Crater (2023) ☆☆☆(3/4): Their little adventure on the Moon

“Crater”, which was released on Disney+ in last week, is a predictable but fairly enjoyable product which simply has some little fun with its young main characters on the Moon. I must point out that it is rather inconsequential compared to other recent notable space drama films ranging from “Gravity” (2013) to “Ad Astra” (2019), but the movie still works to some degree mainly thanks to the game efforts from its young main cast members, and it actually has some genuine poignancy when it eventually arrives at its expected ending.

At first, the movie succinctly establishes how much the humanity had advanced in the middle of the 23rd century. There was a time when the Moon was regarded as another new place to live besides the Earth, but now it is no more than a mere mining spot due to the discovery of a distant but inhabitable planet outside the Solar system, where many people are eager to live even though it takes no less than 75 years to go there.

However, going to that new planet for the humanity feels like a distant dream out of reach for many people working and living on the Moon. Most of them have been bound by the unfair longtime contract of their big mining company, and, to make matters worse, their children are usually destined to follow their footsteps as virtually being forced to be stuck in the Moon just like them.

In case of Caleb Channing (Isaiah Russell-Bailey), this adolescent kid happens to get an unexpected opportunity of going to that alien planet for free, but that comes with the price. His father Michael (Scott Mescudi, who brings a lot more than demanded by his rather thankless supporting role), who raised his son alone for seven years since his wife died, got himself killed due to some unspecified accident while working at a nearby mine, and Caleb’s ticket to that alien planet is no more than a little compensation from that big mining company.

Caleb is naturally not so happy or excited about this situation, and he is all the more saddened about being separated forever from his three close friends: Dylan (Billy Barratt), Borney (Orson Hong), and Marcus (Thomas Boyce). At least, his friends are happy for him getting a chance to leave the Moon, and they are ready to have a little adventure along with him area just because 1) Caleb’s father told his son to go to a certain place outside their colony not long before his unfortunate death and 2) both Caleb and they really want to have an experience to remember for the rest of their lives before Caleb’s departure.

However, Caleb and his friends need to hurry themselves a bit more because Caleb will be taken to that alien planet no less than 72 hours later due to some unexpected schedule change. What they need right now is someone who can quickly get them a password which is sort of a master key for the gates of the colony, and that person in question is none other than Addison Weaver (Mckenna Grace), a smart young girl who recently came to the Moon along with her divorced scientist father. Although she does not welcome Caleb and his friends that much at first, she quickly gets interested after coming to learn about their plan, because, well, she has been simply bored by how uneventful and monotonous the life on the Moon is for her.

Once Addison manages to obtain that password, everything goes fairly well for Caleb and his friends. Along with Addison, they sneak into the garage where they can steal one of those big Moon rovers, and then they soon get out of the colony to their delight and excitement. Now they only have to do some road trip to their final destination, and they certainly go through small and big episodic moments during their little journey on the Moon.

What they behold and experience along their journey will not particularly surprise or amaze you much especially if you are a seasoned moviegoer familiar with countless space drama flicks out there, but the screenplay by John Griffin diligently rolls its story and characters from one point to another for more story and character development, and we come to care more about Caleb and his friends as getting to know them and their strong friendship more. Yes, they sometime clash with each other just like any other kids around their age, but they still care a lot about each other, and that is why they willingly take some risk when one of them needs to be rescued as soon as possible at one point.

Although Caleb is the least developed character in the bunch, that is compensated by his more colorful friends to some degree, and it surely helps that the young main cast members in the film occupy each own spot well as required. While Isaiah Russell-Bailey dutifully holds the center, Billy Barratt, Orson Hong, and Thomas Boyce have each own moment to shine, and McKenna Grace, a wonderful young actress who has steadily advanced since her breakout performance in “Gifted” (2017), shows more of her considerable potential and talent here.

In conclusion, “Crater”, which is directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, does not bring anything particularly new or fresh to its genre territory, but it mostly works as an intimate adventure story about hope, dream, and friendship, and I was touched enough by its bittersweet ending waiting for its main characters from the very beginning. In short, this is one of those safe products mainly for young audiences out there, but it does its job as well as intended, so I will not complain for now.

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