Tom Hanks and Caleb Landry Jones in Finch

Finch Review: Chappie Meets The Apocalypse

Remember Chappie? He's back! In cloying robot form!

Tom Hanks’ latest effort is a road movie across a post-apocalyptic landscape in the unmemorable Finch.

Hank stars as Finch, a robotics engineer and one of the few survivors of a solar event that has decimated the planet. In a surface environment where seconds exposed to the sun’s rays lead to severe burns, Finch hunkers down in an underground bunker with his sole companions – a WALL-E-like robot pal and his dog, Goodyear.

A decade into the “new normal,” Finch’s primary concern is finding care for his canine pal once he’s gone. Enter his latest creation, a robot (a motion-capture performance by Caleb Landry Jones), who delights in learning what it means to be alive. With a disastrous storm approaching, the motley crew sets out on a road trip to the west coast in search of a future.

Filled with oddball humour, Finch‘s main strength isn’t Hanks – it’s Jones. The actor shows true depth and humanity in robot form. The robot (whose eventual name is a delight when it’s finally revealed) transforms from sounding like a mechanical Borat to more like Jones proper as he fills himself with knowledge and a greater understanding of humanity. He’s Chappie, but less prone to violence and throwing gang signs.

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Jones excels at capitalizing his youthful exuberance for knowledge. Next to him, however, Hanks’ Finch seems even more dour and one-note. Flashbacks show us that Finch was a bit of a bummer before the apocalypse, too. The robot has far more humanity than Finch, who seems so one-note in Hanks’ vast filmography. It feels like Hanks is sleep-walking through this performance, which makes it even more astonishing that this was once destined for the big screen and not its streaming home on Apple TV+.

Directed by Miguel Sapochnik (Game of Thrones)Finch drifts between genuine humour and delight to more cloying exchanges. With ham-fisted emotions, Finch fails to capitalize on the intriguing ethical questions that arise from Finch’s actions. What does it say about Finch to bring a “living” creature into a dying world, knowing he’ll eventually be abandoned? Meanwhile, the truly haunting sci-fi elements promised by the film’s setting are kept off-screen. We’re told there are other survivors to fear, but aside from a flashback and one brief encounter, there is no tension or strife to keep audiences interested.

While the idea of a dog-sitting robot who really wants to learn to drive seems fit for a family viewing, the film’s wild tonal inconsistencies and depictions of graphic illness make it less child-friendly than one might assume. Finch‘s life lessons are predictable, by-the-book instructions that suck any bit of life out of the film’s second half. Ultimately, Finch has little to offer in terms of takeaways beyond the tired old “it’s not the journey but the friends we (literally) make along the way.” I’ll take anything I learned from Johnny-5 in Short Circuit over this any day.

Finch is now streaming Apple TV+.

 

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