By Scott Tre

In the year 2074, organized crime has become much more sophisticated. This is due in large part to the invention of time travel, which is almost instantly outlawed due to its propensity for misuse. It proves quite a handy tool for carrying out hits and disposing of corpses. Various mafias employ it too just such nefarious ends. Intended targets are sent 30 years into the past, where a hitman known as a looper lies in wait. The looper than takes out the target and gets rid of the body. The loopers ask no questions, they simply follow orders and are paid handsomely in return.

Eventually, the day comes when each looper is expected to kill their future selves, thus “closing the loop.” One such looper is Joseph “Joe” Simmons (Joseph Gordon-Levitt). However, when the time comes to close his own loop, Joe hesitates, along his 55 year-old self (Bruce Willis) to escape. This not only voids Joe’s contract with the crime syndicate, but makes him a marked man. He hopes to save face by tracking down his older self, but this proves much easier said than done.

Looper is the third feature film from writer/director Rian Johnson. It’s a sci-fi actioner that involves the concept of time travel. That puts it squarely in the same genre as films such as The Terminator or 12 Monkeys. Though it shares some obvious similarities with those films, Looper is very much its own animal. It not only contemplates plot intricacies and paradoxes, but how such things affect the characters on a human level.

Looper takes place in a future world, but much of the production design suggests the American Old West. The story takes place in Kansas City, which has a suitably futuristic skyline. Take a closer look, and the details begin to emerge. The Mecca rests in the middle of a veritable no man’s land, like a frontier town hidden in the desert. Those who higher on the economic food chain can afford hover bikes that look like steampunk choppers. Professional criminals carry large, powerful six-shooters like cowboys. The loopers themselves carry a futuristic variation of the old blunderbuss flintlocks. This retro fantasy world is the kind of future that George Lucas has always championed. It looks and feels used.

As with any western, the plot of Looper facilitates an inevitable showdown between a good guy and a bad guy. The twist here is that both the antagonist and protagonist is actually the same person. The hero is fighting himself in the literal sense. That little conceit opens up a number of tantalizing possibilities that Looper is only too glad to explore. That kind of thematic brevity is a big part of its appeal, yet the film also has a sense of restraint. It leaves enough to the imagination to keep truly thoughtful viewers engaged.

The central conflict is allowed to evolve as the narrative progresses, as are the characters themselves. Unlike so many other films of its type, Looper isn’t just empty spectacle. The characters are allowed to have actual arcs that go beyond mere plot resolution. They are morally complex, occupying different ends of the moral spectrum at different times in the narrative. Even their most deplorable actions can be understood if not condoned. No matter how complex the plot or elaborate the set pieces, Looper never forgets what it’s actually about, and that is a blessing.

One of the many joys of the screenplay is how Rian Johnson subverts the tropes of various genres. Looper is equal parts time travel yarn, western, and superhero movie. Those hidden identities gradually, and are handled in a number of unusual ways.

The cast is simply great. Bruce Willis looks less like the scrappy action hero of his younger days, and more like a grizzled shell of his former self. He’s tougher, more world weary. His appearance, coupled with the story’s context, gives his screen persona added weight this time out. Levitt, with the help of some very subtle makeup, looks like the younger Bruce Willis that might’ve existed in some alternate reality. He successfully mimics the mannerisms of his costar, yet his performance is much more than an impersonation. Both versions of Joe seem like the same person, but at very different points in life. Child actor Pierce Gagnon is not the usual precocious type. As Sid, He turns in a performance so creepy and effective that he often seems like a grown man in a child’s body. As Sara, Emily Blunt is a more complex version of Sarah Conner as depicted in Terminator 2: Judgment Day.

Looper is a masterpiece, bar none. It represents a new level of sophistication for a sub-genre that already has its fair share of notable classics. It’s everything that the best kinds of blockbusters should be, straddling the line between pulpy fun and thought provoking art. It doesn’t achieve that feat through gimmickry, but through great writing, acting, and direction. I doubt that a better time travel flick will emerge for quite some time.

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By Scott Tre

In the not too distant future, the United States of America has been ravaged by nuclear war. A vast megalopolis known as Mega-City One now encompasses the entire east coast. Due to its immense size and population density, the massive city-stat is a veritable cesspool of crime. Instead of sitting on bench with a gavel, Judges are given heavy artillery and charged with policing city streets. The most notorious of these is Judge Joseph Dredd (Karl Urban), as relentless a lawman as has ever existed.

