Alpha movie review: dog tired

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Alpha yellow light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

The remarkable Ice Age setting is all that distinguishes — and not by much — a depressingly conventional boy-and-his-dog story.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): love a good dog story
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

It’s the first boy-and-his-dog story! Of course it’s a boy who tamed a wolf to become the first doggo: patriarchal bullshit was fully in place in the imagined world of Ice Age Europe, 20,000 years ago, of Alpha. (I briefly mistook the name of screenwriter Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt to be a female one. I was wrong.) Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee: Deadpool 2, Slow West) is the son of the — male, natch — chief, Tau (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson: Atomic Blonde, Noah), who must be trained up for leadership one day, because men lead and leadership is a thing that must be prepared for by manly hunting because literally what other way of organizing human society could there possibly be? The evo psych is strong with this one. (There’s a lady shaman [Leonor Varela: All I Wish, Captive], but she, it seems, is a rubber stamp for the chief: she doesn’t bless the hunting party until the chef gives her a nod of approval to do so.)

“...and I packed your extra woolly-mammoth socks. Now don’t go bringing home any strays! Oh, see, honey, I just invented humanity’s first momism.”
“…and I packed your extra woolly-mammoth socks. Now don’t go bringing home any strays! Oh, see, honey, I just invented humanity’s first momism.”

So off Keda goes on his first hunt, even though his stay-at-home mom, Rho (Natassia Malthe: This Means War, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief), frets that her son “hunts with his heart, not with his spear” and will probably get himself killed. Indeed, Keda cannot even bring himself to finish off a wounded boar that the hunting party has brought down for dinner on the inexplicably looooong journey to the hunting grounds. (It seems like the little Cro-Magnon village could be closer to where the food is. It’s not like the weather is any better where they’ve settled, as we see.) Still, that means the softhearted boy will later refrain from killing a wolf that is wounded while hunting him after Keda gets separated from Dad and the others. With remarkable ease and speed — considering that no one in human history appears to have even considered such a thing before — Keda will make friends with the wolf (played by Chuck, a Czech wolfdog, which is, ironically, a new breed). Here is the first game of fetch! Here is the first water bowl! Please no skritches yet, we’re still semiwild! Okay, skritches now accepted! Awww, cute!

The CGI megafauna is as cheesy as Morgan Freeman’s voice-of-god narration…
tweet

“Life is for the strong!” Tau had warned Keda, and here the boy is, finding a new kind of strength, in partnering up with a rival on the game trail. And that’s not a terrible message, that there are many different ways of being strong. But the remarkable setting here is just about all the distinguishes this familiar tale from so many like it that have come before… and it doesn’t even take many chances with that, beyond director Albert Hughes’s (The Book of Eli, From Hell) bold decision to offer up all the dialogue in what is basically a kiddie adventure in an unspecified ancient language (subtitled). The CGI megafauna that populates these spectacular and breathtakingly unspoiled vistas is as cheesy as Morgan Freeman’s voice-of-god narration importuning us to appreciate just how foundational to human civilization Keda’s actions here are. We might appreciate this more if how it is presented to us didn’t feel so depressingly conventional.



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Debbie Sens
Debbie Sens
Fri, Aug 24, 2018 1:07am

I really enjoyed this movie because of the scenery and I am a sucker for prehistory–but my eyes rolled in the back of my head at the whole, be an alpha thing! At least it showed him being sensitive and good with animals as a good thing though and not a sign of weakness. They should have given the Shaman lady, and the one female hunter better parts too.

Isobel_A
Isobel_A
Fri, Aug 24, 2018 10:30am

Meh. It isn’t even scientifically accurate. Isn’t the consensus now that dogs basically domesticated themselves, followng groups of people around and helping us deal with our leftovers?

Debbie Sens
Debbie Sens
reply to  Isobel_A
Sat, Aug 25, 2018 12:35am

it did have quite the archaic portrayal of the Ice age didn’t it? Although I thought it was cats that domesticated themselves?

David_Conner
David_Conner
reply to  Isobel_A
Sat, Aug 25, 2018 3:07pm

I think it was a two way street. Certainly dogs wouldn’t have become as irrevocably separate from wolves without thousands of years of selective breeding.

I have to admit I’m a sucker for the “relationship that changed the world” stuff, though.

Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce
reply to  Isobel_A
Thu, Aug 30, 2018 12:06pm

No..consensus is that Cats domesticated themselves….

Ash
Ash
Sun, Aug 26, 2018 3:35pm

Why are you so angry?

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Ash
Sun, Aug 26, 2018 6:25pm

If you’re not angry, you’re not paying attention.

Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce
reply to  Bluejay
Thu, Aug 30, 2018 12:08pm

yeh..Anger is such a “healing” emotion…(enter Antifah…)

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  Ash
Sun, Aug 26, 2018 6:43pm

She’s angry because she watches the news. And she’s angry because of things like these:

https://www.flickfilosopher.com/2014/11/movies-fail-girls-women-fans-filmmakers-alike.html

But if you’re assuming that she must be angry just because she doesn’t like a trite, sexist movie, you may be reading some things into the review.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Danielm80
Tue, Aug 28, 2018 10:25am

It’s not even that the movie itself is sexist, more that it’s telling a familiar story we’ve seen too many times before before Hollywood overall is sexist. We literally did not need another boy-and-his-dog story. A girl-and-her-dog story would have been fresh.

