Not all super-powered people are heroes, nor do they always jump out of the comics to make it to the big screen. Some of my favourite super-films and series are not based on the classic comics, and these are a gateway into a world of literature and graphic novels that’ll take you way off the beaten path. Marvel has gone blockbuster, and DC – bless them – keep trying, so lets take a look at a couple of the off-brand supers.
In the world there are two factions operating without the knowledge of the rest of the world: Jumpers, who can teleport to any location in the world without the faintest shrug of effort; and the Paladins who hunt them because “only god has the right to be all places at all times.” Our protagonist is merrily bouncing around, robbing banks and taking expensive holidays, oblivious to the danger he’s putting himself in, until finally he’s made horribly aware of the war he was born into, when Samuel L. Jackson comes a-knocking.
Jumper is immediately tarred for the involvement of Hayden Christensen, fresh off the disastrous Star Wars prequel trilogy and carrying every stigma that it laid on his head. His new character is no more likeable, playing initially to the cliché of “bullied kid gets a superpower” and then sliding into the arrogant playboy jerk stereotype. Fortunately we have Jamie Bell‘s character to yell at him like the rest of us want to.
However, as the film focusses on one power it has the opportunity to get really involved in the workings of that power, and the concept of the miniature wormholes every jumper leaves behind is a clever and well used plot device (even if it’s been done). What makes this film most enjoyable is the villainous organization of the Paladins and their electronic arsenal. We know that Jackson is a superb villain, but his role is so well constructed, especially with Jamie Bell as the embittered rival, that one can’t help but enjoy the narrative. For the most part, Christensen’s character just fills up time with a wasted plot line about the girl he left behind.
All in all though, a pretty awesome action piece, and in films where characters are throwing double-decker buses, plot and character tend to fall by the wayside.
The 2009 film Push tells the tale of a world forever modified by Nazi experimentation (ahh, that old racist chestnut), and a wide range of psychic powers now pervade the global population, each with a catchy nickname, pushes, stitchers, shadows, movers, watchers, sniffers, bleeders…. a few more I’m missing. The film follows a weak telekinetic on the run from the Vague Yet Menacing Government Agency who falls into the company of a precognisant adolescent girl, chasing a plot to save the life of his ex-girlfriend, and prevent all powered people from becoming weapons for the government.
This is a far darker film than Jumper, attacking a much broader scope and a far richer world. It has some strong neo-noir elements, subterfuge, intrigue, a immoral world and the immoral people who live in it, main characters included. It’s all brought together by a particularly clever conclusion that keeps you guessing for quite some time.
Only after rewatching Push after so long do I realize what a massive Chris Evans fan I have always been. Captain America took him from an decent actor to a memorable one, because many favourite films of mine have featured him in a leading role and I only worked this out quite recently. Dakota Fanning I am, and shall continue to be a fan of until such time as her behaviour outweighs her talent, but she seems cool so far, and I haven’t seen her act better than in this film. Add to that a whole barrel of familiar faces that will have you saying “Oh hey, it’s her! She was in that thing!”
As for the film itself, it’s beautifully paced and well scored, with strong visual themes throughout (note the red and green colour schemes). It’s plot doesn’t have a great deal of holes, but gets exceptionally questionable, especially because of the involvement of precognition, and the winding finale relies on some very particular circumstances. It’s very difficult to dislike this film for that though, when the rest plays out so elegantly.
Here’s my favourite. I didn’t have to re-watch Chronicle in order to write about it, this is a film I know very well indeed.
A group of high-schoolers find an alien “something” deep underground which grants them telekinesis. The 2012 handheld-film takes us on a journey of discovery and experimentation, as the kids play around with their new power, live life, have some fun, learn to fly! But as the central character’s control grows, his mental stability weakens, so does his regard for human life.
This film set up Dane DeHaan as a fantastic villain actor, and made me very excited to see him as Green Goblin in Amazing Spider-Man 2, and was not disappointed. His journey from “the quiet kid” to tortured powerhouse is a real joy to watch, especially his haphazard attempt at costumed heroism that ends in shame, and carnage.
Hand-held camera films always have issues with framing, shaky-cam, and of course justifying the need for it being handheld at all. Chronicle achieves it all very easily, and camera angles become less and less of an obstacle as the boys begin to go hands-free while record their increasing control, rising to a climax as DeHaan drags every camera-phone nearby into his orbit.
This is my absolute favourite film of these three, and immediately went to the top of my all time favourites, challenging The Cell for the first time ever. I do not have a lot to say on the subject except to say that it is worth the watch, and that if it weren’t so late right now I’d be watching it again.
I started writing these, and thought of more, and more, and more. This is a topic I’ll be revisiting, so if you don’t see your favourite super-power film, just say the word!