REVIEW: ‘Captain Nova’ – Glimmers of Hope Amidst Dispair

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Captain Nova - But Why Tho

Most kids I know these days are keenly aware of the short time we have left to reverse climate change before their futures are irreversibly imperiled. It doesn’t take a team of Gen Xers to spell it out for them: we have to act now or else. Which is why Captain Nova, a Dutch-language Netflix Original directed by Maurice Trouwborst and written by Trouwborst and Lotte Tabbers confounds me. It’s a family film about a time traveler who returns to her youth to stop a single act of corporate greed that single-handedly destroys the planet some 20 years later. Unfortunately, though, the movie is neither exciting nor poignant and almost feels like a step backward in climate advocacy and education.

The movie starts out on an exciting note. Nova (Kika van de Vijver) is on a secret mission but she and her A.I. ADD wind up slightly off course, crash land, and find themselves with no choice but to trust the first kid they come across, Nas. From a sci-fi perspective, this whole introduction was very cool. The time travel is shot really nicely and when Nova emerges, she’s de-aged back to her 12-year-old self of 2025. ADD is a passable sidekick, giving some good one-liners here and there without being annoying, but never really entering the realm of endearing.

The middle act is decent enough as well. The authorities are after Nas and Nova and the mountain suspense is fun as the mystery surrounding Nova’s secret mission ensues. It all starts to crumble though as the authorities quickly figure out that there must be some kind of time travel involved. Removing that layer of suspense quickly decreased my interest in that side of the plot. With the authorities more interested in helping solve the issue while the kids are still on the run from them, Captain Nova quickly devolves into my least favorite trope of antagonism as a result of miscommunication.

Deteriorating my enjoyment further is how totally absent of action the action sequences are. Again, there’s a cool bit of sci-fi in Nova’s weaponry that leads to some decent gags, but her absolute stoicism as a character and the lack of dynamism in the action drags everything down. Nas is a cute kid, and I see where they were going with Nova’s hard shell. I even see the connection between them. I just wish they had a bit more opportunity to show their personalities, especially Nova.

Just as well, had the action matched the outlandish plot, the movie may have felt better balanced for it. As it stands though, there’s one exciting action sequence, and the others just don’t bring much to the table. This is a shame, because, in a lot of ways, the plot feels like it would fit really well among the over-the-top kids’ action movies of my own youth, a la Spy Kids or Agent Cody Banks. It’s just clear that what makes those types of corny plots work so well is a cast that sells it and a script to match, and Captain Nova doesn’t really bring either.

Perhaps the disappointment would be softened too if Captain Nova hadn’t staked its plot on such a heavy and important topic as climate catastrophe. Its lackluster plot leaves me feeling as dismal as ever about the future of the planet, not just because it lacks heart as a movie, but because it approaches its activism entirely wrong. Saving the future doesn’t hinge on anything remotely realistic or reflected in our reality. Had the plot been about nearly literally anything else, that might not feel like such an issue, but it feels like Captain Nova is picking this topic so as to make a point about protecting the earth, so it feels fair to judge its effectiveness therein.

Leaving me feeling like the only solution it’s offering to prevent our planet from becoming like theirs is to time travel and change one person’s heart isn’t exactly inspiring. It just left me feeling as dismal as ever. And if individual culpability and solitary dissidence aren’t the two lessons I was supposed to take away from the movie, then I can hardly be faulted, since it’s the only solution the movie offers from beginning to end. I know it’s just a kids’ movie, but kids are smart, and they’re well aware of the climate threat, so talking down to them, or the adults watching too, with this over-simplified plot just doesn’t feel great.

There are some endearing qualities to Captain Nova. It’s not a bad movie outright. But it’s disappointing, with a lack of drive or message in the end. Its first acts are filled with glimmers of hope and intrigue, they just sputter out by the end.

Captain Nova is streaming now on Netflix.


Captain Nova
  • 6/10
    Rating - 6/10
6/10

TL;DR

There are some endearing qualities to Captain Nova. It’s not a bad movie outright. But it’s disappointing, with a lack of drive or message in the end. Its first acts are filled with glimmers of hope and intrigue, they just sputter out by the end.