Unknown Origins – (Netflix) review

Brief synopsis: An uptight detective finds his way of life and work challenged when his cosplay loving boss instructs him to work with a comic-loving son of a retiring detective to solve a series of gruesome murders that all relate to classic comic superhero origin stories. 

Is it any good?: Unknown Origins (Origenes Secretos – original Spanish title) is an enjoyable, quirky film that speeds through its ninety-six-minute runtime. The acting is good from all concerned and the story is interesting enough to keep one gripped to its conclusion. 

Spoiler territory: Police search a burning building for survivors. Police officer Javier (Álex Garcia) finds an old lady and hands her to a colleague. The woman tells him that her husband is still in the building. Javier tells his commander that there are still people in the building. His chief tells him that the building is unsafe and they should leave it to the fire department. Javier ignores his superior and heads back into the building. The fire engulfs him and he dies. 

Sometime later, Javier’s father, Cosme (Antonio Resines), who is a detective and close to retirement, knocks on the door of his other son, Jorge Elias (Brays Efe), as he leaves for work. He gets a call over the radio about an incident and heads out. 

Jorge stumbles out of bed. He is not a policeman. Jorge runs a comic book store and is a sci-fi and comic geek. At the incident location, Cosme meets the detective who is replacing him, David Valentin (Javier Rey). The two exchange greetings and head into a dark building where a body has been found. 

They find a muscular man on a workout bench, his head seemingly severed by the barbell falling on his neck. His skin is pallid and greying. David, on seeing and smelling the body, vomits. Whilst in a laundromat, he tells Cosme that his parents were killed when he was a boy but it had no bearing on his decision to become a policeman. 

With David cleaned up, the two men go to see Bruguera (Ernesto Alterio), the pathologist. He tells them that not only was the man killed but his skin was deliberately made to look grey. Before Bruguera can tell them anything else, their conversation is interrupted by a woman dressed in an anime costume. 

She wants to know why Cosme is there. David is confused and Bruguera amused. Cosme quickly explains to David that she is the boss, Norma (Verónica Echegui). Norma is not happy. She wants to know why the retired Cosme is looking into a case. David tries to intervene, saying he thinks Cosme’s experience would be helpful. Norma tells Cosme he needs to clean out his desk. She leaves. 

David gets called to the scene of another murder. The body is in armour but the man’s heart has been cut out. The victim, it turns out, was a weapons seller on the internet.there is the fragment of a comic book found near the victim.

Cosme is looking at photos from the first murder. Jorge sees one of the photos and remarks on how he looks like the Hulk. Cosme asks if the Hulk is not green. Jorge tells him that in early issues of the comic the Hulk had been grey. 

The next day, Norma forces Cosme to sign his retirement papers. Cosme sees photos from the scene of the armoured body on a board in Norma’s office. She tells him that the killer kept the body alive for hours after taking the heart out by attaching a mechanical contraption to the organs. 

Cosme takes the comic cutting. He returns to the scene of the first murder. He finds a piece of paper with the words ‘secret origins’ scrawled on it. He also finds part of an old comic. It is from the first Hulk comic.

David and Jorge ride in a lift to the same floor in the police precinct. David has a meeting with Norma and Cosme. As Cosme explains the connection between comic book character origin stories and the gruesome murders, David’s attention is split as he watches Jorge in an adjoining office. 

David is sceptical about the murders and comic book link. Norma explains that they are bringing in someone to help him as he has very little knowledge of comics. David sees Jorge taking something from the office and tackles him to the floor. Norma tells him the man he just tackled is his new partner. 

David and Jorge return to the second crime scene. Jorge points out that a fire axe that is in the display is wrong. The axe is given to Bruguera to analyse. David goes to Jorge’s comic store to buy some comics. He runs into Norma who is dressed, once again, like an anime character. David questions her recruitment of Jorge, especially as she seems to be as much of a geek as Jorge. 

Norma points out to him that she does not read comics and knows very little about them, preferring anime and films. An admonished David tries to belittle others in the store, scoffing at heir interest in the comics. Jorge points out to him that all of them hold very responsible and high paying jobs.

