There’s nothing like a camp sci-fi movie. I don’t mean “camp” like The Rocky Horror Picture Show or Barbarella, but a movie literally set at camp. Whether it’s Moonrise Kingdom, The Parent Trap, or even Addams Family Values, movies set at a summer camp allow children to take charge of their life and their stories. And in the case of this 2019 Netflix original film, that story involves a space dog, an alien invasion, and a mission to save the world.
In the beginning, Rim of the World has all the hallmarks of a run-of-the-mill camp movie — three characters are introduced one by one. Alex, the easily spooked nerd who doesn’t spend much time away from his computer, Zhen Zhen, the international student from China following her dreams of reaching the famous Rim of the World, and Dariush, the spoiled rich kid living in a mansion sent to the camp to him teach humility.
They arrive and everything seems as usual. There’s an overbearing camp counselor (played by Vine star King Bach) grumbling about camp activities and a field trip to a lake. Alex, Zhen Zhen, and Dariush wander away from the group when they receive an alert on their phones. Aliens have invaded, and all their fellow campers have already been evacuated.
The three wayward campers, alongside mysterious local teen Gabriel, come across a strange visitor and are tasked with an important mission — they are the last hope for Earth’s survival.
Rim of the World may seem like a pale imitation of 1980s classic adventure films like The Goonies at first blush, but there’s a lot more to it than you might think. The script was penned by Zach Stentz, who wrote Thor. The signature Marvel combination of action, heart, and humor shines throughout this film, too, with a plethora of pop-culture references and meta moments.
The main characters are 13 years old, but they are developed into mature protagonists with their own backstories and traumas. These range from the loss of a parent, dyscalculia (a math learning disability), parental incarceration, and cultural pressures to fit in.
While the film’s inspiration has its roots in 1980s kid-friendly adventure movies, the actual plot and wry humor of Rim of the World places this movie squarely within the terms of the PG-13 category, so whatever your age, you aren’t disappointed by sanitized gore and action.
The secret force driving this film is its director, McG. McG is also the director of unabashed maximalist, action movies, including Charlie’s Angels and Terminator: Salvation. He is also the creator of a cultural artifact, in that he brought us the music video for Smash Mouth’s classic tune, “All Star.”
Ultimately, Rim of the World has a lot to offer the viewer. It’s almost a shame it is a Netflix original, as it seems perfectly geared toward satisfying the nostalgia of an old-fashioned, family movie night. But as that’s not really an option for many of us right now, you can instead enjoy this movie at home and relive the feeling of being a curious kid exploring — and, in this case, saving — the world.
Rim of the World is now streaming on Netflix.