Directed By Ben Falcone
Starring – Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Bobby Cannavale
The Plot – In a world terrorized by super-villains, one woman (McCarthy) has developed the process to give superpowers to regular people. But when scientist Emily Stanton (Spencer) accidentally imbues her estranged best-friend with incredible abilities, the two women must become the first superhero team. Now, it is up to Thunder Force to battle the super-powered Miscreants and save Chicago from the clutches of The King (Cannavale).
Rated PG-13 for some action/violence, adult language and mild suggestive material
– Electric ensemble. Regardless of how you feel about the entirety of this picture, one thing that can’t be debated is the professionalism and energy of the leads that elicits some top notch chemistry between McCarthy and Spencer to the movie’s delight. Aside from the infectious energy that each of them donate to their respective characters, it’s the believability in friendship that is most nourishing to the movie’s surprisingly ample amount of sentimentality, giving their characters an us against the world kind of encompassing that the ladies cement from such an early age. Aside from the thunderous duo, it’s the appearances of some familiar faces that elevates the redundancy of the material, and gives this Netflix-only feature a big budget appeal with regards to who is involved. One such favorite comedic actor of mine plays a villain known as The Crab, and it’s the observational humor that follows from his character design that not only gave me my only laughs throughout the entirety of the film, but also enhanced my interest each time this character steals a scene.
– Musical cues. Even with some of this section feeling a bit repetitive and padding of the overall script and respective run time, I can’t deny the appreciation that stemmed from some unorthodox touches in musical accompaniment that gave the film a distinct audible identity. For the soundtrack, the inclusion of a couple of time-cherished classics from Eagles rocker Glenn Frey illustrate everything from a growing bond between McCarthy and Spencer’s respective characters, to a surprisingly satisfying romantic interest introduced to the film midway through. Entirely different songs eliciting entirely different reactions, and they work in a corny-but-coherent rendering to the imagery that supports them. As for the musical score from composer Fil Eisler, there’s an eye-opening metal dominated selection of tracks that grant the action sequences a commanding edge, ushering in electric guitars and rampant drumming in the way that audibly ships urgency with the increasing speed progression of the track. Such an expression is meaningful for the integrity of the characters as well, playing into the mentality of McCarthy’s character, whom we’re introduced to early on while wearing a Slayer t-shirt. It marries the unlikely union of superhero movies with thrash metal, and gives the action sequences a crushing crescendo to echo the high stakes devastation.
– Hearty center. For my money, I wish Falcone explored the kind of creativity that only presented itself in small doses throughout this film. Such an example is in an emerging love subplot about midway through the movie, which not only casts an obviously awkward predicament for both sides involved, but also illustrates these characters better than the entirety of the previous fifty minutes of characterization combined. This is anything but original, as “The Boys” on Amazon Prime has a similar subplot that dominates much of the speculation of the show, but what’s interesting here is to see how much it diverts and changes personalities as a means of the deep-seeded feelings that each of them feel for one another, supplanting something sweet between the storm that feels like the only inspiring element of writing that this film exerts constantly throughout. It’s one that I wish would’ve played a more pivotal hand with an enhanced consistency throughout the film, and proves that romantic comedies are still Falcone’s bread and butter above all else.
– Humiliating humor. Falcone and McCarthy’s newest comedy isn’t the worst one they’ve produced to date (Tammy still takes that dubious honor), but it does articulate the problems with their brand of humor that makes it difficult as an audience to attach to. First off, the timing of deliveries often feels forced, which undercuts the importance of a set-up needed to fully sell it. From there, it’s the abundance of improvisational humor that strains the pacing of the scenes and overall run time of the film accordingly, leading to several breaks in immersive storytelling that weighed heavily in my already dwindling interest. Finally, the cringing dialogue exerted feels figuratively gift-wrapped for PG-13, full of safe, fluffy sap that is every bit edgeless as it is juvenile to the integrity of the material. One such instance during a sequence that felt like decades in the unraveling is a Steve Urkel impression by McCarthy that I couldn’t even bring myself to instill a pity smile to her and the movie’s credit. It’s flat, minimally rewarding gags that undersells the elements that the movie’s trailer was marketed towards, and makes me wish (ONCE MORE) that McCarthy would escape her husband’s clutches for the dramatic roles that better articulate her dramatic chops.