David returns to the precinct. Norma comes and tells him there is a suspect. She reminds him to pick up Jorge. At the location, the special operations team will not let them in. Norma turns up and shoots the door lock off. 

Inside the apartment, they find the suspect is the next victim. The man is burning to death as they enter the apartment. Jorge tells them it is the Human Torch origin story. Bruguera tells them the man boiled to death over many days. David asks Norma why can’t she let Cosme keep working. She tells him that he is dying of cancer. 

David goes Cosme and Jorge’s for lunch. David tells Jorge about the night his parents died. It sounds like the Batman origin story. Jorge asks him if he has looked into the case. David tells him he has not. He tells him to call Norma. They head to the records room and find David’s parents case. Amongst the evidence is a comic book title. It is the Batman origin story. 

The three start to collate comic book character origin stories. Jorge explains that to purchase the comics that the headlines came from would cost a small fortune. Whoever was committing the crimes had to be rich. Jorge tells them that there is only one person who could tell them who might have purchased the comics; Paco. They go and meet Paco (Leonardo Sbaraglia). 

Jorge makes a deal with Paco to get the name of the most likely suspect. Paco tells them that it is a man named Victor Vid. David drops Jorge home, telling him they will go to the suspects home the next day. He heads to the suspect’s address. 

Jorge, knowing that David is lying, calls Norma. David breaks into the Vid’s apartment after getting no response when knocking. 

Inside the apartment, David finds a wall with cuttings and comic references. He comes across Vid sitting in a chair, the shock of seeing him making him shoot. Hallucinogenic gas is released by the shots and David finds himself facing a masked man whose voice is distorted electronically. David sees insects crawling out of the man’s mask. The man identifies himself as Nóvaro and hits David with a crowbar. 

Norma arrives and shoots at Nóvaro. He sprays mace in her face and escapes. Later, Bruguera tells them that Vid had been dead for years. The killer had stolen his identity and embalmed him. He also tells them he has found traces of polonium-210. Norma is worried but David does not know why. 

Bruguera points out that internal affairs will take over once they find out polonium-210 is involved because it is so dangerous. David tells Norma he is going to see Cosme. Whilst at Cosme’s place, another murder happens. It is a recreation of the Spider-Man origin story. 

David goes to see Norma and Jorge. Jorge tells him that he thinks that Nóvaro wants David to become a superhero. Norma agrees. David thinks they are both crazy. He tells Jorge, in a pique of anger, that his father is dying. Jorge shows Cosme his brother’s suit from when he died. He bought it because he felt it depicted a hero. 

David goes to see Jorge. Jorge is not at the store, having gone out to buy pizza for the patrons. He has left a costume for David. David puts on the costume. Jorge returns to the store with pizza for all the cosplayers. He and David speak. David apologises for telling him about his father and tells him he needs him. Cosme works out who the murderer is. 

Nóvaro kidnaps Cosme. He calls David at the comic shop and tells him to meet him at the Madrid water plant. He tells him he will poison the water supply unless he comes alone. David tells the other two that he is heading to the water plant. Norma says she is coming with him. Jorge wants to go but they tell him he cannot. 

Jorge gives David his brother’s police protective gear to wear as a costume. David and Norma head to the water plant. Cosme’s kidnapper reveals himself. It is Bruguera. He kidnapped Cosme because he realised he had worked out who he was and he could also use him to help create the world’s first superhero. 

His plan was to force David to become that hero. David tricks Norma into getting out of the car and drives off, leaving her. He tells her he has to confront Nóvaro alone. Bruguera tells Cosme he never killed David’s parents but the story of them being shot in an alleyway after a concert was too good an opportunity to miss. he planted the comic book clipping in the evidence. 

David gets to the water plant. At the top, Bruguera is numbing his face with injections. He is convinced David will show up as a superhero. He tells Cosme he is going to kill him but has drugged him so as he will not be in pain. He wants to give David more of an incentive to take up the hero mantle. Bruguera dips his face in acid so he cannot be recognised. He puts a mask on.

