Released: 9th April
Seen: 29th April
The Superhero genre has been the biggest thing in movies for a little over the last decade, largely thanks to the Marvel Cinematic Universe that has somehow managed to go from strength to strength. When something is as culturally important as the Superhero genre has been for the last several years it stands to reason that someone would come along and satirize the tropes that by this point have become tiresome… or, if you’re something as unabashedly awful as Thunder Force, you could not make a single decent joke despite a decades worth of material you’ve been gifted and instead rely on the talents of two leads who aren’t miracle workers and can’t make you even remotely humorous.
Yes, this is one of those angry reviews about a bad film, go get a soda because we will be here a while.
Thunder Force tells what we will politely call the “Story” of best friends Lydia Berman (Melissa McCarthy) and Emily Stanton (Octavia “I’m a goddamn Oscar winner and am too good for this crap” Spencer). Well, I say they’re best friends but they actually stop talking when they’re teenagers and then meet back up when they’re in their 40s but no one seems to have told the rest of the characters about this element of the story and oh god I’ve barely even introduced the characters and am already pointing out flaws in this stupid film!
Anyway, the world is full of super powered beings called Miscreants because something happened that caused superpowers to be unlocked in, and I quote “Rare individuals who were genetically predisposed to be sociopaths” (this will come up later) so Emily has worked her entire life to find a way to make good people into superheroes. She ends up giving Lydia super strength (Because Lydia casually walks into her secure lab, touches random buttons, sits in a chair and begins the process because that’s how you do science!) while Emily gets invisibility (and a super strong taser, not a fucking joke) and the two of them become Thunder Force and go to fight crime against… uggh, The Crab (Jason Bateman), The King (Bobby Cannavale) and Laser (Pom Klementieff).
To be fairer to Thunder Force than it deserves (fire, Thunder Force deserves all of the fire), the concept is not awful. A world where only sociopaths get superpowers could be a great way to comment on the very concept of superheroes, making the only people with power be those predisposed to evil actually has something resembling potential… you know, if it was well written or directed or just good in any way. Nah, that’s too hard, why not just do a half-assed version of what we think superhero movies look like and go with that?
Oh, and there was one joke where Octavia Spencer’s character mishears “Half-Creant” (as in half-miscreant) as “Half-Korean” and that kinda got a chuckle out of me but I may have also just been a little bit tired and desperate for anything to lift me out of the funk that Thunder Force forced me into… I think that’s most of the positive stuff out of the way, onto the hate and bile!
Thunder Force is bad (get used to that sentence, I will be saying it a lot). It’s radioactively bad in ways I didn’t think a film with this caliber of talent could be. Say what you will about some of her film choices but Melissa McCarthy is a genuinely great comedian and Octavia Spencer is a goddamn Oscar winner for a goddamn reason and both of them are flying blind in this thing. You can see them putting everything into trying to milk a laugh out of the lines they were given, which is a little bit like trying to milk blood from a stone. It’s useless and you’re better off just beating yourself with said stone.
Thunder Force is a film that does not get what a joke actually looks like, let alone a joke that in any way involves the core concept of superheroes. Hell, the title itself is literally a play on the term Thunder Thighs and they don’t even have the balls to make a joke involving that! No, Thunder Force seems to think that the concept of eating raw chicken is a valid running joke, which it wouldn’t be even if that joke was funny but the fact that there is nothing funny about eating raw chicken in either concept or in the context of the film just makes it all the more baffling.
You know what else is baffling? The amount of times Thunder Force decides that repetition itself counts as a joke. I swear there are multiple times when characters will just repeat the same line back and forth because… I don’t know why, me knowing why this film does anything would imply that this film operates on normal logic and clearly it does not. I literally yelled “WE GOT IT!” when characters repeated that Melissa McCarthy threw a bus three times. It’s painful, it’s genuinely irritating. There are ways to make repetition funny, the famous rake scene in The Simpsons is the perfect example of a joke that works largely because of repetition… this film WISHES it had a joke anywhere near that funny.
There is nothing funny to be found here, no clever points made or shots fired. It isn’t hard to make fun of the tropes of this genre, Deadpool did it 5 years ago! Call out cliches when they happen, mess up simple moments, something! ANYTHING! Make jokes about this genre that has dominated the last decade of cinema releases, there’s so much material there to work with and you used none of it.
Maybe they don’t use any of the material because Thunder Force seems to think that the audience is dumb. I know Thunder Force thinks this because it shows it in how they present several key elements, starting with Emily’s power. Emily is meant to be invisible at several moments, that is her superpower and so what this SHOULD lead to is a series of fight scenes where you can only see one half of the fight.
Reminder, Thunder Force thinks you are very stupid so instead of making Emily actually invisible they instead give her a 50% opacity in certain shots so she looks more like a ghost than anything else so the audience can see where she is. This is only in some shots where they really need you to see Octavia Spencer creep around like a cartoon mouse because heaven forbid they actually surprise you. Oh, and any time she uses her taser (seriously, her weapon is a very strong taser) she stops being invisible because I guess it’s outside the directors limited talent to figure out how to make a taser float on its own accord for a single shot!
Oh, then there’s the crab man. How could I forget about the crab man… Ok I always forgot about him (which shouldn’t be possible when it’s Jason Bateman but hey, it happened) because he was a bland boring character right up until he reveals that he wasn’t a criminal until long after getting superpowers and was clearly never genetically predisposed to be a sociopath which is the LITERAL PREMISE OF THE FILM! How hard is it to remember that? The people who get the powers are villains, that’s the central idea of the film and you mess it up with one of your main characters who never shows anything resembling evilness.
And all this is just the stuff regarding the story, do I even have to bring up how bad everything looks? The Fantastic Four movie that Roger Corman made back in 94 that was never meant to be released looks more interesting than this does. Some of the visual compositing is just god awful, there’s nothing standout about any of the effects. It’s a bunch of lasers that anyone with after effects can do and making Octavia Spencer slightly see through… such powers, much super hero.
I don’t even know if there’s enough space to cover everything. From the awful villain reveal and his stupid plan (we live in a post Trump world and this moron thinks you need to win several elections before running for President?) to the stupid dance sequence that seemed to be designed around Melissa McCarthy’s desire to try out some wire work, everything about Thunder Force is just bad. These are bad decisions that were made by a bad director who should be kissing his wife’s feet every single day because her talent is why he gets work. Oh, right, the director of this film is married to Melissa McCarthy and I hope they had fun making this film together because no one will be having fun watching it.
Thunder Force hurt me. It was a boring painful sit that felt like it was wasting my time with every passing moment, every failed attempt at a joke, every missed opportunity just made me long for the days when people understood how to satirize pop culture. Hell, I’m just going to call it, I would honestly rather watch a Friedberg-Seltzer movie than this because at least the Friedberg-Seltzer movies TRIED to make something work even when they failed spectacularly. Thunder Force isn’t trying, trying implies that anyone involved gave a shit and judging on the thing that was just forcibly rubbed into my eyeballs, I don’t think anyone tried at all.