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Tom Hanks sci-fi outing Finch shows Apple TV Plus movies need work
Apple TV Plus seems continually on the edge of a breakthrough. It’s been a powerhouse of original programming, with impressive shows like The Morning Show, Ted Lasso, and Foundation. But it’s been less of a sure bet on the film side. Despite an enticing premise, the service’s newest film, Finch, fails to elevate Apple TV Plus movies to the level of the streamer’s many knockout shows.
But where does Finch fit into the growing Apple TV Plus movie slate? With a few high-profile titles on the way, and some wins already banked, can Apple TV Plus become a notable streamer for film content?
You can watch Finch on Apple TV Plus starting November 5. Read on for our Finch review and our take on Apple TV Plus’ movie offerings.
What is Finch about?
In a not-too-distant future, when a solar flare has wreaked havoc on Earth, a man named Finch (Tom Hanks) lives a quiet life, doing his best to survive alongside his dog, Goodyear.
But as Finch deals with radiation sickness and an increasingly unlivable environment, he builds a robot, Jeff, that will look after Goodyear in his absence. And soon, the three hit the road together, seeking out a safer home in San Francisco. Finch teaches Jeff to be human, more or less, as they go.
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The practical effects look great throughout, and it’s refreshing to see a production just use a real dog instead of some kind of uncanny CGI animal facsimile. Goodyear is one of the film’s high points. And the scenic vistas of New Mexico provide a stunning backdrop for Finch’s family road trip.
Hanks is as great as ever, selling us Finch’s plight with a convincing air of someone who hasn’t lost hope despite impossible hardship.
Despite all of that, Finch really doesn’t land. And that’s a shame for Apple, as its meager film offering on Apple TV Plus could use a boost.
Finch review: A swing and a miss for Apple TV Plus
The writer’s maxim, “show don’t tell,” kept creeping into my mind as I watched Finch. The classic Tom Hanks vehicle Castaway similarly has Hanks acting on his own. In that film, we see him talking to a volleyball he’s imbued with a personality. And it works. The film shows us the castaway’s struggle. Wilson, the volleyball, doesn’t need to respond for us to feel that Hanks’s Chuck Noland has anthropomorphized him. And we don’t need expository dialogue to follow along.
In contrast, Finch is full of clunky dialogue. And instead of a silent companion, we get a robot who engages with Finch, asking for explanations of every detail of this rather straightforward world. Finch is a series of stories, told as such to Jeff. “You didn’t say ‘once upon a time,'” Jeff complains at one point. In practice, it’s us Finch is telling stories to, and it’s unnecessary.
A cataclysmic event wiped out most of humanity. The planet is uninhabitable without the right tech and environmental protection. Finch is dying. Finch just wants what’s best for his dog. What more do you need?
Finch is a parable without enough to say.
Most of that is established at the outset. So why is Finch explaining ozone depletion to Jeff? Why do we have to see him reading a health book titled “The Effects of Ionizing Radiation” in addition to the obvious signs of his ailing health? “On the nose” would be understating this film’s approach to virtually everything.
At its core, Finch doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be. We might generously call it a family film, offering a story about a man coping with loss, isolation, and his own mortality for the adults, and a quirky man-and-his-dog story with clumsy exposition for the kids. But that’s not quite right either. It’s a bit dark for kids, and a bit obvious for adults. It wants to be a parable but doesn’t have enough to say.
Ultimately, Finch would work better as a Pixar short with little or no dialogue. Stretched out over two hours, it becomes a slog.
The future of Apple TV Plus movies
Banking on Tom Hanks may not be a terrible idea for Apple, of course. And on paper, Finch looks like the kind of project Apple should be investing in.
While Apple’s movie slate is still small, and Finch doesn’t add much to it, the streamer is also scoring some hits. That’s especially true of its music documentaries. Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little blurry, The Velvet Underground, and Beastie Boys Story stand out here. And they’ve had some wins on the scripted side too. Greyhound, another Tom Hanks vehicle, played firmly to the dad crowd, but it did so quite well. And Wolfwalkers was frankly robbed of a well-earned Oscar for Best Animated Feature.
I’m nowhere near ready to write off Apple TV Plus as a home for solid films.
Looking ahead, there are titles to get excited about. Martin Scorsese’s next film, Killers of the Flower Moon, is one to watch. It’s due later this year, in time to qualify for the Academy Awards. And The Tragedy of Macbeth, from Joel Coen (one half of the Coen brothers, here flying solo) looks just as exciting.
Maybe as Apple TV Plus builds out its film library, it will be able to survive a few misses like Finch, amid the much better Greyhound and Wolfwalkers.
For now, though, it’s still definitely touch-and-go for the young streaming service.