David gets to the top and points his gun at Bruguera/Nóvaro. Bruguera threatens to kill Cosme if he does not put his gun down. David puts his gun down but Bruguera kills Cosme anyway. Burguesa and David fight. Bruguera, who had planned to die, falls into a vat of acid. After Cosme’s funeral, the three keep looking for clues of Nóvaro’s true identity. All they find is a lair with access to police files worldwide and a lot of money. David decides to become a superhero. The end. 

Final thoughts: Unknown Origins, written by Fernando Navarro and David Galán Galindo, with Galindo also on directing duties, is a pleasant enough film. The premise of taking superhero origin stories as the link between murders is a good and interesting one, along similar lines of Fincher’s darker serial killer film, Seven. 

Unlike Seven, Unknown Origins is not dark, with a lot of humour coming from the absurdity of the premise and the challenging of what is considered normal and right. Considering that Rey’s David is the main protagonist, his character is a little underwritten making it difficult to root for him as much as one should or want to. 

Echegui’s Norma and Efe’s Jorge are much stronger characters, adding depth and colour to proceedings. Even Resines’ Cosme is stronger than David. 

Galindo’s directing is competent and the film is nicely lensed. The makeup department and costume department can both take a bow, as both of those elements are top-notch in the film. 

In a film where, ultimately, the villain wins, Unknown Origins will not sit well with everyone. That being said, it is a good enough film to devote an hour and a half to. 

Code 8 – review (Netflix)

Brief synopsis: In a world where people with powers are outlawed and treated like second-class citizens, a young man with the power to manipulate electricity gets involved with a group of criminals similarly endowed with varying abilities.

When his mother, who also has a superpower, gets sick and needs to be hospitalised, the man makes a deal with the local criminal drug lord to do a job so as he can raise the money to help his mother.

Is it any good?: Code 8 is an entertaining thriller with a strong central story and premise. With the Amell cousins – Stephen and Robbie – taking the central roles, the film manages to keep you engaged through its near one-hundred minute runtime.

Spoiler territory: As the world’s technology advances, there is less of a need for people born with superpowers, with many of the jobs they had done being done more economically by robots and mechanical machinery.

In Lincoln City, the fear of super-powered individuals is such that many found themselves unemployable. A new drug, Psyke, that is created by taking spinal fluid from super-powered individuals is flooding the streets and this is making it even more difficult for them to be accepted by wider society.

Connor (Robbie Amell) wakes his tired mother, Mary (Kari Matchett) from her slumber on the sofa. She has fallen asleep in her work uniform. As Connor prepares breakfast, Mary goes to the bathroom to freshen up. Her hands, covered in dark lesions, hurt as she washes them. Connor checks the mail. Every envelope is an overdue bill.

Mother and son discuss Connor’s upcoming interview. He notes that the lesions on her hands are getting worse. Mary tells him they are fine. Connor goes to his interview. Afterwards, he heads to a building site hoping to get some cash for doing a bit of labour. Joe (Lawrence Bayne), the foreman, offers him half-a-day’s pay because he missed the first hour. Connor needs the money so is forced to take the work.

Joe uses super-powered people on his house builds. As the men go about the construction, the police turn up and ask to see the workforce. The workforce is all told to look up so as they can be checked by a drone that hovers above. One of the workers is not registered on the system and tries to escape after the police take him into custody. As he runs away, two robot policemen drop from the drone and shoot him dead.

Elsewhere in the city, the police are getting ready to do a raid on a Psyke drug house. The house is part of the kingpin, Marcus Sutcliffe (Greg Bryk), drug network. As they raid the apartment, they find a room with multiple super-powered people hooked up to drips siphoning their spinal fluid. The police put out a press release, informing the city of their continued fight against the Psyke problem. They also show footage of the drug haul being taken away to be destroyed.

Connor stops by his mum’s workplace and finds her manager, Dave (Matthew Gouveia), telling her off. He is not happy about the way that he speaks to her. Dave does not care, knowing that Mary does not want to cause any problems for herself and her son, especially as both have superpowers. Mary gets fired.

