Welcome to “The Next Geek Thing,” where we bring you tomorrow’s pop culture legends today. In this installment we take a look at the original Netflix movie “Rim of the World.”
This movie was directed by McG. As Troy McClure of “The Simpsons” would put it, you might remember him from such movies as “Terminator: Salvation” and the Cameron Diaz era “Charlie’s Angels.” It stars Jack Gore, Miya Cech, Alessio Scalzotto, and Benjamin Flores, Jr., as four kids who meet at a summer camp just in time to save the world from an alien invasion. Among the adults the closest things we get to big name stars are Annabeth Gish (who helped fill out the last two seasons of “The X-Files”) and Michael Beach (Black Manta’s dad in “Aquaman”).
“Rim of the World” is not a sequel, remake, or adaptation. To its credit, McG serves up more characterization in the first 15 minutes than he ever could in his Terminator movie. Unlike what we would expect from Roland Emmerich or Michael Bay, the alien invasion effects serve the plot and characterization, not the other way around. But this movie is a real gut check for audience bravery. Trying to face this much cliché head on is like a certain geeky kid trying to climb a summer camp tower and zip line from it.
Considering the unnecessary sex jokes alone (“Put it in the box”), there is reason to cringe. It’s one thing to see a Charlie’s Angels movie where Cameron Diaz, Drew Barrymore, and Lucy Liu recite disco lyrics (“Do a little dance…make a little love…get down tonight”). These days, teen movies not named “Booksmart” could be handled a little more delicately, at least until Hollywood figures out how not to titillate pedophiles. Only if your name is Roy Moore would you ever want to hear a Nelly song about taking off your clothes being used in a mall scene with teenage protagonists.
For what it’s worth, the movie tries to be self-aware when a couple of counselors talk by a campfire: “Why are we talking like black men from the 80s?” “’Cause they want us to!” This raises the question of whether or not calling attention to cliché excuses the cliché, or is itself a new postmodern cliché. Only the audience knows the answer.
Jordan Hoffman at TV Guide summed things up quite nicely: “The clockwork storyline is brazen in its adherence to formula, as if a Learning Annex seminar somehow came to life and sat down and got hold of screenwriting software.” If you take enough seminars or college writing courses, you might hear the part where name dropping other movies in your own movie is supposed to be a no-no. If you have to name drop other movies, it means your own movie is too weak to stand up on its own merits. And that’s what leads us to our ongoing discussion of movie throwbacks.
It’s easy to disqualify a movie or TV show from being The Next Geek Thing on the basis of being a sequel, remake, or adaptation. Isn’t the entire problem the idea that the 60s through the 90s are the pop culture zenith and so future generations have nothing left for their own? Are today’s and tomorrow’s kids stuck with throwbacks to movies that their parents grew up on? Well, that’s why this series is here, to wrestle with those big questions.
Broadly speaking, a throwback is something in a new movie that references an old movie, usually from the 80s. The presence of throwback may or may not disqualify the movie, depending on a sliding case by case scale of type, amount, role, and context.
“Rim of the World” has a cameo-level throwback to “Star Wars,” consisting of a mall display with cosplay mannequins. The usage of sci-fi tropes does not in itself constitute a throwback, and in fact we expect them, going forward. It’s the name dropping throwbacks we have to talk about. Oh, the name drops. So many name drops. So much name drops.
Please, McG, make it stop.
Here’s just a quick sample of the name drop throwbacks in this movie: “Dora the Explorer,” “Independence Day,” “The Purge,” “Silence of the Lambs” (when a minor character is called “Buffalo Bill),” and “getting DiCaprioed.” And there’s so much, much more where that came from. Seriously, you could watch this movie and have a drinking game for every name drop reference that occurs.
(Please ensure that you are of legal age and drink responsibly. The CineMasoCast is not responsible for hangovers that result from watching “Rim of the World.”)
And this is before we get to the use of 80s music in the soundtrack. At least here we get a really cute scene with the kids driving along and head bopping to “Straight Outta Compton.” There is one standout good name drop moment, and that’s when two of the kids turn their own names into a throwback to real world history (“This time, Darius gets to be the hero”).
Sometimes throwbacks might be justified on basis of role in the movie and context. When a Rubik’s Cube appears more than once, it’s because one of the kids lost his dad, and he’s walking around with a couple of his dad’s mementoes. Both of the mementoes are in fact used at different points to further the plot. The Rubik’s Cube throwback wouldn’t be disqualifying outright, but it does raise an important point: Given that kids often have dead parents as a backstory issue, how often are we going to see them walk around with 80s objects on that basis?
It would be one thing to evaluate this movie on the basis of cliché. Plenty of movies will come and go that are cliché A.F. and still fun to watch. I dare say, “Rim of the World” worked hard and earned its 33% on Rotten Tomatoes. For our criteria, though, most of all, it comes down to the sheer volume of unnecessary name drop throwbacks. On that basis, I am ready to call it.
“Rim of the World” is not the Next Geek Thing. But as long as Netflix plays fair with the movie rights, it could very well be the next Mystery Science Theater 3000 episode.
So there you have it. Thanks so much for joining us. We’d love to know what you think. Please leave us your constructive comments, here, on Facebook, and on Twitter.
And while you’re at it, why not drop a nomination for other movies and TV shows? Who knows, maybe your suggestion might find its way into a future column!
See you next time, here at The CineMasoCast, as we continue our epic quest to find The Next Geek Thing!