“I want people of all ages to appreciate
the idea that superheroes can come
in every gender, shape, size and age”
After spotting Thunder Force pop upon Netflix, the home cinema was cranked up and I sat down to watch…
What Is Thunder Force?
**** This Review Contains Spoilers***
Thunder Force is a straight to Netflix Super Hero ‘comedy’ movie starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer. Written, produced and directed by Ben Falcone (McCarthy’s husband) it is the 5th Falcone- McCarthy collaboration.
The Idea to write Thunder Force came to Falcone on his way into work one day whilst trying to think of his next project. As an avid comic book reader, he thought – what if Melissa and Octavia (Spencer) were superheroes? That idea developed into a script for Thunder Force.
Thunder Force starts in 1980’s Chicago where interstellar cosmic rays have struck the world and caused all sociopaths to obtain superpowers. These new supervillains are then referred to as ‘Miscreants’. After a Miscreant attack causes the death of Emily Stanton’s (Octavia Spencer) parents, Emily is forced to move in with her grandmother. Very soon after this Emily becomes friends with force of nature Lydia (Melissa McCarthy), who instantly becomes geek protector. Fast forward into early adulthood and the two childhood friends are set on different paths, one to a hum-drum life, the other on a quest to obtain super science knowledge and avenge her parents. For the next 20 or so years the friends are separated until a school reunion brings them back together. Lydia then snoops around Emily’s new super science facility and is accidentally injected with a super strength serum that Emily spent years creating for herself. To save Lydia from self-imploding, Emily must administer a course of serum injections thus providing Emily with super strength as a result. Whilst all this is going on Emily obtains her own power ‘Invisibility’ and the Thunder Force is born. Their first task is to stop miscreant attacks in the local area and the pair cross paths with a Miscreant gang leader and half man half crab (Jason Bateman) The person behind all the attacks and pulling the strings in the background is not at all happy with Thunder Force interrupting his plans, and sets out to destroy Thunder Force and the elite of Chicago. With everything then predictably resting on the final act of the movie…
Trailer: Thunder Force
Stand Out Casting
Thunder Force is primarily a vehicle for Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer with a handful of supporting actors.
Melissa McCarthy as Lydia…
There is no doubt that Melissa McCarthy can act – a best actress nomination in 2019’s Academy Awards proves this. However, whilst die hard McCarthy fans will no doubt love her performance as Lydia, I did not. The character of Lydia was geared towards McCarthy’s particular brand of humour and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. The character of Lydia is a well-worn trope, best friend on the route to nothingness. It’s a turn we have seen McCarthy play to great effect before, most notably in 2013’s ‘The Heat’ alongside Sandra Bullock. However, in Thunder Force McCarthy is underserved by the script and incapable of holding my attention between set pieces. At one point we are served a few minutes of slapstick cantered around a single joke about Jodie Foster – that I just did not get. Even scenes that should be played straight, such as a superhero face off was played for laughs and misses the mark of both comedy and superheroness. Why Couldn’t McCarthy emulate how Robert Downey Jr brings humour to Iron Man rather than fall back to groin jokes, or a joke about geeks that is repeated over and over and over throughout the film.
Octavia Spencer as Emily Stanton
Thunder Force does it again, here we have another talented actress (Oscar winner Spencer (THE HELP) given a script that is not match for the talent she has to offer. Emily is written as the polar opposite to Lydia. Whereas Lydia is attempting a gag in every scene, Emily is the more straightlaced of the pair. Again, we see nothing new in this. Every other buddy film ever made seems to have the same set, think Murtaugh and Riggs in Lethal Weapon or Danno and McGarrett in Hawaii 5-0. The crying shame in all of this is that Spencer and McCarthy have been friends for over 20 years and that chemistry is ot even taped into during the film. The film works best when the pair are bickering. It is in the space between the obvious set pieces . Emily’s dialogue is a dull, and Spencer literally has little to do other than stand there and look scientific and even when the action kicks in she goes invisible for most of it.
Jason Bateman As Crab Man
Jason Bateman is one of those Actors that can make even the dullest scene totally engaging. Playing a Mutated human, with pincers for arms, in charge of a group of evil henchmen Bateman seems to be in a different movie to the rest of the cast. His scenes are full of charisma and funny touches, such as the way he walks sideways out of shot. He is having immense fun as half a crab and somehow can take the dullest scene and inject it with masses of charisma. Some of the strongest laughs came from his antics. Keep an eye out for his claws being buttered :O.
Thunder Force Production Values
Thunder Force wear suits that look somewhere between cheap comic book cosplay and a child’s attempt at a outfit inspired by the Roman era, what is with the Tunics?
A running gag in the film is that Emily and Lydia’s superhero get-ups are a little ripe since they only have one and can’t wash them. In reality, says Falcone, “They each had two and then there were some stunt suits as well. And they did not smell.” In order to sterilize them and neutralize odours, “The costume department would spray vodka on them at the end of the day.”