Mary is not happy that Connor displayed his superpowers to Dave. Connor hits back that she had not exactly hidden her own powers, Mary’s ability to freeze things slipping from her control due to her health. She has a tumour but they cannot afford to pay for her to have chemotherapy. The next day, Connor is waiting with a group of labourers all hoping to get some work that day. A van drives past and a man from the van throw liquid at them whilst shouting abuse.

Another van comes along. Connor asks one of the other labourers, Travis (Jai Jai Jones), who they are. He tells him that they are part of Sutcliffe’s trafficking crew. The van stops and Garrett (Stephen Amell) leans out of the van and asks the gathered labourers if any of them are an electrical of at least level two. The labourers stay silent. Garrett voices the thought that no one wants to get paid then. Connor steps up.

Garrett, plus two others, Maddy (Laysla De Oliviera), a woman who can generate extreme heat through her hands and Freddie (Vlad Alexis), who has super strength, are in the van. Garrett is telekinetic. They all go to a storage facility. Garrett needs Connor to cut through the fence because it is electrified.

Connor shorts the fence and the crew break into the compound. They grab six barrels of a chemical that helps to create Psyke. A security guard tries to stop them and they put him in a dumpster. The police get alerted to the break-in and are looking for the van. The crew change the colour of the van to avoid detection.

In a club bar where Sutcliffe hangs out, Sutcliffe is having a nervous meeting with Cumbo (Peter Outerbridge). He owes Cumbo money. Cumbo, knowing that Sutcliffe reads minds, tells him to look into the eyes of his associate, Copperhead (Sarah Hödlmoser). Sutcliffe looks into her eyes. He tells Cumbo that she is thinking of the various ways she can cut his throat. Cumbo tells him he has a week to come up with the money.

The crew come into the club, led over to Sutcliffe by Rhino (Simon Northwood), Sutcliffe’s bodyguard. Sutcliffe reads Connor and notes his anger. He tells Nia (Kyla Kane), a healer, to show him around. Garrett has a meeting with Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe asks about Connor and Garrett tells him that the boy is more powerful than he realises but needs to be honed. Sutcliffe tells him to get on it as he has a big score he wants them to do.

Garrett starts coughing. Rhino comes and finds Nia. She is needed by Sutcliffe. Garrett takes Connor back to where he picked him up from and overpays him for the night’s work. He tells him there is more work. Connor seems reluctant. Connor returns home and is told by his mother that she went and got her job back at the store.

Nia goes to see Sutcliffe. She is hooked on Psyke and heals him in exchange for the drug. The next day, Connor is waiting for work again. Joe turns up and all the labourers rush to the truck. Garrett turns up just after. Connor decides to go with him. Garrett wants to know why Connor has joined them, knowing what sort of people they are. Connor tells him that his mother is sick.

Garrett decides to help him realise his potential. Connor accompanies Garrett as he goes about his daily drug pushing business, in-between the hustle, he trains him. They go to see Mikey (Max Laferriere). Mikey owes Garrett money. Mikey tells him that The Trust, who runs the Psyke trade, say that Sutcliffe and Garrett are done. He is taking over. Connor steps up to Mikey. Mikey, also an electric, zaps him. He is not as powerful as Connor.

Connor zaps Mikey back, putting him down. Later, Garrett tells Connor that he needs to be who he is and not hide his abilities. Connor goes and visits the manager at his mother’s workplace, Dave. He keeps training with Garrett and his control gets much better. He lies to his mother telling her he got the job he went for.

Conner is a person of interest after a spate of robberies involving super-powered persons. Park (Sung Kang) and Davis (Aaron Abrams), part of the LCPD, watch Conner. Garrett and Connor go to case out a bank they plan to hit. Connor tells the crew about the security and cameras at the bank. Dave is reluctant to order Mary around anymore after his visit from Conner.