– Meandering foreshadowing. There shouldn’t be a single element of surprise to anyone watching this film because the only consistency to its credit is in the repetition of showing its hand with heavy-handed exposition. Hell, the first fifty minutes of this film are virtually a class to teach us everything that these characters can and more than likely will do. It commits the flaw that most films do, in that it brings up something that would be pointless without it materializing, but beyond that it’s the way that time and storytelling around it halts so that they can catch up to their opposition, giving us a series of training instances that could’ve easily been articulated in a five minute montage, but are required in-depth here to reach that desired 100 minute run time. It proves that the think tank that went into this concept had so very little to fall back on, and above all else harvests a disengaging predictability to every supposed twist and turn that gave me so little to look forward to.
– Flat effects. With the exception of some decent spells of practicality that went into certain character designs, the majority of effects work in the film is grouped into cheap, easy to detect computer generation that isn’t remotely believable in the context of the scenes they accompany. Part of it can be blamed on Falcone’s disconnect from the actors he’s supposed to enhance in the physicality of their performances, but for the most part my problem comes with texture of artificial props that often blur and obscure the actor orchestrating them. Beyond this, the minimal detection and overall lack of weight supplanted from said effects trivialize the integrity of the sequence with an inescapable artificiality that most superhero films were able to escape by 2010. It’s nothing even remotely impressive or artistically ambitious in its execution, dramatically underscoring the elements of wonder that is the primary ingredient for the superhero genre.
– Unexplored lore. From a very early stage in this film, it’s clear that the antagonists are the more intriguing collection of characters, yet the film’s lack of attention paid to them during the first two acts is most condemning towards elevating them from conventional throwaway villains, which they eventually become saddled with. There is seriously a point of about thirty minutes in this film where we don’t hear from or see these characters to oppose the protagonists side of things. This not only forces the protagonists angle to stale quicker than usual, reaching repetition by the movie’s first act, but also leaves the primary antagonist with a lack of backstory to play into his angle as a politician versus the gifts he was born with. Beyond this, the lack of exploration in this unique world, as well as the routine set of superpowers undersold its appeal dramatically, leaving it yearning for a voice of originality that it unfortunately never finds in a bland and generic execution. Falcone in an interview has been quoted as saying “Thunder Force” is the quickest it took to ever write a script, and it certainly shows in the glaring holes of required exploration needed to fully flesh it out.
– Ben Falcone. I hate to be degrading a man whose passion for filmmaking has guided him to the biggest step that an aspiring filmmaker can take, but it’s clear in his filmography over the last decade that Ben’s series of missteps is often his undoing. Aside from the things I previously mentioned, it’s his brand of off-putting humor that soils the integrity of the scenes of heart needed to sell these characters to an audience who they can’t see themselves in. Much is the same here, but it’s cast in a series of violent tonal shifts that can’t maintain serious consistency from one scene to the next, and frustrate with its lack of focus that it can’t pay to the story for two seconds. His biggest weakness, however, is definitely his lack of subtlety when it comes to his screenplays. Aside from quite literally spelling things out repeatedly throughout, the appalling nature of assembling these storied A-list actors for film after film of his career is most appalling, especially considering each of these films are obviously a vehicle for his wife and central protagonist. Such is an example here, where Cannavale, Spencer, and one other essential character who I still refuse to reveal are often left standing around for McCarthy to move the pieces into play. His directing of them, especially during scenes of physicality always leaves more to be desired, often relying on machine-gun cuts of editing emphasis to sell believability where his attention to detail often goes ignored.
– Technical issues. How often do I complain about sound design in an action movie? The noticeably obnoxious moans and groans of post-production influence rear their ugly head during tranquil scenes of minimal audience participation, and the emphasis on their deliveries often override and exceed the necessity to make them anything but obviously artificial. It’s not a lone instance either, as the explosions and audible devastation that accompany these intentionally boisterous action sequences often undersells the magnitude of the imagery that it follows. Such an example takes place during the final fight sequence between as many as six characters, and one flies through a wall with the volume capacity of a cat falling through a cardboard box. Even the zaps by one unique antagonist character feels outdated and full of stock studio relevance in the way its familiarity repeats itself in every delivery, regardless of the time it’s used in persistence in the context of the character. It’s one of many examples of this film’s creative inspiration being constantly done in by its flawed decision making, which doesn’t deliver on the thunder promised in its clever title.
My Grade: 3/10 or F+