Rim of the World
This well-oiled entertainment-machine takes us back to the 1980s era of kids-adventure films like Goonies (1985) and Explorers (1985). Director McG, best known for his lively Charlie’s Angels movies of the early 2000s, has recently made a comeback (for his old, faithful fans, at least) with his previous The Babysitter (2017), also a Netflix production. That one has already birthed a sequel, The Babysitter: Killer Queen (2020).
The style of genre-hopping aspired to by The Perfection is second nature to McG: like Joseph Kahn, his heir apparent in the music-video-to-cinema succession, he has a supremely playful way of flipping a story and bouncing from one set of cartoonish movie clichés to another.
So Rim of the World starts with a crisis in outer space, but instantly plummets down to the monitor-filled bedroom of a lonely nerd, Alex (Jack Gore). Was the opening scene just some corny video Jack watched? As it turns out, no – but first, we need to be introduced to an excruciatingly chummy, summer camp experience for the reluctant Jack and two other similarly “special” kids, Chinese orphan Zhenzhen (Miya Cech) and rich brat Darius (Benjamin Flores Jr.).
At the very moment they bump into Gabriel (Alessio Scalzotto), a mysterious outsider also in their age bracket, then wouldn’t you know it – the alien invasion begins. In a typically reflexive gag, our heroes can only speculate on the aliens’ reasons for attacking by referring to other space-invasion movies.
From there, it’s mainly an alternation between swift action set-pieces reminiscent of the Alien (1979-2017) or Jurassic Park (1993-2018) franchises – in this case, the creatures have a neat trick of rapid self-regeneration – and therapeutic, sentimental camaraderie in the school of The Breakfast Club (like in that 1985 John Hughes classic, the young teens here type themselves as Nerd, Criminal, Orphan and Joke).
Eventually, it may be up to these kids to save the entire planet – or at least the USA, since a throwaway line of exposition flatly informs us that “Europe is destroyed and Asia decimated”! Talented screenwriter Zack Stentz has been down this youthful wish-fulfilment road before: prior to his work on several Marvel epics, he penned the “juvenile James Bond” comedy-adventure, Agent Cody Banks (2003).
In Rim of the World, we see one of the identifying marks of what could be called the Netflix Film: not exactly the highest-end digital effects, perfectly serviceable yet also a little artificial-looking, even sometimes primitive. To my relatively technically-untrained eye, fire is the biggest giveaway: the flames always look painted on, and no character really seems in any danger as they pass through them. That, and the multiple or serial vistas created by a sophisticated cut-and-paste: mocked-up, overhead-angled animations of a city or field with a hundred identical bodies, buildings or animals.
Personally, I enjoy this slightly contrived look, reminiscent of a thousand B movies of yore in the action, adventure, horror and SF genres – after all, David Lynch exploited such a deliberately naïve aesthetic in Twin Peaks: The Return (2017). And the pleasure of that kind of audiovisual nostalgia is certainly not lost on McG, either.
© Adrian Martin May 2019