It really feels like August has “gone to the dogs” at least when it comes to the movie theater anyway. With Dog Days already in the books, along comes a new challenger in Alpha to win your hearts and dollars at the box office. With the romantic comedy route already gone Alpha has decided to take the “first” boy and his dog route, which will make more sense as the movie goes on.
Sometime before men ruled the earth they were just trying to survive like every other creature on the planet. One tribe is trying to do just that as it’s that time of year where they hunt for food in order to survive the cold winter. This hunt though is special as it’s the first for Keda ( Kodi Smit-McPhee) who is the Chief’s son and the assumed future leader. Keda though might not be fit to be a hunter as even his mother believes he leads with his heart and not his spear. He goes on the hunt anyway and circumstances lead to the belief that he is dead and is left on his own. Not knowing what to do, Keda’s survival instincts start to kick in and even though he is injured he starts make the trip back home. It gets even more dangerous as he is being hunted by a pack of wolves. He escapes the wolves but only after injuring one, but since he leads with his heart, instead of killing it he saves it. Soon the two of them try to survive the journey home as they form a bond that will change them both.
Somewhere in this story of man and dog becoming best friends is an adventure a long time in the making. What you have to get past first though is the predictable story that leaves little in the way of suspense. Even though the story might not offer much, the film looks amazing as cinematographer Martin Gschlacht’s does his best to bring so much life into this world, but there are many other moments that don’t look quite as good. The things that look bad are not Gschlacht’s fault as there is a few CGI problems that in this case become a little more than distracting. With more than a few other parts of the film working against it, director Albert Hughes who also gets story credit here doesn’t have enough tricks in the bag to save Alpha from fading back into the pack. I can appreciate the story and concept, but with only two main characters, one of which is an animal with no lines there is nothing really to cling to on a character level. Alpha never felt like it was going to be anything more than average and even with it’s amazing looks, it barely even reaches that.