The film’s coming-of-age story might remain familiar, its emotional arc may be broad, and its messages about self-belief and taking chances fall into the tried-and-tested camp, but DeBlois still builds an engaging, sincere and tender world brimming with depth and detail.
Jackson’s film is more than a technical tribute: it’s a testament to the bravery and camaraderie of the soldiers, the memory of which has faded like the photographs he brings back to life. In a way, it helps arrest the fear that we are forgetting this futile obliteration of an entire generation.
Director Travis Knight does his best to balance clattering spectacle with a modest girl-and-her-robot tale. He’s assisted mightily by Hailee Steinfeld, who infuses this uneven action film with significant soul.
It may be a touch overlong – perhaps because everyone has to stop running to sing songs at regular intervals – and the emotional beats familiar, with moments of poignance, tragedy, gruesome comedy (a decapitated zombie in a snowman suit) and absurdity.
Grimly upbeat rather than merry, and relentless rather than frenetic, the film’s gritty zest is splashed across the screen with momentum, but also to the point of overuse. It serves a late heist set piece well, yet wears thin in a sea of training, thieving and fighting montages elsewhere.