There’s nothing particularly wrong about Finch. You’ve got Tom Hanks doing what Tom Hanks can do by holding the screen. You’ve got a nice, humanist story about what it means to be alive. It’s all well and good, but there’s little that excites in this sci-fi drama. Not to simply draw comparisons to other films that have done these things better, but you can see the kinds of movies that inspired Finch, and Finch doesn’t really want to take the ball further. It’s comfortable being a pastiche of more interesting movies, and I suppose as far as streaming content goes, that’s fine, but maybe you could also seek out the films that inspired this one.
Sometime in the future, a solar flare struck the Earth, which brought about the apocalypse. Now UV radiation is pouring in through the O-Zone layer, and there’s not much time left for inventor Finch Weinberg (Hanks). Finch, an inventor who has a laboratory in his old company, seems pretty at peace with being by himself with only the company of his dog Goodyear. However, Finch knows his time on Earth is running short due to UV radiation sickness, so he invents a robot (voiced by Caleb Landry Jones) that will take care of Goodyear after Finch is gone. When a sandstorm sweeps in, the trio is forced to hit the road before the robot is totally ready to go. As the group heads west to safer climates, the robot learns about what it means to be human and Finch reclaims some of the humanity he had lost in his isolation.
You can see shades of other stories here—The Road, The Iron Giant, WALL-E, a bit of Silent Running with Finch’s indifference to humanity—but overall, director Miguel Sapochnik, who broke out directing some of Game of Thrones’ biggest episodes (“Hardhome”, “Battle of the Bastards” among others) takes a surprisingly mild approach here. There’s nothing wrong with making a smaller, character-driven picture, but there’s no real spark to Finch. At every level, Finch plays it safe where it almost seems like the thing it’s most proud of is the special effects work on the robot. And yes, the robot looks very convincing, and Jones’ performance makes the character endearing, especially as he learns and becomes more human.
But if Finch is going to ask for two hours of your time, it should probably try to do at least something interesting, and it studiously refuses to. It’s also difficult to say that Finch even functions as a comfort film given its post-apocalyptic setting and the constant tension that something bad might happen to the adorable Goodyear. But with the milquetoast tone, you don’t feel like the dog is any danger (especially since without Goodyear, there’s no reason for the robot to exist), and so Finch simply ambles along on its road trip where the trio will encounter a danger of some kind, they’ll bond a little bit more, and you can see Finch as kind of a gruff father-figure to the young robot. That’s the pattern of the movie, it’s nice, and it’s a little dull.
Even Hanks, who has played this kind of lone role before with Cast Away (although he gets a lot more feedback from the robot than he does from Wilson), seems a bit adrift with what to grasp onto for this role. We gather that the character has always been a bit aloof, but it doesn’t seem like the post-apocalypse really wears on him anymore, and there’s not much room for interpersonal conflict when he can only impart knowledge to the robot with the robot never really pushing back and forcing Finch to grow. Instead, it feels like Finch is so pragmatic that he lacks the artistry to appreciate his relationship with the robot. While that pragmatism makes sense for the setting, it also dulls the character, so Hanks’ work here pales in comparison to his recent turns in News of the World, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, and Bridge of Spies.
There’s nothing aggressively wrong with Finch, and I suppose if you’re looking for a way to kill a couple hours with your AppleTV+ subscription, you could do worse (although the platform’s selection remains incredibly thin compared to its competitors). But it’s a shrug of a motion picture that never drills deeper into anything. It’s a movie where a robot learns empathy so he can take care of a dog because humanity is over. Some may find that bittersweet or kind of thoughtful that there can be humanity without humans, but Finch makes it all as dry as its scorched landscape.
Finch arrives on AppleTV+ on Friday, November 5th.
KEEP READING: Tom Hanks on Whether He Sees Any Connection Between ‘Finch’ and ‘Cast Away’ and Why Making Movies is the Greatest Job in the World