Higher Power 2018
This was a movie that I just happened to stumble upon while browsing through Hulu. I read the description and it sounded like it qualified for a superhero movie, and while it does skirt the line a little bit here and there, I think there’s enough that it works. There’s super powers, saving the world, a super villain of sorts, and it all takes place in present day. That’s good enough for my book. As far as the movie itself, I got the impression that it was a pretty low budget film, but the special effects and cinematography were well above its pay grade. At least, until they tried to stretch beyond their limitations, then the seams started showing. Unfortunately, the writing also didn’t quite live up to the rest of the movie. It had some really great moments, but it was incredibly uneven and took forever to really get going.
The general plot of this movie revolves around a regular Joe literally named Joe who becomes a cross between the Incredible Hulk, Micah from Heroes, and eventually a toned down Dr. Manhattan. There’s also shades of Phone Booth, or more related to this site 13 Sins where there’s a man at the other end of a phone telling the main character what to do or else his two daughters will be killed. The big difference is that instead of a voice on the other end of a phone, it’s a disembodied voice that kind of sounds like his own thoughts. Of course, it’s clearly not just his thoughts, because we are able to see the man behind the voice sitting in front of a computer. It’s one of those elements that don’t entirely work because of how much distortion they put on his voice that really creates a disembodied feel when we’re seeing Joe and it doesn’t match up when we’re seeing the man who refers to himself as the titular Higher Power.
Where this movie does work is through the tension and thrill of seeing Joe go through these tasks as someone that’s not completely inept, but he’s someone who doesn’t have any experience whatsoever in whatever he’s doing. Not only that, but everyone ultimately ends up being in on this giant experiment in one way or another except for his two daughters. There’s also the subplot where he is estranged from his two daughters after their mother died because of drug and alcohol addiction, but he’s gotten himself clean and is trying to reach out to them, but one of them has become and addict herself. It’s unfortunately a cluttered concept that’s somehow given too much time, but also not given enough time to really connect with any of the emotions of the characters before Joe is sucked into this crazy experiment.
What does also work well are the special effects. There is this experiment combined with this doomsday prediction involving a black hole eating a star and shooting out an enormous gamma radiation beam directly towards the Earth. And like the Hulk’s gamma rays, they do something to Joe that allows him to generate and control energy when he becomes angry. The visuals for the black hole and the energy beams coming out of Joe in the early stages look absolutely gorgeous. There are a few moments here and there with some of the drones and destruction that are obviously CGI, but they are all rendered extremely well and fit right in with the rest of the movie. Where the seams start to show is when the movie gets to the end and Joe becomes this giant Dr. Manhattan like being made entirely of energy that eventually covers the entire world. He also saves the world in the process, and there’s some other elements with his daughters but that once again falls into the underdeveloped relationship between them.
The cinematography overall is gorgeous at times. There are plenty of transitions involving computer screens and typing alongside some news footage and the flashbacks involving Joe’s daughters and they all are lit very dramatically. Everything really works well to make this film look more like a typical Hollywood film. The video effects look great, and the pacing with the typing on the computer screens fits right in with the first half of the movie. The overall pacing had some issues, especially when it takes over two thirds of the movie for it to really get into the fact that they gave Joe actual super powers. It factored into the unevenness where the first third of the movie was supposed to set up the overall concept, the relationship between Joe and his daughters, and a few other things as well but too much of it got lost in the shuffle. Things really pick up after Joe gets captured and starts doing things against his will, and then it fizzles out once again in the final climax where they seemingly wrote themselves into a corner where Joe gains ultimate power but doesn’t really have anything worthwhile to do with it. Yes, he saves the world and his daughters, but it’s still done in an unsatisfying way. There’s some good concepts and good filmmaking throughout, but the writing and pacing get in its own way at times. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.