One day, Dredd is partnered with a young rookie named Cassandra Anderson (Olivia Thirlby). The two respond to a call in Peach Trees, a giant slum contained in a single 200 story high-rise. In the upper reaches of the building, a vicious gang lord named Ma-Ma Lena Headley) commands an ever expanding drug ring that distributes a narcotic known as “Slo-Mo.” She locks down Peach Trees and places a bounty on the heads of the judges. Suddenly, both Dredd and Anderson are in the fight of their lives.

Dredd is an adaptation of the 2000 AD comic strip Judge Dredd. It is the second such attempt to bring that property to the screen, the first being the execrable Stallone vehicle Judge Dredd. Thankfully, Dredd has no connection whatsoever to that debacle other than the source material itself. It takes a different approach to the material, offering something grittier and more stripped-down. It manages to be better and more entertaining than expected, though nonetheless routine.

If the 1995 version of Judge Dredd had two saving graces: The production and costume design. Mega-City One looked like Mega-City One, and the judges looked like judges. Dredd is no slouch in this department either, though the budgetary constraints are visible. The scope is much smaller, as the bulk of the action is confined to a single location. Mega-City One looks similar like any other modern city aside from the expected architectural exaggerations. Skyscrapers stand unrealistically tall. The aesthetic is also a bit grungier. Much of the activity inside Peach Trees takes place underneath minimal lighting, but it is still discernible.

In terms of plot and setting, Dredd bares some striking similarities to The Raid: Redemption. However, quite unlike The Raid, Dredd does not seek to raise the bar for action choreography. Good guys and bad guys alike wield some really cool hardware, but the execution is fairly standard. The slow motion photography echoes the “Bullet-time” technique popularized by The Matrix, though a bit more stylized. There’s not a stitch of martial arts-style fisticuffs to be found. What the film lacks in fancy pugilism, it makes up for in brutality. As gruesome as some of the bloodletting is, it never quiet reaches the “survival horror” grandeur of The Raid, but it still works.

The original Robocop took more than a bit of inspiration from the Judge Dredd comic strip, particularly it’s ultra-violent and satirical tone. Dredd is more than a bit reminiscent of Robocop. It’s surprising, then, that the satirical elements of both properties somehow got lost in the mix. There are the requisite jokes and puns peppered throughout the dialogue, but that’s about it. There’s nothing in the way of actual commentary, despite there being ample opportunities around every corner. That missing element could have added a few much needed layers to this film. From a story perspective, Dredd often feels very episodic. It plays like the pilot for a futuristic cop show. This is in keeping with the adventure serial format of the weekly strip, but it also makes the film feel a bit trite.

Karl Urban is a good a Judge Dredd as one can hope for. He’s one note and strictly business. His mouth and chin remain in a furrowed sneer throughout the entire film, and his eyes remain hidden by the helmet. Just as in the strip, the audience never really gets to “know” him. He represents the ideals of the system he serves, nothing more. Olivia Thirlby does a lot with the bare bones of a character she’s given. Her compassion contrasts well with Dredd’s merciless nature, yet she never seems less than capable in a firefight. The character of Ma-Ma is perhaps the only real let down. Her ruthlessness is treated casually. She’s merely a figurehead.

Dredd is very much like its main character: stoic, unflinching, and all about the job at hand. Its focus is narrow, and it’s single-minded in its purpose. Had it aimed just a bit higher, such qualities would play more as strengths than limitations. Missed opportunities aside, the film mostly fulfills its agenda, which is more than can be said for many of the blockbusters released so far this year.

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By Scott Tre

As Gotham City steps into a new era, the sins of the past continue to haunt Jim Gordon and Bruce Wayne. Eight years ago, they engaged in a cover-up that required the Batman to become a fugitive from justice. The caped crusader hasn’t been seen or heard from since. Gotham is now a crime free utopia thanks to the Dent act, an aggressive crime bill named in honor of slain district attorney Harvey Dent. In the wake of its success, Gordon is now seen as a relic of the past, and Bruce Wayne has given into despair.

Since hanging up the cape and cowl, the billionaire playboy has become a reclusive cripple. However, a chance meeting with a lovely and exceptional thief named Selina Kyle coaxes him out of a self-imposed exile. He puts his detective skills to work, and discovers Ms. Kyle to be a cog in much larger machine. Sitting at its controls is Bane, a fearsome terrorist leader who means to raze Gotham City to the ground. Once again, The Batman is needed. Can Bruce rise up from the depths of despair meet the challenge that lies ahead?