Fresh from his work on Superintelligence Artist and Composer Fil Eisler has been handed score duties for Thunder Force. Taking Lydia’s rock wardrobe as inspiration, Eisler put together a who’s who of Grammy-nominated rock luminaries for the soundtrack including Scott Ian of Anthrax, Dave Lombardo of Slayer, and Corey Taylor from Slipknot to perform the closing credits theme song.
Glenn Frey songs feature throughout Thunder Force and Eisler ensured they went to the late Eagles’ estate to get its blessing. “They knew that we were doing it out of love, so they were into it.” Once secured, Falcone chose “Smuggler’s Blues” as Emily’s “pump-up music” and “You Belong to the City” as the musical backdrop for a romantic fantasy dance sequence with Lydia and the Crab. “I’m a big fan of comic books and the characters always have a thing, usually it’s something simple that people reading can latch onto. And I thought it would be a fun thing that Emily needs pump-up music before a big mission. And ‘Smuggler’s Blues’ was just the first thing that came to mind.
More On The Score…
The great thing about the score is that it works in harmony with the film. Not once did I notice an out of place sound or musical cue. To that end, Eisler has done a fantastic job.
Its not all roses with the score though, if you listen to the score on its own, you start to notice obvious musical cues and influences and this is a shame. Its almost like the score plays tribute to major movies of this genre.
The Soundtrack kicks off with the titular ‘Thunder Force’ a track that emulates late 1980s /in 1990s, rock culture, no doubt due to the team the Eisler put together. This rock theme crops up intermittingly throughout the score, such as the tracks ‘Dumpster’ and ‘Lydia goes Ape’ are overlaid with a heavy guitar riff
The ‘Thunder Force suite’ sets the tone for the rest of the soundtrack, it opens quite softly then becomes a wall of sound including orchestrated riffs and elements of aforementioned rock guitar. The Suite also encompasses a slight middle eastern tone at around 4 mins in.
This is one of those film scores that make you go, …wait, is that from so and so ?…or haven’t I heard that before?… When I listen to ‘The Stanton Building ‘ I swear I hear the opening bars of something familiar, I just cannot put my figure on what. Thunder Force Suite is that this track introduces a few bars of music that gets repeated throughout the rest of score. These few bars are overly familiar as if they riff off either Alan Silvestri’s Marvel Studios intro, or something from one of the Avengers movies. It’s a piece of music that is clearly heard in the track ‘Super Person.’
Whilst listening to the rest of the track I also hear influences from Alan Silvestri and Danny Elfman, whilst the track ‘What does this button do’ has Bernard Herrmann undertones.
Overall it’s a solid effort on the score and Elfman has put together an impressive team to theme.
Its just a shame it is so obvious with its influences..
Thunder Force soundtrack is available across the usual music platforms and Netflix are showing the film in ATMOS.
Netflix present it in its usual Dolby Vision standard. Everything looks nice and sharp, blacks are deep and the images have a glossy feel.
It does have a couple of rough looking VFX shots though. A scene involving a bus looks like a made for TV effect and seems unfinished.
That said, overall, the production standards are good and as usual with Netflix it feels like it has used a bigger budget than provided and this is only a good thing.
Thoughts On Thunder Force
Thunder Force simply doesn’t know what it wants to be. It starts as a teen angst movie, showing the struggle of two girls – one with a tendency to be a geek and the other brash and loud. It loses this story line and becomes a buddy movie, and then it tries to be a blockbuster style action movie. The jokes come in from nothing more than bad observational humour and improvisation. It’s a world where putting large ladies into small cars and crotch/fart jokes are supposed to be funny. It’s not just poor writing for McCarthy and Spencer either. One scene shows the films antagonist dispatching henchmen, this sparks a conversation about that person being the best henchmen and he had a family etc. It’s badly done, and this particular type of joke was mastered in the Austin Powers Movies (when they cut to the late henchman’s family to break the news he was flattened by a roller).
I cannot help feeling that Thunder Force is a missed opportunity to exploit an untapped area of the superhero genre. Falcone should have been smarter with his writing. There is so much comedy in the premise of the story. Two close to middle age women, obtain super powers that they have never had. What about the effects of these powers, the misuse of them while inexperienced? What about an over-the-top antagonist who thinks he so extreme he cannot see the chaos. What about more from the side walking Crab Man easily the funniest thing in the movie.
Written and Directed by Ben Falcone
Produced by Ben Falcone, p.g.a., Melissa McCarthy, p.g.a., Marc Platt, p.g.a., Adam Siegel, p.g.a.
Executive Producers Becki Cross Trujillo, Divya D’Souza, Steve Mallory
Director of Photography Barry Peterson
Production Designer Bill Brzeski
Edited by Tia Nolan, ACE
Costume Designer Carol Ramsey
Music Supervisors Manish Raval and Tom Wolfe
Music by Fil Eisler
Casting by Allison Jones, CSA
Starring: Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer, Bobby Cannavale, Pom Klementieff, Kevin Dunn,
Taylor Mosby, Marcella Lowery, with Melissa Leo and Jason Bateman
Images HOPPER STONE/NETFLIX © 2021
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