Doug Weaver
Doug Weaver
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Actually we need more boy/gir, dog stories with positive endings ma’am. You just need to stay away from them as they obviously lead to you trolling other people that don’t ‘think’ like you.

I thought you hateful people OWNED the tolerance issue?

Not really.

Debbie Sens
Debbie Sens
reply to  Ash
Mon, Aug 27, 2018 12:10am

How in the world does she sound angry? She actually gave the film a fairly good review. Since the film was supposed to be historical in nature, criticizing the outdated views on hunters and gatherers is perfectly valid. Wolves don’t even have alphas, and neither do humans.

Doug Weaver
Doug Weaver
reply to  Debbie Sens
Sun, Aug 16, 2020 4:10pm

Are you really saying in public that wolf packs don’t have male and female alphas?

My BS degree is wildlife management (canis lupis behavior is my speciality), with an animal husbandry minor.

EVERY SPECIES of mammals have alphas that have nothing to do with genitalia. The key with wolves is size. A Mackenzie Valley, tundra wolf, male, outweighs the females by sometimes 100%. That pretty much establishes that pecking order even over the alpha female.

Your ignorance of human and animal behavior is stunning but I’m thinking you’re a lib who’s CHOSEN willful ignorance. Beta humans share that trait…..

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Ash
Tue, Aug 28, 2018 10:24am

Guys like you, mostly.

LaSargenta
LaSargenta
reply to  Ash
Tue, Aug 28, 2018 3:34pm

Why are you so predictable?

Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce
Wed, Aug 29, 2018 1:05pm

What a pedestrian, monotonous, ponderous feminist bag of BS…MJ is full of estrogen driven anxiety because a movie reflects what is probably close to the “truth!?”…it’s just how it probably was MJ…period. Now go sit in the corner, sucking your thumb, whimpering, like the coward you are…bending the truth for feminism is propaganda.

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Edgar Cayce
Wed, Aug 29, 2018 1:38pm

This comment is the frantic bravado of someone terrified that feminists and their allies are raising their voices and gaining ground. Have fun spewing your vitriol, because that’s not going to change the fact that your “alpha” days (or the ILLUSION that you were ever “alpha”) are numbered.

Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce
reply to  Bluejay
Wed, Aug 29, 2018 1:57pm

Have you seen the Movie?…didn’t think so….

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  Edgar Cayce
Wed, Aug 29, 2018 2:30pm

It’s not about the Movie, mister random Capitalization. It’s about the sexism in YOUR comment, and about you being a bullying dickwad asshat. Run along home, little boy.

Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce
reply to  Bluejay
Thu, Aug 30, 2018 12:04pm

“It’s not about the Movie!?”…on a Movie Review site? What frigging Planet are you living on?…Ms. random anxiety, angst ridden, syntax OCD, gender impaired, vagina hat, male hater…(…note the random ellepsis usage “trigger”…)…CURVY GIRL…besides, my Avatar is way cooler than your Avatar…apparently your Avatar mimics your ego…so large you can’t fit it in the little box…just saying…

Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce
Wed, Aug 29, 2018 2:00pm

Not one mention by the Feminist fools reviewing the movie that the Wold was Female…just saying….

Edgar Cayce
Edgar Cayce
Thu, Aug 30, 2018 12:05pm

SPOILER ALERT!…Not one mention by the Feminist fools reviewing the movie that the Wolf was Female…just saying….

BdubIndy
BdubIndy
Thu, Nov 01, 2018 2:17am

Someone needs a hobby and a massage. If you can’t review a film without applying some bs feminist slant then get a new job.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  BdubIndy
Thu, Nov 01, 2018 12:04pm

We can hear your fear. Get used to it. The women are here for your power and privilege.

BdubIndy
BdubIndy
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Nov 01, 2018 1:42pm

What? I can’t hear you over my male awesomeness.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  BdubIndy
Thu, Nov 01, 2018 6:06pm

BRAD’S DELUSIONS OF AWESOMENESS: A CAUTIONARY TALE FROM LATE-STAGE PATRIARCHY.

Preorder my comic novel now on Amazon!

Danielm80
Danielm80
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Nov 01, 2018 6:23pm

Brad refuses to shop on Amazon, because it’s named for a tribe of man-hating feminists.

BdubIndy
BdubIndy
reply to  MaryAnn Johanson
Thu, Nov 01, 2018 6:36pm

Ever wonder why women want watches when most stoves have clocks?

Bluejay
Bluejay
reply to  BdubIndy
Thu, Nov 01, 2018 7:11pm

It’s because when they’re upending their husbands and stuffing their heads into the oven, sometimes the husbands’ big fat asses block the view of the stove clock. The women would then need an alternate way to time the head-broiling process, so that afterwards they can step out of the house and fix everything the men fucked up.

MaryAnn Johanson
reply to  Bluejay
Fri, Nov 02, 2018 12:07pm

He’s banned.