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Review: Crater (Disney+)

May 12, 2023

By John Corrado

★★★ (out of 4)

The year is 2257, and a group of kids are living in a mining colony on the moon. For most of them, life on the third rock from the sun is all they have ever known. This is the premise behind Crater, a new sci-fi movie being released on Disney Plus that feels like an old school adventure from the studio.

It’s easy to imagine the pitch meeting going something like “Stand By Me meets The Goonies in space,” but Crater carves out enough of its own identity as a mix of kids coming-of-age adventure movie and minor scale sci-fi drama, that explores some surprisingly darker themes.

To fulfil a promise to his father (Scott Mescudi) who has just passed away, Caleb (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) wants to explore a crater on the lunar surface, before leaving the moon forever for his new life on Omega, a colony that is 75 years away and will require him to be cryonically frozen to get there. With the help of his three best friends Dylan (Billy Barratt), Borney (Orson Hong) and Marcus (Thomas Boyce), as well as shy Earth girl Addison (Mckenna Grace), the kids steal a rover during a meteor shower and embark on a road trip to visit this far off crater.

If the road trip setup allows for moments of buoyancy, most of these kids are also resigned to the fact that they were born on the moon, weren’t taught anything outside of mining, and might never get to leave the place. While Caleb is being fast-tracked to Omega due to a death benefit left by his father, the other kids will only be allowed to leave the moon after putting in twenty years of labour mining helium. But these contracts can be extended by years at a time, with uncompleted hours passed down through generations. It’s a heavy burden, and the teen angst between them is understandable.

Directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, from a screenplay by John Griffin, Crater is perhaps most notable for being produced by Shawn Levy, with this Stranger Things connection being a main selling point. The film does at times feel like it is only scratching the surface of some of the deeper ideas baked into its world-building, such as how this colony operates and the exploitation of workers on the moon, and the comedic beats can be a little clunky. But Crater works as a consistently entertaining space adventure, that explores classic coming of age themes through a sci-fi lens.

The chemistry between the kids is key to how well it plays, with them capably carrying almost the entire movie on their shoulders through both playful moments and more dramatic scenes. It’s no Ad Astra or Interstellar, but for a kids adventure movie set on the moon, Crater delivers something enjoyable and with a decent-sized emotional impact, as it builds to a somewhat surprisingly heavy ending.

(L-R): Isaiah Russell-Bailey as Caleb, Mckenna Grace as Addison, Orson Hong as Borney, Thomas Boyce as Marcus and Billy Barratt as Dylan in CRATER, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2023 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Crater will be available to stream exclusively on Disney+ as of May 12th.

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