Friday, April 12, 2024

Arcadian: Nic Cage’s Parenting Skills

If you think your dad is overprotective now, just imagine what he would be like after the monster-apocalypse. Paul’s two teenaged sons do not have to imagine. Thomas and Joseph have basically been grounded their entire lives. To be fair, there really are insectoid mutant creatures roaming around their farmhouse after dark. The tightly wound dad understands they grow up eventually, but when they show a little defiance, it leads to desperate peril in Benjamin Brewer’s Arcadian, which opens today in New York.

Judging from the prologue, there was some kind of war and now everyone fears the bug-monsters. The details are sketchy, but it can’t be helped, regardless. Paul has protected his sons with Papa-bear intensity, but they are teens now, which always means trouble. He does not have to worry so much about studious Joseph, the low-stress brother. On the other hand, brother Thomas acts like a character on
Dawson’s Creek. He would rather be flirtatiously hanging with Charlotte, the only teen girl within miles. Her parents seem to like him, but the other residents of the compound are not as friendly.

One day, Thomas bails on his salvaging expedition with Joseph, jaunting off to visit Charlotte instead. When he fails to return that night, Paul goes out looking for him, leaving Joseph to defend the house against freaky big monsters.

is the sort of film that is greater in the sum of its parts than its whole. There are a handful of brilliant scenes, including one showpiece that starts out as a War of the Worlds homage and turns into Home Alone. However, the story and characters are pretty thin. Weirdly, Arcadian shares some similarity with Sting, because the horrors of both films are largely made possible by conspicuously bad decisions made by minors.

Of course, Nic Cage always comes to play, but he is sidelined throughout the entire second act, leaving the kids to carry the picture. They are not Nic Cage, because nobody else is. When he gets back into the game, the film’s coolness rebounds exponentially. Jaeden Martell carries a few clever scenes as Joseph, but the teen angst quickly grows wearisome.

Brewer (who previously directed Cage in the under-rated
The Trust) understands how to best use the mutants, showing enough to establish danger, but not enough to spoil the mysterious what-the-heck-ness. Maybe the postapocalyptic business should have been more fully developed to greater differentiate Arcadian from similarly themed movies, but when you get right down to it, it is hard to go wrong with Nic Cage fighting bugs. Consequently, Arcadian is recommended for Cage fans, but more for streaming than in theaters. It opens today (4/12) in New York, including the AMC Empire.