Written by John Griffin and directed by Kyle Patrick Alvarez, Crater is a Dinsey+ Original movie about five friends who take the lunar road trip of a lifetime after Caleb’s (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) dad dies in the lunar mines. Several hundred years from now, the moon is a mining colony and employees’ children are promised a trip to Omega if both of their parents die on the job.
Crater feels very in the vein of a Disney Chanel Original Movie from their halcyon days when the concepts were fun and farfetched but the messages ran deep. A road trip on the moon? What kid wouldn’t see that commercial and be counting down the days until it premiered? But a movie that’s entire plot revolves around dead parents, raw corporate deals, constant mortal peril, and is underpinned by climate anxiety? That’s a level above the standard children’s affair that makes Crater stand out.
The road trip of it all is a blast. It’s simply a group of kids who steal a lunar rover during a meteor shower to fulfill Caleb’s dad’s dying wish that he go see what’s in a special crater a day’s drive away. But like a good road trip movie, the fun parts are fun, but the bonding is just as important. All five characters get to learn, grow, overcome fears, divulge their love for one another, and spark the beginnings of new relationships that will last lifetimes. And that notion of a lifetime is constantly present, adding all kinds of more mature emotions and questions to the experience.
Caleb has no say in the matter, he must go to Omega when the meteor shower passes. And that trip takes 75 years in cryo sleep. By the time he arrives, he’ll still be a kid, but all of his friends will be old or dead, as he puts it. The kids all know these are their last days together, but instead of being all negative and dismal about it, especially Dylan (Billy Barratt), Caleb’s best friend who makes it abundantly clear that he’s happy Caleb gets to go to Omega because it means Caleb will be taking a piece of all five of them there with him. It’s a precious display of friendship and a wonderful example of what being a truly supportive friend can look like — a rarity in movies about teenagers.
Crater also handles death quite well. Most of the characters in the movie have encountered death, and all of them certainly encounter mortal peril during the course of the movie itself. There’s never, as an adult, much concern that somebody is going to die in the movie, but there are multiple highly suspenseful scenes that force the characters to confront mortality in a way where they reflect on their own experiences with losing parents fairly meaningfully. It’s a supremely difficult subject, but one that plenty of kids endure themselves, and any movie that approaches the subject positively is a win in my book.
The ending also had me weeping. There’s an undercurrent of climate anxiety clearly running throughout the movie. Maybe children who aren’t climate anxious yet won’t pick up on it, but why are people so desperate to get to Omega in the first place? You have to assume that the Earth of this future is losing its ability to sustain life and a Planet B is one of the only options. But again, rather than taking the easy, negative approach to a collapsing society and planet, Crater offers glimmers of hope. The movie does a great job of building out the world its characters inhabit through their dialogue and the locations they explore on their road trip. So by the time you get to the epilogue, all of the final exposition is deeply rewarding and cathartic. I was really emotional watching and listening to the final moments, not just because the movie capped off its threads perfectly, but because it made me feel like the future might not be so horrible after all, even if this future was a bit outlandish.
Crater is a great kid’s movie. The VFX of its imaged lunar world is swell, the characters and their journies are all impactful, and the positivity the movie is able to maintain without coming across as either hokey or preachy is impressive. I was left feeling good by the end, even as a lot of sad and harrowing things take place over its runtime.
Crater is streaming now on Disney+.
Crater is a great kid’s movie. The VFX of its imaged lunar world as swell, the characters and their journies are all impactful, and the positivity the movie is able to maintain without coming across as either hokey or preachy is impressive. I was left feeling really good by the end, even as a lot of sad and harrowing things take place over its runtime.