STARRING: KODI SMIT-MCPHEE; JOHANNES HAUKUR JOHANNESSON; MERCEDES DE LA ZERDA
DIRECTED BY: ALBERT HUGHES
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 1 ½ STARS (Out of 4)
The story of a boy and his dog has been told before, but Alpha explicitly markets itself as an origin story of man becoming best friends forever with our furry four legged friends. Sounds like a pretty simple concept, sending us back in time, 20,000 years to pre-historic Europe, where man speaks in a cave-man language, living with nature as their guide, and hunting wild animals for food. Instead of focusing on an adventurous journey of man bonding with beast for the audience to enjoy, Alpha is too preoccupied with showing CGI landscapes, and forcing us to endure our heroes painful trek. If this is supposed to be the origin story of how dogs became man's best friend, I wonder why they don't hate humans entirely?
It's time for young Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee), father Tau (Johannes Haukur Johannesson) and the rest of their fellow tribe to leave for the big hunt. Unfortunately, things go bad fast and a buffalo drags Keda off a cliff, causing him to break his ankle, and his people assume he is dead. He must find a way back to his people, but is faced with the obstacles of the wild unknown. Director/writer Albert Hughes (The Book of Eli) and co-writer Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt seem to want to tell us an endearing story, but from the wolf's point of view, they sure have a funny way of telling it. Let's just look at how Keda and Alpha “meet”. It begins with the pack of wolves chasing Keda up a tree, but not without the boy stabbing Alpha in the ribs. The rest of the herd has left Alpha to die and when Keda feels sorry, he nurses him back to health. They are both injured and only have each other, but does Keda really care? Or does he just want to get home?
From beginning to end, Alpha displays various landscapes of mountains, hills, wild animals along the plains, cool blue lakes, and twinkling stars above. Instead of the visuals being a service to the story, they come off as a glorified screensaver. It looks cool at first, but this movie does it so much it knocks us over the head like a wooden club. Not to mention, the journey for Keda and Alpha is quite boring. I didn't fall asleep during the 96-minute run-time, but I thought about it. A majority of the challenges they face along the way involve Alpha saving Keda from a charging warthog, being stuck under ice, and even fighting off a massive black panther. If I was Alpha, I would have left this guy to die a long time ago.
The dialogue is through subtitles in the cave-man language, which I can't verify if it really existed or not. For all I know it's just a series of grunts and groans. As Alpha began to wind down I was just hoping that the wolf hero would survive, instead of dying, which would play with our emotions. Hughes doesn’t go for the easy Marley & Me ending, instead Alpha throws a hail marry twist that received thunderous laughs in my press screening. *Spoiler* It turns out that our hero wolf was pregnant with a litter of pups the entire journey. The reveal of the baby wolves is adorable, but it's too little and much too late for me to care. Alpha is not the leader of the pack.
1 ½ STARS
Written by: Leo Brady