This is an interesting idea – I’m sure the novel is good – that is severely harmed by a lower than ideal budget and a poor choice of locations results in a pretty mixed bag of a film – one of those ’70s science fiction films where the idea is so much better than the execution (and there are a lot of them).
The film tries but fails to create the post apocalyptic aesthetic far better done later in the Mad Max films (without the influence of biker-chic). But what it does get right is the general incompetence of the violence: for the most part, everyone is fairly incompetent and, though The Boy is better most, that is a fresh spin on a post-apocalyptic world because usually everyone is super talented at violence.
The dog’s “voice” is awful, clearly just over-dubbed narration piped in from nowhere. The film takes place primarily in a dry lake bed and yet it sounds like the dog is speaking in a tin can. Oops.
Speaking of the lake bed: eventually we learn that we’re in Kansas (that’s not a joke!) but the movie was filmed in a dry lake bed that not only couldn’t possibly be Kansas (there are mountains in the distance!) but which makes zero sense as a place to hang out in the apocalypse. These two have chosen to live in one of the least fertile places in the United States? That makes a lot of sense. (I guess during the Apocalypse you try to find the worst place to survive you can.)
The movie has a lot going on – perhaps too much for its runtime – and really gets bizarre (and amusing and kind of satirical) in the third act when they go “down under” but though the underground scenes finally give the film momentum, there is a nagging sense that they could have been developed more.
Also, here’s a brief nitpick based on the time the film was made: nobody swears in the post apocalyptic world? Really?
Anyway, maybe the novel is worthy of a remake, where CGI could create a more convincing post-apocalypse and modern set design could create a more convincing underground world.