The crew hit the bank. They get into the vault but the expected amount of money is not in the vault. Garrett asks the bank teller, Emily (Casey Hudecki), where the money is. She tells him that most of the money had been collected earlier in the day. Maddy tells Garrett that they need to leave. The crew leave but are spotted by a police drone. Garrett tells Conner to fire on the drone. Conner disables the drone and they escape.

Garrett goes to see Sutcliffe. He tells him his information was not good. As they argue, a young man at the bar looks around. He gets up and his face changes. It is Copperhead. She tries to kill Sutcliffe. Rhino stands between her and Sutcliffe, taking the shots. She turns her attention to Nia but Conner blast the gun out of her hand. She turns to him and pulls a knife, slicing his forearm. Rhino shoots her. As she is on the floor he shoots her in the head making sure she is dead.

Garrett tells Sutcliffe that they need to hit back at the Trust. Sutcliffe tells him that he does not realise how big the Trust is and that it is his business, not theirs. Nia heals Conner. He did not know she was a healer. She tells him that she is paying off a debt to Sutcliffe which is why she works for him.

Mary finds Connor’s money. She wants to know how he came by so much cash as she knows he did not get the job. As they argue, Mary collapses. Connor takes her to the hospital. A doctor (Darrin Baker) tells him that the tumour is pressuring her brain and she needs to be treated urgently. The cost of her treatment is huge.

As Connor leaves the hospital, he is picked up by Park and Davis. They take him in for interrogation. Davis wants to lock him up but Park says they do not have a strong enough case against him. They let him go. Garrett picks him up and takes him to see Sutcliffe. Sutcliffe looks into his eyes and tells Garrett that he did not tell them anything.

Garrett comes up with a plan to steal the Psyke that the LCPD burn before it is destroyed. Connor says he wants Nia in exchange for the job. Sutcliffe agrees. Garrett wants a fifty-fifty split. He agrees to that as well. The crew plan the heist. The day of the heist arrives and the job is going smoothly, Garrett’s crew easily overpowering the armoured van carrying the Psyke.

Sutcliffe’s men start killing everybody and kill Maddy. The crew realise that Sutcliffe wants them all dead as well. LCPD robots are deployed to help with the subduing of the criminals. They shoot Sutcliffe’s men but Freddie is injured during the gun battle and dies.

Nia wants to leave Sutcliffe but he points out to her that her father still owes him a lot of money. He suggests he could just have him killed in prison to cancel the debt. At the police station, the captain, Milltown (Martin Roach), discusses the spate of robberies and the last heist with Davis and Park. Park admits they had Connor in custody but let him go. He does not think he would kill anyone.

Connor goes to see his mother and tells her he is going to help her. She tells him that he needs to let her go, she has accepted her fate. Park goes to see his daughter. While he is out walking with her, Travis gives him a note. Park meets Connor in a cafe. Connor gives Park the location of Sutcliffe’s operation. They storm the location causing Sutcliffe to flee with Nia and Rhino.

Garrett catches up with Sutcliffe and shoots him. Rhino stands in front of him, defending Sutcliffe again. Rhino goes for Garrett. Connor hits him with an electrical blast but he still keeps coming, smacking both the men around. Garrett stabs him in the eye with a metal shaft and Connor kills him with an electrical bolt through it.

Garrett chokes Sutcliffe to death. Nia shows Connor that using her powers to could kill her as she absorbs any disease to cure them. Garrett tells him that he needs to take what he wants. Conner takes Nia to the hospital and tells her to heal his mother. He stops her as Mary wakes up still obviously dying. He holds her hand and she dies.

The LCPD find Sutcliffe’s body. Connor lets Nia go. Lincoln city push through a bill to outlaw superpowers. Park and Davis get commendations for the drug raid. Garrett takes over Sutcliffe’s drug patch and meets with Cumbo. Connor visits his mother’s grave. Nia visits her father in prison. The end.

Code 8 is an entertaining thriller with good performances from all on show. With the popular superpowers genre in full swing and social commentary also very popular, combining the two – a staple of comics through the decades – is a recipe for a strong basis to make a film on. Stephen Amell does not stray far from his Oliver Queen/Arrow persona and it works perfectly well in the framework of this film.

