Caleb (Isaiah Russell-Bailey) has lived on the moon with his father Michael (Kid Cudi), both of them working on the mining operations there while working off the 20-year contract that will eventually allow them to travel to Omega, a planet teeming with life and opportunities. When Michael dies in an accident, Caleb is automatically put forward for travel to Omega. His friends (Billy Barratt, Orson Hong, Thomas Boyce) decide to go on an excursion to a nearby crater and hijack a vehicle with the help of a highly-respected scientist's daughter (Mckenna Grace)...
Even though 'Crater' was featured on the 2015 Black List, you get the sense that it's a movie that's been through a few iterations and, somewhere in them, there was a much more ambitious version of this movie than the one that made it to Disney+. It's not hard to see why it sparked interest. It's essentially 'Stand By Me' with a sci-fi flourish, a little bit of capitalist criticism, big emotional beats, and a cast of likeable if completely stock characters to round the whole thing out.
Out of the young cast, McKenna Grace is probably the most recognisable, having turned up in the likes of 'The Handmaid's Tale' for a guest spot and starred opposite Paul Rudd and Carrie Coon in the latest rehash of 'Ghostbusters'. Far and away, she's the most talented of the assembled cast and the adults are relatively distant in the story. Kid Cudi, who plays Isaiah-Russell Bailey's father, is only shown in flashbacks and it's usually a scene or two of dialogue told with a kind of blasé tone. For the most part, it's the kids on their trip and you get the sense that if this weren't a Disney movie, it might have gone differently.
There are shades of darkness in the story that are never fully explored or given any kind of real insight. For example, the moon being turned into a mining colony and utilising child labour is pretty damning stuff, especially given what's going on in the US at the moment. This is referenced in parts, but you know there was a much harder, more impactful version of the script that drew on this.
Instead, 'Crater' is happy to keep the thing ticking along and instead finding comfort in the easy charms of its cast, the warmth and familiarity of its sci-fi setting, and the gentle way in which Kyle Patrick Alvarez guides the whole thing. It's a TV movie, modestly made and unambitious in its scope, and that isn't something we see all that often. You get the sense that if 'Crater' was made ten or twenty years ago, it'd have been one of those strange movies that lived on repeat and garnered a cult following all of its own. However, because we live in an age of endless, wall-to-wall content where nothing is beyond reach, it's likely that 'Crater' will simply exist in perpetuity until it's removed from Disney+'s library for financial reasons.
Ultimately, 'Crater' is fine and passable, almost to the point where it's kind of boring. There was undoubtedly a better version of this movie that could have been made and should have been made but wasn't. Instead, what we see is something made for TV and streaming, with a likeable cast and doesn't ask much of the audience.