If you make it to the one-hour mark of Finch, you’ll probably make it through to the end none the worse for wear. But getting through the first half of this post-apocalyptic sci-fi drama requires a lot of patience, and caffeine. Tom Hanks plays an ailing robotics engineer named Finch Weinberg who managed to survive a cataclysmic solar event that left most of the world a wasteland. For ten years, he’s lived in a bunker in St. Louis with his dog Goodyear. Finch knows that radiation poisoning is eventually going to kill him, so he builds a robot to protect and care for Goodyear when he’s gone. The robot, an entirely computer-generated character played effectively and affectively by Caleb Landry Jones (Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; X-Men: First Class) names itself “Jeff.” When a deadly superstorm approaches the region, Finch, Goodyear and Jeff pile into an RV for a cross-country roadtrip into the unknown. Final destination: San Francisco, where the environs may be friendlier.
Even though Finch built and programmed “Jeff” to make Goodyear his sole priority, the robot can’t help but feel protective of his creator as well, and his robotic antics yield mixed results. Jeff sees the world through the makeshift eyes of a spirited toddler/teenager, while a frustrated and cynical Finch has been burned –literally and figuratively– by what’s left of the world around him. The film, directed by Miguel Sapochnik (Repo Men, TV’s Game of Thrones), was shot in New Mexico and features some beautiful and desolate landscape. It was originally supposed to be released in theaters in 2020 but with the pandemic, Apple TV+ bought it, changed the name, and is releasing it on its streaming platform. I wish I could blame the small screen for my lackluster interest in the first half of Finch, but I sincerely doubt a larger screen would have made much difference. The presence of veteran everyman Tom Hanks, a cute dog, and an endearing robot are simply not enough to sell this movie as much more than a sub-par twist on Hanks’s 1986 Castaway (with “Jeff” taking the place of “Wilson”), punctuated by shades of The Martian and George Clooney’s mediocre apocalyptic drama from 2020, The Midnight Sky.
Finch has moments of heart and humor, and a clear, valid message about climate change. And it tries to end on a somewhat uplifting note. But in many ways, it’s also a downer, and the melodramatic swells of music feel way too big for the small screen. So while I found myself rooting for Finch, Jeff and Goodyear on their fraught family outing to nowhere, I couldn’t help but wish the film had kicked into higher gear sooner rather than later… so we wouldn’t be tempted to ask, “Are we there yet?”
Finch starts streaming on Apple TV+ on November 5.