Does anyone remember all the way back in July of last year when the trailer for this was released? Well, Alpha, the latest endeavor from Albert Hughes ended up having its theatrical release delayed by nearly a year, with it’s original September 2017 release being moved to August of 2018. I, among others, saw it after hearing loads of amazing things about it! “It’s heartbreaking, it’s so moving, it is so amazing!” Well dear readers, I did not feel the same way as everyone else and let me explain why.
Well, as always I’ll start with the good and there is some things the movie does really well. So to my surprise, they actually created an entire language for the tribe to speak. There is absolutely no English spoken at all which, while probably making some people who brought their younger children upset, thoroughly impressed me. Also, some of the cinematography was just beautiful, including the shot of the buffalo tossing Keda over and some shots of the night sky being stunningly gorgeous. Definitely one of the better shot films of the year so far, even if what feels as a good 25 minutes of it is just a big blizzard and you can’t see anything.
Sadly, the positives are wrapped up and the time has come to talk about the negatives. First, while I did really enjoy the cinematography, my gosh was the CGI terrible. One scene features a large amount of wolves running around a tree and I swear it looked like whoever did the effects worked for 20 minutes and just said “Eh, whatever” and they left it in the movie. Also, near the end, they have a big reveal, which would have been a good way to end the movie. However, with the CGI, it turns a scene which could have been really cool and heartwarming into something quite laughably bad.
Next on the agenda are the characters. Now, they’re aren’t many characters in the film, which is definitely a good thing. However, with the few there are, you would expect one to be likable or just someone to root for, and you would be wrong. All the characters are either stereotypes (Strong Chief who happens to be Protagonist’s Father) or just super unlikable, like the main character Keda. Kodi Smit-McPhee tries, but the writing for the character is just so uninteresting. Also, if you look at the IMDB for this movie, it says Morgan Freeman is a narrator, but in the American release he does not speak once! Unforgivable!
We have now arrived at my final topic for the film, and it may seem a bit early for it, but don’t worry, as this is a big one. In Alpha, the story is just atrocious. Alpha is the story of how man and dog forged a bond that would last for millennia, but as we all know, dogs can’t talk. This means that they have to depend on visual storytelling, which in my opinion is a much more effective and impressive medium. (See the third act of Alien Vs. Predator to see this in action) However, I only find it impressive if it’s effective and in Alpha, it really isn’t.
In short, the communication can be summed up as the most basic forms of both humor and drama. It attempts to be funny in some moments, which it isn’t, and following that, Alpha will try to inject drama, which does anything but. Alpha suffers from the syndrome that a movie like The Good Dinosaur has. It’s a prehistoric “boy and his dog” story which in theory sounds amazing. The problem is however that a lack of good dialogue or likable characters extremely ways the movie down.
The movie starts with the buffalo stampede, and then flashes back to before their hunting expedition. Flashbacks are often a good way to make us care about characters, as in the opening scene of Alpha, you don’t really care about the characters. This is another thing the movie doesn’t know how to do, as it shows just one thing. That the characters are stereotypes, but I already talked about that. Then they work their way back to the opening scene and we have a story, a horribly boring story where you don’t care about the characters, their motivation, or that they make it out. Just that the dog doesn’t die.
So that’s my review of Alpha, I know it’s getting tons of praise from dog owners and such, and I understand that. I have a dog, but the thing is that having that dog didn’t make me enjoy the movie. It’s like how having a puppet didn’t make me like Happytime Murders or having a computer didn’t make me like Searching. I like Searching because it’s a great movie and I don’t like Happytime because it isn’t good. To close, I’ll say this – this isn’t the worst movie I’ve seen this year, but it’s close.