Black Lightning 2009
While I’m in the middle of my own blogathon this month, I also wanted to have the chance to take part in another blogathon. Over at Movie Sielently Fritzi is doing a Russia in Classic Film blogathon. And while I’m not covering a classic Russian superhero movie since I’m pretty sure there aren’t any, she has expanded the focus of the blogathon to cover not just classic films about Russia or made in Russia, but also any films from Russia from any era. And lucky for me, there just so happens to be a single Russian superhero movie that combines the stories of Spider-Man, Iron Man, and even a little bit of Knight Rider for good measure to create the origin of Black Lightning. While it does manage to have some fun with itself here and there, it unfortunately ends up being much less than the sum of its parts, picking and choosing some of the most obvious bits from well known superhero origin stories and forcing it into one of the most ridiculous superpowers of having a flying car.
Before I get into the heart of the story, what was most bothersome about this film was the “love interest”. She goes by the name Nastya and is one of the most one-dimensional characters ever to appear in a superhero movie. She is immediately taken by the main character Dima’s friend Maks, basically because he is rich and flaunts his money around her. She only takes notice of Dima after he starts making money off of his flying car and through one of many amazing coincidences gets the chance to show off his new phone because Maks’s phone went dead. He then takes her to a fancy dinner and gives him “dessert” which is a kiss on the cheek. Throughout the film she ends up bouncing back and forth between Maks and Dima, usually dependent on who has more money, or who she thinks is the superhero in the flying car, Black Lightning. She’s barely given any personality, and yet for some bizarre reason, Dima’s mom thinks that it’s a good idea to give Dima a sentimental heirloom when he asks to bring this girl that his mother has never met to a New Year’s Eve party.
Aside from Nastya, Dima’s story plays out pretty much like a combination of Spider-Man and Transformers. Instead of delivering pizzas on a moped, he’s delivering flowers in this run down Volga car he was given for his birthday. And instead of getting bit by a spider, he ends up discovering that his car is not a robot named Bumblebee, but it can fly. And of course he uses that flying car to make a ton of money delivering flowers faster than anyone else. There’s also the morality play going on about helping people. Helping this random old drunk made Dima late for a speech given by a businessman who is the main villain of the film. Dima’s father pulls an Uncle Ben and stops a criminal, only to have that criminal come back later in the film and kill him. Not only that, but because Dima is in his “not helping people” stage, he doesn’t bother when a random old woman tells him that a man needs help. Which is mind boggling because the reason why he’s waiting there in the first place is because his father was supposed to meet him and hadn’t shown up yet. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to at least have a seed of worry that it might have been his father. Of course, this is the catalyst that propels him into using the flying car to become a superhero and help people.
Now, there are a lot of different superheroes in the comic book universe. But I don’t recall any whose super power involves having a flying car. That’s pretty much because there isn’t a whole lot of crimes that can be stopped with just a flying car, neither are there many disasters that can be prevented. And yet, this film covers pretty much every possibility, from an armored car chase, to a burning high rise. But honestly, if Dima has a super power, it’s the power of super-coincidences. When the corporate thugs are looking for him in the flower shop, since they noticed his car was full of flowers before it flew off, it happened to be just after he tried to extort a raise from his boss by threatening to go to the competition which makes his boss think that the thugs are the competition and plays dumb. And all of the times that he takes off with his flying car into the air, everyone in the area just happens to not be looking, except for a single kid who looked like he escaped from a horror film. He also just happens to notice a giant icicle about to fall on Nastya’s head which he manages to shatter with the car while spilling a bouquet of roses over the top of her with a card that read from Nastya to Maks. Unfortunately for Dima not all of the super-coincidences work out in his favor.
The villain himself is also a pretty one dimensional Bond style villain. His entire goal is to get the nano-catalyzer that powers the car in order to use it to power his giant drill that is about to drill into the heart of the city that contains a rich vein of diamonds, but will also likely cause the city to be destroyed. He spends much of the film more or less knowing who has the car due to the scene in the beginning where he told Dima about how he started his fortune by selling flowers. He has plenty of typical Bond villain moments like tying a group of scientists to this drill of his for some reason, and kidnapping Nastya in order to make a trade for the nano-catalyzer. He’s even defeated in a way reminiscent to the first Iron Man film. There’s just so much in this film that feels overly derivative of other films that it lacks its own identity. And the one thing that does make it unique: the flying car, feels generally underutilized. Russia could do a lot worse for its only superhero film, but it could also do a lot better. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.