Robbie who, unlike his cousin, is not so defined by one role, continues to show that he is a capable screen presence. He is totally believable as the struggling to find his place Connor. The social commentary is that most popular parable of oppression for something that is beyond one’s control and is only touched upon in the film.

Truth be told, Code 8 is not a film trying to change the world, leaving the preaching of such messages to more cerebral fare. Code 8 is a superhero film in reverse. With Connor as the central protagonist whose only drive is to save his mother, it does not really take in the treatment of other super-powered people beyond the intermittent newscast and Abrams’ Davis obvious dislike of super-powered persons.

The film flows nicely through its ninety-eight-minute runtime, keeping you engaged up until the conclusion. Code 8 is by no means a perfect or great film but it is entertaining. With a screenplay by Chris Pare and story and direction from Jeff Chan, Code 8 is a perfectly serviceable actioner with a nod to social justice. It takes ideas from many other films but they are executed well enough not to be obtrusive. Code 8 is an enjoyable actioner to waste the best part of two hours on.

The Best Superhero Film Ever

    It has been a few days since the event that was Avengers: Endgame happened. The media; newspapers, television, internet, have all covered the film extensively, both in reviewing it and discussing various aspects of the whole MCU now that this chapter of the cinematic story has been resolved.

    There have been, in some quarters, talk of Endgame being the best superhero film ever made. At three hours long, concluding a chapter that has been building over a decade, it is indeed a great cinematic achievement. 

   It ties up threads from many of the previous films, whilst giving fitting, in some cases surprising, send-offs to characters that have been ever-present in the MCU. It does, of course, leave the ever-baffling conundrum of time travel, but as time travel does not exist, as far as we know, no one can, definitively, rebut its explanation in film.

   The question of whether it is the greatest superhero film ever made, however, is up for debate. There is a definite argument for it to be proclaimed the greatest conclusion of a story told over several films. Even some of the best-known film franchise series in cinema have suffered from not knowing when to end the story. 

    The Matrix was two films too long. The Terminator should have stopped at two, yet still hobbles on. The Godfather, as a duo, was near perfect until Coppola needed a big payday. As for the increasing awfulness of the Die Hard franchise, that is a separate blog! 

    In terms of costume wearing hero films, the MCU does not have a great deal of competition. Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy is probably the standard bearer, even if in truth it’s the late Heath Ledger’s Joker that defines and elevates the series. 

    Christopher Reeve’s beloved Superman went awry after his second outing, the third installment, though entertaining, was weak and the fourth plain silly. Superman or the Man of Steel has not fared so well on screen since that last Reeves outing. 

    The Fantastic Four, known as the first family of Marvel, have suffered the most in cinema. Brilliant on the page, Reed Richards, Susan Storm, Johnny Storm, and Ben Grimm, found a place in comic folklore on the page. On celluloid, or digital now, not so much. The infamous 1994 version is entertainingly terrible, looking more 1984 than 94. The makeup is garish and it uses the comics as a template, with costumes lifted directly from pages. 

     The two mid-noughties versions are okay. Hated by the fans, they were also Chris Evans’ introduction to the life of a lycra-clad super-being. Not bad films, the problem with the mid-noughties films was they did not get the tone right. Neither comedy or drama, the films straddle an uncomfortable limbo between the genres. 

    Josh Trank’s infamous Fantastic Four effort, rumoured to have been wrecked by studio interference, was an absolute train-wreck of a film. Dark of tone, it was a sombre, meandering film, where nothing vaguely super or fantastical happens for most of the film. 

    Before being absorbed into the MCU, Spider-Man was under the Sony pictures banner. A trilogy of films was produced starring Toby McGuire as the erstwhile web-slinger. I personally, thought them all to be quite good films. Even the loathed third installment, which admittedly overdid it with the villains, was entertaining. 

   The Andrew Garfield reboot started off well. Garfield seemed to nail the Peter Parker character perfectly. Unfortunately, the follow up was woeful, with Jamie Foxx’s Electro villain bringing back memories of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze abomination. 

