I saw this a few weeks ago and haven’t gotten around to reviewing it yet. This was a pretty great movie, as it presents a lot of comic book hero/villain situations in a real life setting. If you can get past how it is almost completely filmed by one of the characters on a handheld camera, I think comic book fans will love it. There are a number of shots from other people’s cell phone cameras, security cameras, and news footage. I’m not a big fan of this style. I much prefer movies that are shot more traditionally. Still, the intent of this movie is that one of the characters is recording his life, so I get why they did it, I just don’t really like it. Overall, I recommend it.
The story is pretty straightforward. Andrew (Dane Haan) is a typical High Schools misfit who dreams of going to Tibet, as he lives with an abusive father and a mother who is dying of cancer. Along with his cousin Matt (Alex Russell) and his friend and class president Steve (Michael B. Jordan) are at a party when they happen to find a…thing. There is never any explanation for what they find (I’m hoping for some in the planned sequel) but whatever it is, following their encounter with it they begin to develop telekinesis. It is never completely clear if they really have any other powers. They can fly, but that may be the telekinesis.
In short, they do what any teenagers might do; they screw around. There are some very funny scenes when they move someone’s car in a parking lot, make a stuffed bear fly, and things like that. When Andrew inadvertently almost kills someone Matt and Steve start to take things more seriously. However, as Andrew’s home life deteriorates, and he becomes more at odds with his friends, he goes through the classic comic book metamorphosis into a villain, starting with small things, and gradually getting more serious. Steve’s death (brought about when struck by lighting trying to convince Andrew not to fly in a thunderstorm) does nothing but further drive a wedge between Matt and Andrew.
The true brilliance of this movie is how they showed a quiet unassuming high school student slowly become the super villain, as ridicule from other students, his father’s abuse, and his mother’s situation slowly drive him toward crime and eventually evil. There is a chilling scene when he talks about learning how to rip out people’s teeth cleanly versus breaking them off. Somewhat less fascinating, but none the less important is Matt’s journey toward becoming the hero.
Andrew eventually turns to crime to get money for his mother’s cancer medications. He is severely injured and scarred in an explosion. When his mother dies in the hospital and his father blames him for it, he tries to kill his father, and to borrow a phrase from a certain science fiction epic; his journey toward the dark side is complete. You might say, this is how the Emperor planned it.
Matt saves Andrew’s father’s life, and that is the moment when the villain and hero part ways for good. Andrew goes on a rampage, with Matt being the only one who can combat his powers. They have a pretty epic fight, and ultimately though he tried not to, Matt is forced to kill Andrew. This is where it breaks from the typical comic book story, as the hero almost always doesn’t kill his archenemy.
In the final scene, Matt is recording on Andrew’s camera as he places it on a mountainside in Tibet, telling him that he finally made it to Tibet, he is sorry for what happened, and vowing to figure out what happened to them.
It has been announced there will be a sequel. The problem is, with both Andrew and Steve dead, Matt is now on his own. I suppose it wouldn’t be that crazy for them to have Andrew not have died. News cameras caught the battle, so the government could have him. The big question is can they make that work as a plot, Matt against Andrew. This movie was great because of Andrew’s evolution into a villain. Without that, I don’t know what they’d do.
Still, in a sequel the most important thing to me is an explanation of their powers, where they came from, who gave them to them, and why. That’s what really the only thing that bothered me in this movie (other than the way it was shot). There were zero reasons given why this happened, and I really like those things explained.
Thanks for reading!