Written by Shelby Kennedy
Rachel, Willow Shields, is a daughter that loses her mother—a visual metaphor to man’s touch with nature. It is important for director Norman Stone to highlight what happens when mankind tries changing the environment. He feels that we should leave nature in its original state. Instead, Stone directs “Into the Rainbow” with a narrowed vision of culture cooperation over a compelling plot. This film is the first official co-production between New Zealand and China, where crews from both countries worked on the project. Stone was far more set on creating a successful co-production then creating a strong message about the environment. I wasn’t impressed.
While there may be some fun effects—such as wiring the actors for a special floating visuals when traveling through the rainbow or a solid structural set design that China made specifically for the film—there is nothing extraordinary about the plot. A lot of ideas spark in the beginning but never grow to fruition. For example, there is a potential romance between Rachel and Cheng. The lens expresses the way Cheng looks at her in the beginning, but after that moment we are never exposed to it again. As if the moment didn’t happen at all. Another instance of this weakness is when we’re told part of the Metabow’s power is channeled into a stone, but we don’t know what this power is or what it does.
The writer frames a bad weather storm right when Rachel’s parents venture out on a boat, which causes the boat to sink. Rachel’s father survives, but unfortunately her mother does not. Rather than this moment building her character, it only features as a stereotypical setup for a lead role. There is no self-investigation of her working through loss or trying to be a stronger person. Then, if that wasn’t bad enough, the writers show Rachel guiding Grace from her own mother. Together the two travel through the Metabow from Auckland, New Zealand to Qingdao, China. Rachel is chaotic and brash. It’s difficult to believe that an entire crew of characters would have followed her through the film as they did.
Norman Stone doesn’t know where he’s going. His realm of knowledge stems from documentary and TV, where it isn’t always necessary to build up the whys and hows. In science fiction, these questions are vital: why does the Metabow exist, what kind of powers does it contain, why does the power only spread to certain characters, how does the scientist find Rachel so quickly? I wondered about all of these questions throughout the film, hoping Stone would guide us. Sadly, he never answered me, and I’m left with confusion.
When he failed to slow the film to explain the backstory of the Metabow, or why its power is so desirable, Stone lost authority altogether. He wanted to claim the groundbreaking first film of two countries whom haven’t worked together before. He achieved that, but failed to do his primary job as a director in bringing together a complete movie. “Into the Rainbow” is an awkward child of diverse cultures that doesn’t understand its own identity or potential.