   When 2008’s Iron Man kicked off the MCU charge to world and cinematic screen domination, the superhero movie was still viewed as pop-culture fare, not particularly serious cinema. Iron Man, not the most popular character in comics, proved a hit, with the charismatic Robert Downey Jr. giving life to a character that would become the foundation of the MCU. 

   Chris Evans return to the world of super-beings would come in 2011 when he would take on the iconic role of Captain America. With the lukewarm reception to Evans first outing, no one could have anticipated how impressive his next outing in the red, white and blue would be. 

    The first of the four films helmed by the Russo brothers, The Winter Soldier was masterful. It was a noticeable step up in the MCU, raising the standard of story and action in one fell swoop. Following on from Joss Whedon’s 2012 Avengers Assemble, The Winter Soldier continued to lay the groundwork for the Infinity War saga, the Infinity stones becoming much more of a focal point within the MCU. 

     Civil War, the third outing for Captain America was the Russo brothers second stint behind the cameras. It was also much more of a prelude to the Infinity War films than it was a Captain America film, feeling, due to the presence of so many of the Marvel characters, like an Avengers film. 

   Away from the MCU, Fox was trying to build some sort of momentum with the X-Men films. The Bryan Singer efforts, X-Men and X2, proved very popular coming, as they did, some eight and five years before the MCU kicked off with Iron Man. 

   Singer then jumped ship and went off to make the Brandon Routh starring Superman Returns. With that decision, Singer derailed both Marvel and DC, with his Superman project proving underwhelming and Fox allowing the X-Men franchise to bounce from director to director, with no one taking overall creative control. 

   After the truly terrible Last Stand, Fox put their hopes in the most popular character of the franchise; Wolverine. Hugh Jackman’s portrayal of Wolverine was the only thing that carried the Origins story in the 2009 film. The follow-up, The Wolverine in 2013 is trash. Awful on every level, the most shocking thing about this film, besides everything, is that it is helmed by James Mangold. 

   Mangold is also the director behind the final film in the loose trilogy, Logan. Had I known, before seeing the film, that Mangold was responsible for The Wolverine, I probably would not have watched Logan. Thankfully, ignorance is bliss. Logan is a masterpiece. 

   I would argue, had it been part of the MCU – though given its level of violence, that would not be possible in the house of the Mouse – it would be much more revered. Everything about the film is right. The music, the editing, the emotional pull and impact, the pacing, everything. 

    As a trilogy, the Wolverine films are barely worth a mention. The question of the best superhero film ever made is different. I would argue that, as good as Endgame is, Infinity War is better as a stand-alone film. Endgame does not work without Infinity War. Endgame is possibly the best conclusion of a superhero film story. It is definitely better than the end to the Dark Knight trilogy. I won’t even mention the Matrix

    But even in the MCU, Endgame is probably only in the top five. I would argue that, as well as Infinity War, The Winter Soldier is also a better film. As a stand-alone, impactful story, it can be watched independently of all the other films and feel complete. 

    The Dark Knight definitely makes a case for the best superhero film ever, with the late Ledger’s performance the benchmark by which every Joker is measured. The entire film is driven by his performance, his character. 

    In terms of the best superhero film ever made, like any media content – music, art, books – the opinion is personal and will always be disputed. For myself, it is, up to this point, Logan. By no means a conventional superhero film – he wears no costume, there is no world-ending disaster – Logan is an exceptional piece of filmmaking, almost defying a genre definition. 

    Endgame is, no doubt, an excellent film, and a perfect ending to the Infinity Saga. As good a film as it is, it is not quite the best superhero film ever made, that is, for me, Logan.   



