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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE -- DVD review by porfle



Some superhero movies are multi-million-dollar epics that dazzle, amaze, and enthrall.  And then there's ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE, aka "Vs" (2011), which barely manages to keep from falling apart at the seams, or simply imploding due to lack of substance, long enough to limp to the fadeout.

Granted, it's a game effort for such a low-budget film (less than $1 million) but I've seen a lot more done with a lot less so it really should've turned out better.  In fact, director Jason Trost's other 2011 film THE FP is superior in every way, not the least of which being that it's way more entertaining.  Here, it seems as though the goal of putting together something that qualifies as a "superhero movie" was accomplished with minimal thought or artistic effort.

Taking place in a seemingly deserted small town during the course of a single night, the story begins with three superhero-garbed men and one woman waking up in different locations, each with some kind of wrist implant.  The implants, it turns out, rob them of their superpowers so that their arch-enemy, Rickshaw (James Remar), can force them to participate in a series of life-or-death challenges for his revenge and amusement, with the lives of various innocent people in the balance. 

The heroes, who (we learn in passing) gained their powers from a fallen meteor, have a stormy personal history that caused them to disband years earlier.  Charge (Trost), the nominal leader, and Shadow (Sophie Merkley), sort of a "Sue Storm/Invisible Girl" knock-off, are former lovers, while the younger Cutthroat (Lucas Till, X-MEN: FIRST CLASS) still resents Charge for treating him like a kid brother.  The Wall (Lee Valmassy, who gave an outstanding performance as the bad guy in THE FP) is a rather nondescript character who doesn't get much to do for most of his screen time. 

One distinctive feature of this team is that they have some of the chintziest costumes in superhero history.  Even taking into account the fact that they don't have people like Lucius Fox or Martha Kent designing their threads, this poor man's Fantastic Four would probably get thrown out of a Halloween costume party.  Charge is especially guilty of fashion fail, with a costume that looks like he just threw himself on a live grenade and landed on his face.  Perhaps this is intentional, since the hokiness of these characters is probably pretty close to what it would look like if actual people suddenly decided to become superheroes (a la Kick-Ass). 

Remar, who served as narrator for THE FP, is the traditional "name star" coming in to do a day or two of low-impact acting (in this case, mostly sitting behind a desk egging on the main characters via a TV screen to a dreary version of Beethoven's "Moonlight Sonata") as cackling bad guy Rickshaw.  His evil plan for our heroes has them running from place to place trying to save various groups of wired-to-explode civilians and, in most cases, failing. 

In one instance, Charge's solution to Rickshaw's challenge is so utterly nonsensical as to throw the whole movie out of whack, storywise.  It's, like, literally the last thing you'd expect a superhero to do because it's so...well, dumb.  Only occasionally does the dialogue manage to make things a bit more bearable, as in the following exchange:

Shadow: "What about the garage?  Isn't there something in there that could help, medicine or something?"
Charge: "Vitamin C isn't going to remove a 12-inch stab wound from his lower intestine, Jill."

Elsewhere, they come up against a couple of flamboyant goons played by more veterans of THE FP, Sean Whalen and Nick Principe (who also co-starred in the first "Chromeskull" film, LAID TO REST), in some bland battle action that does little to juice things up.  Principe is Sledgesaw, a relatively nondescript strongman character, while Whalen is the flamethrower-wielding Manpower, who dresses like a psychotic Uncle Sam for some reason.  Besides some generic Rickshaw henchmen in funny-animal suits, these are the film's only "super" villains. 
With their wrist implants conveniently taking away their powers, the word "super" doesn't even apply to our main characters.  This makes things easier on the filmmakers and less interesting for the viewer.  The closest we come to seeing a hero exercise a superpower is during a flashback when Shadow disappears (off-camera) after a lovers' tiff with Charge.  That's literally all the film has to offer in that department.

The rest of the time, everyone stands around and argues a lot or jogs through the deserted streets to the next location where they argue some more as civilians continue to explode around them.  Some actual suspense is briefly achieved a couple of times, but it's not enough to prevent the film from having what I found to be a rather enervating effect before long.

The DVD from Image Entertainment is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Dolby 5.1 sound.  Closed-captioned but no subtitles or extras.

With neither the fun of a "Spiderman" or "X-Men" flick or the substance of a "Dark Knight" tale, the main impression left by ALL SUPERHEROES MUST DIE is an overall dreariness that's even a bit depressing at times.  Minimal production values, uninspired cinematography, barely passable acting, and a scattershot plot amount to what might be considered a pretty fair student film but hardly something you'd want to go out of your way to see.


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