility.
The four kids that carry the movie do not seem relatable at first, but it’s each of their dual natures that helps humanize them. They are these very eccentric archetypes on the surface, with more revealed as we go.
Alex (Jack Gore) has a more impressive computer set up than the people who did the special effects for the movie; But there is an also an inherent sweetness about him. Gabriel (Alessio Scalzotto) is the mysterious cool guy who seems like fighting aliens is just another day of the week. But there is also a darkness to him. ZhenZhen (Miya Cech) is cold and mysterious. But there is also a painful emotional undertone to her. Dariush (Benjamin Flores Jr) is a cool and cocky millionaire. But there is also a fragile loneliness to him.
As the story progresses, and we spend more time with these characters, we realize that the nerd, the criminal, the orphan, and the joke are way more than their one word descriptors. A good character journey leaves them in a different place than they started. Not physically, but as a person. Stentz was able to do that with all four of them. Stentz’s strength is writing family relationships. The strongest aspect of Thor, which he co-wrote, is the relationship between Thor, his brother, and his father. Stentz also wrote one of the best episodes of The Flash ever made. Titled “The Runaway Dinosaur,” the episode focused on Barry’s relationships with every single person in his life that he ever loved. That same sensibility is seen in full force in Rim of the World. That is why it is so satisfying to see the protagonist Alex go from nerdy stereotype, to adventure hero. The arc Stentz gave him, and the way McG laid it out, was expertly done. The story teases trauma, and only gives you pieces of what that is until the climax calls for it.
The macguffin was a fun and effective way to move the story forward. Returning a key to a base is a simple premise, but it can work quite well when surrounded by such a charismatic cast. Rim of the World does not rely on star power or world-building to keep people watching. Instead, giving us strong characters with a clear and concise mission does the trick.
The way the story begins can lend itself to a number of different endings. That same beginning (a group of misfits arriving at a summer camp, not the outerspace prologue) can be used for a raunchy teen comedy, a slasher horror flick, or even a dramatic “finding yourself” tale. It doesn’t take long for Rim of the World to find its own identity though, and carve a unique niche in the genre.
Throughout the film, there are homages to everything close that came before it. There is a tense scene reminiscent of the raptors chasing the children in the kitchen in Jurassic Park. The banter between the kids lends itself to comparisons to The Goonies but with modern references, such as Wolverine, John Wick, and Marley and Me.
Rim of the World borrows a trope from Peanuts, in that the adults don’t matter. The adults are unimportant, one dimensional stereotypes. They are there to fill a story need, nothing more. When the story gets rid of most of them in the first act, the film really begins to shine.
Some of the dialogue can come off as a bit racially insensitive, but the point is that these are not polished, proper kids. They are all seriously flawed, and the bond the four of them have by the end, transcends any bad habits they learned from adult guardians. There is some graphic sex talk too, but kids know more about that now than past generations, so it makes sense that their minds would go there. It makes Rim Of The World have a bit more edge than some of the cleaner and wholesome adventures it gets compared too. However, let’s not forgot that Elliot called his brother “penis breath” in E.T. The Extraterrestrial, and that a few of the boys in The Goonies made sex jokes too. This is just the 2019 version of that.
McG gets great performances out of the kids, and frames the action (and terror) sequences well. The emotion is felt at almost every turn, and you become empathetic to what the kids are feeling. Between Stentz’s knack for heart-through-words, and McG’s willingness to let an emotional moment sit there as long as a moment of spectacle, Rim of the World doesn’t feel like it lacks much of anything.
The lesson taught here is a timeless one that is seen in movies again and again. Never underestimate what you are capable of. It’s okay to be scared. It’s okay to be different. Being scared and different might just might save the world one day. Yes, movies like that tend to follow a formula, but so does your grandmother’s famous cookie recipe, and those are delightful every time.
Rim of the World is a fun film that teaches a good lesson. It’s one of Netflix’s best releases of the year, and will still be enjoyable on future rewatches in years to come.
Rim of the World is now streaming exclusively on Netflix.