What’s new, everyone? Apple TV+ has just dropped a movie that mixes WALL-E, Castaway, Chappie, and Turner & Hooch while taking a route through the buddy road trip genre: Finch, the post-apocalyptic science-fiction flick starring Tom Hanks as eponymous inventor Finch Weinberg, who is trying to survive in a near-future world that was devastated by solar flares leaking through holes in the ozone layer a decade ago. Becoming ill from UV radiation and with his death looming on the horizon, Finch builds a robot (Caleb Landry Jones, who is best known for his villainous role in Get Out) who comes to call himself Jeff and starts preparing him to become his dog Goodyear’s (Seamus, who was a rescue dog) guardian. Upon receiving warning of a superstorm that’s about to generate around Finch’s St. Louis-based bunker, though, he is forced to pack up his RV and take Goodyear, Jeff, and the Mars Rover-like robot Dewey on a cross-country road trip to San Francisco.
I found Finch to be quite an enjoyable movie that contrasts with the bleak barbarity of most post-apocalyptic stories by riding high on its bounty of bright charm and genuine heart. I’m not saying Finch doesn’t have its dark moments, but they don’t overwhelm the movie’s generally hopeful tone. While the spec script from Craig Luck (he wrote the short film script on which Finch was based) and Ivor Powell (associate producer of Blade Runner and Alien) could have been tightened up at certain points, it’s a solid and well-paced, if not conventional, product that director Miguel Sapochnik ably translates onscreen (he made his feature directorial debut with the 2010 organ-seizing action thriller Repo Men, but for the most part, his background is in television, with directorial credits spanning several episodes of Game of Thrones, including “The Longest Night,” “The Bells,” and the Emmy-winning “Battle of the Bastards”; one episode of the Netflix Marvel show Iron Fist; and the series premiere of Netflix’s Altered Carbon. In addition, he’ll serve as showrunner and executive producer for the GOT prequel spinoff House of the Dragon).
It doesn’t hurt that a grizzly-bearded Tom Hanks, who has always been adept at carrying entire films on his shoulders, elevates the material as its enormously watchable star. Glimpses of other people are rarely shown, making him the only major human presence we get to see onscreen—a trait that this optimistic movie shares with the much more despairing Castaway, which is coincidental, since Castaway director Robert Zemeckis is one of several executive producers for Finch. Furthermore, Hanks has tons of chemistry with his non-human costars. I’m quite glad Goodyear is played by a real dog rather than a CGI entity à la the Harrison Ford-starring adaptation of Jack London’s The Call of the Wild. As for Jeff, the writing follows a fairly paint-by-numbers arc as he learns how to look after Goodyear, making some naïve mistakes and doling out Encyclopedic Robo-Factoids along the way (the latter of which I could have done with less). He’s nonetheless a charismatic bot who, with his convincing visuals, feels like he really is onscreen bonding with his fellow travelers and evolving his personhood.
As much as I appreciate the robot CGI from visual effects supervisor Scott Stokdyk and his team (on top of overseeing the VFX for movies like The Fifth Element, Starship Troopers, Titanic, and Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, Stokdyk’s work on Spider-Man 2won him and his team an Oscar), I do wish the location and weather CGI could have matched its quality level. Whenever I saw something like the badlands background that is clearly green screen behind the characters or the tornadoes that look like they came from an early-aughts disaster movie, I couldn’t help but yearn for some additional reworking.
The emotions stay strong all the way up to the conclusion, which you’ll see coming from miles away but is no less of a heart-wrencher. Oddly enough, it also left me wondering if this could lead into a sequel. While I don’t see much chance of that happening, I wouldn’t be at all opposed to a continuation of the characters’ journey.
In the end, the worst thing I can say about Finch is that it is quite formulaic, but it doesn’t really have to break any Post-Apocalyptic Survival boundaries as long as it can get me invested in the humanity of its leads and their trek. It actually reminds me of CODA, yet another Apple TV+ movie that draws on all the Family Dramedy clichés and turns out to be an emotionally compelling story all the same. However, I came out of CODA deeming it a must-see, whereas Finch doesn’t quite have that extra oomph for me to rank it so high. But I still recommend streaming it if you have the time to watch a good ol’ post-apocalyptic voyage that can make almost two hours fly by.
Until next time, stay healthy and stay strong!
Windup score: 70/100