The Posthuman Project
The Posthuman Project 2015
Even though I try to keep myself up to date on superhero movies coming out, I rarely search out indie projects and obscure films anymore. Instead, I rely on my social networks and newsfeeds to point them out to me as they show up on other people’s radar, which is why I didn’t find out about this film until a few short months ago when it had its wide release through digital outlets. I’ve watched a fair number of low budget, indie superhero films and I do find myself coming at them from a different perspective. The acting won’t always be there, and neither will the special effects, but there’s usually something in the writing or direction that I can grasp onto and see what the filmmakers were going for. There is some of that here in the Posthuman project, but not quite enough for me to love this film in the way that I have with All Superheroes Must Die, or Squid Man. It’s got some good ideas, and a couple good characters, but it suffers in several places from trying to reach beyond its limitations.
Simply enough, this is an origin story about a group of teenagers: four seniors about to graduate, and a slightly younger brother. And similar to the Fantastic Four, they eventually end up getting hit with an explosion of superhero juice, here referred to as Zero Energy, and all get their own unique powers that have been foreshadowed earlier in the film. It’s a tough call to say whether or not it was clever writing or lazy writing to toss in hints of what each character’s power will end up being. To start off, there’s the main character Denny. He was a near-professional rock climber until he had a debilitating accident some time ago and has nearly recovered to the point where he can occasionally walk with his knee brace and without crutches. When he gets hit with the energy, he gains the power to heal himself and others. His younger brother Archie gets beaten up at school and is basically a science nerd, as evidenced by his large nerd-glasses, and in return gains super strength and invulnerability. The token black guy Adam has a pre-graduation crisis where he doesn’t want to leave his friends behind and there’s a line at one point mentioning how he “can’t be in two places at once”, at least until he gains the power to teleport. The pink-haired tomboy with an abusive stepfather Gwen stands up to said stepfather by burning him with his own cigar and later gains the ability to create and control fire. And finally Lisa, the ex-girlfriend of Denny, has the line “cross your heart and hope to fly” so it’s no surprise that she more or less gains the power of flight, though it’s later revealed that it’s more like telekinesis.
The biggest issue with this film is really the acting. Most of the teens in the core group fall fairly flat, with the occasional moment to shine here and there. Adam and Gwen had some of the best moments when they are discussing their typical teenage issues, though much of Gwen’s struggle with her stepfather felt very cliched and superficial. The other highlight of the film was William, the main villain and uncle of the two main brothers. He was the one character that really had the opportunity to take things over the top and he went with it all the way. There are some great villain monologuing moments, and he even gets a couple moments to do an evil laugh. It almost felt like he was in the wrong movie when compared to the acting of all of the other characters, but it really helped to inject the right amount of fun into the film.
One thing that was more impressive considering the low budget were the effects. There were some spotty moments of cheaply glowing eyes and digital backgrounds slash green screen, but much of the work on the powers were quite effective. There’s one scene in particular that involves a fight with Adam and the lead henchman where Adam uses his teleporting powers to its fullest potential. It’s not going to blow minds like the White House scene in X2, but considering the limitations, it was quite impressive and entertaining. There are also moments with Gwen’s fire tossing that look very flashy and stylish. Another smart choice by the director was the use of integrated chapter titles, it was one of the most visually interesting qualities of the film where each chapter title was a part of the background in a fairly seamless way like in graffiti on the wall or on one of the villain’s monitors, whether it was done digitally, practically, or more likely a combination of the two.
One word that I often like to use when describing these lower budget superhero and comic book movies is potential. When I’m watching a film like this, I can still see the flaws and those flaws still hamper my overall enjoyment of the movie. But I also try to understand why those flaws happened, and what the film could have been like if the filmmakers had the resources to address those flaws. Whether they needed more resources to find the right actors for the lead roles, or more time to have rehearsals or shoot more takes, or whatever the case may be, I can still see the passion for the material and a concept that is fun and interesting. It’s not the worst way to spend an afternoon, especially if you can find it on a free streaming service like Amazon Prime or Netflix. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.