Long, Long Ago

Stars: Kodi Smith-McPhee, Johannes Haukur Johannesson, Natassia Malthe, Leonor Varela, Jena Hulten, Mercedes de la Zerda, Spencer Bogaert and Chuck
Director: Albert Hughes
Scriptwriter: Daniele Sebastian Wiedenhaupt from a story by Albert Hughes
Composer: Joseph S. DeBeasi
Cinematography: Martin Gschlacht
Columbia Pictures
Rating: PG 13 for violence
Running Length: 98 minutes 

The summer of 2018 seems to have an interest in things prehistoric. From “Jurassic Park” to “The Meg” and now “Alpha,” it is as though current isn’t interesting anymore. Actually, “Alpha” isn’t set millions of years ago, it is about 20,000 years ago, when an Ice Age was on the Earth and hunters bonded with their own kind to form a tribe. You carried everything with you and your best friend was your brother or sister or parents. In this story, there is an imagining of how humans could possibly become friends with wolves to gain friends, defenders, pack animals, and so on. Though the film could be advertised as cuddly, it isn’t and does show the harsh reality of that time.  

“Alpha” refers to the Number One in the tribe, or the leader. A being, either four legs or two legs, must establish dominance in order to gain trust and be the Head One. So, we have a might-have-happened-this-way story that begins with a young man named Keda (Kodi Smit-McPhee), about 20,000 years ago. He is going into a Rite of Passage to prove himself a hunter in his tribe and is on a trek with his father, Tau (Johannes Haukur Johannesson). There is an accident and Tau thinks Keda is dead, so places a pile of stones there and leaves to go back to the tribe. Actually, Keda has fallen over a cliff and is badly injured. He manages to take care of his wound, defends himself from a pack of wolves, and even wounds one of them. The two eventually bond, with Keda caring for the animal and a trust begins. Keda names the wolf Alpha. Several months pass, and they manage to survive together, trying to find Keda’s home. Their weapons are a growl and a bow and arrow. Soon, they part, but is this forever? Will either of them make it to safety? 

This story caught my interest.  How did wolf and man become partners? This is as plausible a tale (couldn’t resist that) as any. Boy is wounded and alone, wolf is wounded and a decision is made. Together or die. Boys became men at an early age and had to provide for the tribe as far as hunting (food) and defense against whatever else is out there that is hunting, too. In this film, the tribe has a belief system, and this, too, is plausible. There are dangerous situations both with wild creatures and the elements. Defense is running, climbing or bow and arrow. Bonding with another can be friendship or a mode of survival. In this cold climate, it is both. 

The scenery (filmed in Canada and Iceland) is beautiful and if this is what the Ice Age world was like 20,000 years, a harsh and deadly environment. “Alpha” is almost a travelogue to the past, or now, a plane ticket away.


Copyright 2018 Marie Asner