Tom Hanks doesn’t need a human or even a sane acting partner to film a movie or a scene. Think of Wilson on volleyball, Hooch and even that laptop from You’ve Got Mail. So it’s not at all surprising if he is the first guy on the list of your post-apocalyptic film about a man, a robot and a dog.
Even less surprising is that Hanks is showing Finch.. ”Playing a robotics engineer who is dying of radiation exposure and desperate to make sure his dog is taken care of when he leaves. This is a kind of package designed to hurt your innermost feelings. A dying Tom Hanks and a cute puppy? It is impossible to resist. And yet somehow it does not work out the way we would like.
The story began as a 20-page short film about a man who builds a robot to replace him as a dog keeper, with a film student named Craig Luck. He wanted it to become a calling card, and despite some initial deviations, his last name turned out to be a fitting one, as his idea captivated Ivor Powell, an associate producer of Blade Runner and Alien, co-authored by film writer Robert Zemeckis, which was produced by Hanks, Game of Thrones director Miguel Sapochnik, and a major Hollywood studio (although Universal ended up selling the film to Apple TV + during the pandemic).
Here, the Earth turned into a dusty wasteland after a solar event destroyed the ozone layer, and now direct sunlight is the most dangerous thing in the world. He prepares any living creature in a matter of seconds.
Unlike the lonely humans in The Exiled and The Martian, Finch has no family or home to return to. He is dying and the world around him is dying, and he just wants to do his best so the dog can live without him. The decision is hasty and imperfect – a robot that he will have to train on the go, and whose readiness is only 72% – but they run out of time and have to make a treacherous trip to San Francisco in a van from a motorhome. 80th.
This robot is impressively strong and intelligent, but he is more of a teenager than an obedient servant. And his accent is a cross between Russian and Twin Peaks, as the black lodges say. This is a choice made by actor Caleb Landry Jones (a hint of his appearance in the Twin Peaks revival?), Who also did motion capture to play the robot. And, well, I’m not sure if it’s the voice or how the character was written, but this robot is hard to root for. Sometimes you find yourself wanting to be never imagined at all, which is not good when he is one of the three characters.
Finch’s scope and scale was also clearly designed for a large screen and attentive audience, which can be difficult on a living room TV (the same can be said for another Tom Hanks epic from Apple TV +, Greyhound, which was still best movie.) While many of the visuals are familiar to anyone who has seen a post-apocalyptic movie in the last 20 years, they are nonetheless striking and detailed, and no doubt not enough even on the best small screen. The musical cues, meanwhile, couldn’t have been more obvious (ahem, “The Road to Nowhere”).
And it’s no one to blame for the film’s warning messages on how to postpone travel and live life, although it might be a little hard to swallow for an audience that is approaching its second year in a pandemic.
But you probably don’t go to Finch for lessons, you go to Finch for Hanks. The good news is that he is not only a reason to show up, but also a reason to stay.
Chaffinch, the Apple TV + edition available Friday, is rated PG-13 by the American Film Association for “short depictions of violence.” The duration of the performance is 115 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
MPAA Definition PG-13: Strongly Advised Parents. Some content may not be suitable for children under the age of 13.
Follow AP writer Lindsay Bar on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ldbahr