After I ripped Dog Days last week, people are going to start accusing me of not liking dogs.
I am a cat person. Still, that does not affect my reviews at all.
Alpha is set 20,000 years ago and shows the domestication of the wolf into the dog, which happens over a few months (Sarcasm, if you cannot tell).
Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee) is the son of the chief (Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson) of a tribe and the tribe is preparing to head out to hunt the Beast (aka buffalo) before the winter snow arrives. During this hunt, Keda ends up being thrown from off a cliff and left for dead by the tribe. However, the plucky lad survives his fall and meets up with a wolf pack. He is able to stab the alpha wolf in defense causing the others to run away. Instead of putting this wolf out of its misery, Keda decides to nurse it back to health, all the while training the wolf that he was the boss. The wolf slowly understands the lessons and bonds with the boy and they start off in an attempt to return to Keda’s people before the onset of winter.
Let me mention the positives first because there are some. There are some wonderfully shot images of the world that this is taking place in. The cinematography is beautiful and some of the shots appear to be picturesque in execution. Secondly, a lot of the actual relationship stuff between Keda and the wolf, which he names Alpha, work. Sure it is somewhat formulaic, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. The whole a boy and his dog vibe works in several spots in the film. Finally, I did appreciate that they had a language that was not English and the film had subtitles to read. Had Keda been speaking English, it would have made it even more ridiculous than it already was.
The biggest problem I had was that Keda must have been some kind of mutant healer because he went through so much trauma to his body that I did not believe for one minute that he was not already dead. Just in the trailers (which I hated by the way) alone, you see him fall off the cliff, reset a broken leg between a splint, and fall through the ice and go completely under water. There were even more things that happened to him that were not included in the trailers that I won’t spoil. I’m thinking to myself that this kid needed a hospital, but he kept shaking off these potentially crippling and debilitating injuries only to be running from the wolf pack in the next scene.
And he spent way too much time under that ice. I kept thinking about Jack London’s “To Build a Fire” the whole time wondering how he intended not to freeze to death. And he did not even cut open that wolf to sleep inside it a la Leonardo DiCaprio in the Revenant
Thank goodness that Wolverine/Deadpool healing factor kicked in.
Or maybe there is some kind of special healing gusto in eating grubs. They seemed to help both man and wolf after eating them. Yum?
There were several parts of the film that ended up being, basically, a lot of walking. Sure, it was beautifully shot majestic walking, but that doesn’t mean that just walking is good enough. It made that 90 + minute film feel considerably longer.
The film kept taking close up shots of Alpha and, in my own smart-ass way, I kept giving an internal monologue for the wolf which was usually something like “I’m gonna rip his throat out” or “I wonder what this kid tastes like?” Alpha would lend itself to a RiffTrax show.
And I was rolling my eyes so much at the end of this movie with the ridiculousness of the conclusion. The final ten minutes were just terrible even while they were sweet.
I hate these trailers, but I had seen the Rotten Tomato score was in the 80s% so I had hope that I would like this more than the trailers. I did like it more than the trailers, but that is not saying much. It was a well shot film with a nice boy-wolf relationship at the core, but the rest of the film degraded those positives.
When Alpha was howling in pain, I could relate.