Black Lightning – waiting for a strike (early impressions review)

With the imminent release of Black Panther on the horizon – can’t wait! – and a general shifting toward the listening to the voices of minorities in western civilisation, the landscape of film and television is affording more opportunities for fare that would not have found a large audience outside of its particular niche.
With the popularity of superhero films in cinemas and its filtering to television and subscription services, the once niche market of comic geekery is now known to all. Netflix, to their credit, have been at the forefront when it comes to programming in the superhero genre. Having predominantly screened Marvel fare – Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Defenders – with the exception of the risible Iron Fist (review here), the comic book adaptions have been good to great, Marvel continuing to prove that their grasp of the genre is solid.
Black Lightning is the latest addition to DC’s roster of televisual super beings. Unlike their filmic output, DC’s television shows have been strong, with Arrow, The Flash, Supergirl and Heroes of Tomorrow all established shows. As I mentioned before, it seems with the race to embrace minority friendly content, DC have dug through their archives of characters and found the little known – even amongst comic geeks – character of Black Lightning.
As a black person myself, I embrace the advent of minority programming and love seeing people on the screen I can readily identify with. That being said, three episodes into Black Lightning it is difficult to find much to be excited about. In fact, there is so much wrong with Black Lightning, it is difficult to know where to start.
Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is Black Lightning, a meta-human able to generate electrical beams, lightning, from his hands. He is also an expert martial artist. None of this is addressed in the show, I learned it all on Wikipedia. How he came to be Black Lightning, his origin story, is not even alluded to. We meet Jefferson as a high school principal in Freeland. He has retired from the superhero/vigilante game, feeling he can help more as a pillar of the community. He also knows that it was being Black Lightning that broke his relationship with his estranged wife Lynn (Christine Adams) as she could not bear the thought of him being in danger every night.
Elsewhere his youngest daughter, Jennifer (China Anne McClain) is getting close to a young, would-be, gang banger, LaShawn (Al-Jaleel Knox), cousin to local dealer and area boss of the notorious one hundred gang, Lala (William Catlett). When LaShawn takes Jennifer to see his cousin, trying to impress her, Lala embarrasses him and insults Jennifer. When later on Jennifer is caught up in a gang-related situation, Black Lightning is forced to come out of retirement. So far so cliche.
Let’s start with the costume; it is god awful, easily the worse costume of modern-day heroes. Not in anyway subtle, it is a shiny, carbon-blue coloured, motorcycle suit, with a bright lightning bolt ‘V’ on the chest. He wears goggles – GOGGLES! – as his disguise. So people, who have known him most of their lives do not recognise him with a pair of sunglasses on!
A peruse of IMDB shows a divide of opinion; many comic show fans hate the show, the biggest gripe being the acting. I feel that this is unfair as, if anything, the acting is probably the best thing about the show. Unfortunately, the actors are given not only a weak premise to work with – I will get to that – but also dull scripts. The dialogue in the show is so poor it is almost a sedative. The only actors who get to invest believably in their roles are the aforementioned William Catlett, Marvin ‘Krondon’ Jones III, who plays Tobias Whale and Damon Gupton as Inspector Henderson.
The show’s story and premise go for the lazy and overworked, using the old ‘gangs taking over and terrorising the ghetto/neighbourhood’ trope that is often attributed to black stories/communities. It was the same story they used in Luke Cage, though that show did have a much better script.
As well as following the black gangs and a frightened community staple, the show also jumps on the ‘empowering women’ bandwagon, as well as the wife and youngest daughter, there is also Anissa (Nefessa Williams), the eldest daughter, who is a lesbian. Notably, the lesbians in this show are strictly of the lipstick variety; utterly beautiful.
Unusually, Black Lightning has made no effort at an origin story, thus we are given a vague sense of Black Lightning as a figure of folklore, missed by the god-fearing – yep, the church loving staple is in there too – community.

I will say, as a positive, that – aside for the costume – the show looks technically good, especially the third episode. The lighting and colours look rich and deep and the editing, fight scenes and sound are top class.
Netflix has, unusually, opted to release Black Lightning week by week, unlike many of the other superhero shows. Whether the show will be able to retain its audience over its thirteen episode run remains to be seen. Whilst not unwatchable, Black Lightning is far from unmissable television. As I am a long time fan of the superhero genre, I will no doubt keep watching. Hopefully Black Lightning will find its feet later in its run.