Thunder Force 2021
The year is almost halfway through and while most of the 2021 films keep getting pushed back there have been a small handful that have released on streaming services. This one came out just a few weeks ago on Netflix and while it has gotten some pretty poor reviews, it managed to tickle me quite a bit while I was watching it. Unfortunately, those moments of hearty laughs were interspersed with heavy moments of eye rolling so it’s ultimately a mixed bag. There aren’t very many instances of good superhero comedies, there are plenty of good superhero movies with a lot of comedy, but not the other way around. When the superhero element isn’t taken seriously, the entire movie generally suffers. Everyone in the cast plays their parts well, but the action is dull and the comedy is very hit and miss. And since this is still technically a recent release, here is my obligatory spoiler warning as I will be discussing potential plot twists as I see fit.
This film takes place in a world where there was some sort of cosmic event that gave a small portion of the population super powers. The only difference is that in this world, it was only those with a genetic predisposition to sociopathic tendencies so they all became supervillains rather than superheroes. It’s an interesting set up, but in this entire world that’s supposedly terrorized by these supervillains or Miscreants as the film calls them we are only introduced to three of them, maybe four. There’s seemingly more time spent on Emily’s extravagant building and labs than on the rest of the world. It’s a world that just doesn’t make sense, we are shown that businesses are supposedly failing because people are too scared to go outside, but in every other scene people are shown going about their business like nothing’s happened. Meanwhile, 15 years into this supervillain epidemic, the supervillains are all still just small time crooks. It’s difficult to really get invested into a film that has such a half-baked premise even if it is supposed to be a light comedy.
With most comedies that aren’t backed up by a solid foundation of being a good movie, it will live and die with the jokes. If enough of them land on your sense of humor, then it’s an enjoyable movie, if they don’t then it’s a bad movie. This film really wavered back and forth even though so much of it felt like it was targeting my very specific demographic. Despite the Urkel joke going on for way too long, actually that’s true for almost every joke in this movie when it was delivered by Melissa McCarthy, it was followed up by reference to Jodie Foster in Nell that is an oddly specific pull that just happened to work. The same falls true for the soundtrack, it will only work if you have some sort of connection to the songs being played. If you’re not someone who was a teen or young adult when Batman Forever came out, the whole Kissed by a Rose is likely to fall completely flat. There were a small handful of jokes that actually landed because this was a superhero movie, like the aside all about how killing minions is counterproductive, but most were just reliant on random nostalgia.
The actual core of the superhero story is ok but pretty predictable. There are a few twists here and there, but they either come out of nowhere, or they’re highly telegraphed. The background story in the first half follows the Chicago mayoral race, and one of the candidates played by Bobby Cannavale is not only working with the Miscreants, he also happens to be one himself. One of his minions played by Jason Bateman is the typical minion with a conscience who is a generally likeable and harmless villain who just has crab claws for arms and very unsurprisingly turns on his boss to save the good guys at the end. His backstory also doesn’t fully make sense with the cosmic event backstory as he claims to have been bitten by a radioactive crab. The film also makes a point to extend the process by which the two main characters get their own powers, and yet Emily’s daughter gives herself super speed either instantaneously or the film neglects to add a line to say that she’s been giving herself the superhero treatment on the sly.
It’s difficult to compliment this film on any one thing aside from the occasional joke that lands hard. As a superhero origin story, the training montage is dull, the fight scenes are dull, and the climactic scene where the heroes are searching for a bomb before it explodes is completely lacking in urgency. There’s no sense that they’re in the right place or how long before it’s supposed to explode. The time display when they open the suitcase is shown so briefly that it’s actually a bit of a surprise when it explodes right after McCarthy jumps into the river. But at the heart of the movie is also the story of two childhood friends that are reconnecting after being estranged for over 15 years. This part of the movie is also handled pretty poorly. Their friendship is set up fairly well at the beginning, but Octavia Spencer’s Emily is given no real personality. She’s a character that’s fully focused on her job aside from a few things like the carnival hammer game for the strength test to prove that “she’s fun”. And McCarthy’s Lydia is just a ball of white trash energy who doesn’t seem to care about anything except having a good time. Neither of them truly seem to learn the lesson of their personality flaws, things just happen to work out for the best through a combination of dumb luck and because the plot needed it to.
The more I dissect this film, the more it just completely falls apart to any sort of scrutiny. I will again admit that while watching it, I did have many moments where I laughed out loud at some of the humor. But that was often either immediately followed or preceded by thoughts that the movie was incredibly stupid and not well thought out. I often say that films like these that aren’t that great have good ideas but failed to use those ideas to their full potential, but this movie didn’t even start out with good ideas. It tried to build a movie on a weak premise, toss a bunch of jokes at the wall, and dump it on Netflix. I may have mostly enjoyed watching it, especially the absolutely ridiculous romance between Lydia and the Crab, but it’s not something that I would see myself coming back to. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.