The Dark knight Rises is the long awaited conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s “Dark Knight Trilogy.” It easily dwarfs its predecessors in terms of size and scope, showing itself to be the most ambitious of the three. That ambition, like so many other elements of the film, proves to be a double edged sword. On the one hand, it liberates the film from the conventions of superhero cinema. On the other, it proves to be an albatross. The film bears the weight of this self-imposed burden while valiantly pushing onward towards the finish line.

With each successive entry of Nolan’s trilogy, the setting and production design have expanded to accommodate his vision. The city of Chicago featured prominently in both Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. Its criminal lore greatly informed the plot of the latter, which was clearly inspired by The Untouchables. In the Dark Knight Rises, the windy city has been supplanted by New York and Los Angeles. There are obvious parallels to the former during the Guiliani administration, which ties into Nolan’s ongoing allegory to the war on terror. Just like New York City in the weeks and months preceding 9/11, Gotham basks in the possibilities of a brighter tomorrow. Those hopes are dashed with the emergence of Bane.

Nolan and his cinematographer, Wally Pfister, have applied some much needed discipline to their visual style. The shots are steadier than ever before, resulting in a strikingly epic look. Unfortunately, the newly stationary camera proves to be both a blessing and a curse for the film’s fight choreography. The Batman is revealed to be an unimaginative night brawler, relying on haymaker punches and the like. While this is a bit frustrating from an aesthetic standpoint, it is admittedly consistent with this particular iteration of the title character. Bruce’s fighting style seems to grow out of his own bullheadedness.

That little nuance comes into play during Batman’s confrontations with Bane. The character is the living embodiment of physical intimidation. The cinematography, coupled with the costume design and Tom Hardy’s bulked-up physique, create an undeniably menacing presence. The vocal effects applied to Tom Hardy’s voice make him sound like Darth Vader. He even seems to have affected Sean Connery’s Scottish accent. During his monologues, he takes on the air of a brutal ringmaster. While effective, he feels a bit incomplete when compared to the likes of The Joker and Rha’s Al Ghul. One never gets a clear idea of what his long term plans are.

The screenplay incorporates elements of such well known story arcs such as “Batman: The Dark Knight Returns,” “Knightfall,” and “No Man’s Land.” It also remains doggedly true to the core themes established in Batman Begins and The Dark Knight. As a result, the film often feels overstuffed and disjointed. It bursts at the seams with ideas, sometimes threatening to buckle under its own weight. The doomsday scenario established in the final act feels abbreviated. Matters are not helped by Nolan’s tendency toward obvious symbolism. Still, his dedication to his vision sees the film through, consequences be damned.

Nolan’s dedication is mirrored by the principle cast. Catwoman is nicely implemented into the pseudo realistic universe he’s created. Her inclusion is handled with a certain modicum of restraint. Her origins are not explored, and no explanation is given for her considerable skills. Like Heath Ledger’s Joker, she simply is. As always, Michael Caine provides the films emotional core, proving to be the sole “voice of reason” in Bruce Wayne’s world. Christian Bale’s incessant brooding instills a certain level of sympathy for the title character. We want to see him succeed, despite the fact that he isn’t much fun to be around.

When looking back on The Dark Knight Rises, there are many parallels between Christopher Nolan and Bruce Wayne. Both men are visionaries with limitless resources at their disposal, and they both exhibit a dogged determination that ultimately pays off. They paint themselves into a proverbial corner, yet are able to defiantly fight their way out. Having reached the inevitable end game, Nolan’s vision is now complete. The Dark Knight Rises doesn’t quite barrel through the finish line as expected, but it still emerges triumphant, and wearing it’s battle scars with pride. To an extent, it succeeds in spite of itself.

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By Scott Tre

Peter Parker, a promising young student at Midtown Science High School, is about to undergo a drastic life change. A discovery in his Aunt and Uncle’s basement prompts him to seek out one of his father’s old colleagues, Dr. Curt Conners. After infiltrating the OsCorp facility under false pretenses, Peter is bitten by a genetically altered spider. The bite endows him the proportionate powers of the tiny creature.

In light of his newfound abilities, Peter again seeks out Conners. The two form a bond, and Peter aids Conners experiments in limb regeneration. Shortly thereafter, Peter’s uncle is accidentally killed by a petty thief. Peter takes to the streets to find his Uncles killer, eventually becoming a masked vigilante named “Spider-Man.” Spider-Man soon becomes an overnight media sensation. Meanwhile, Conners experiments result in him becoming a giant human/lizard hybrid. When the creature begins rampaging through the streets and sewers of New York City, It ultimately falls to Spider-Man to stop him.

The Amazing Spider-Man is the much anticipated reboot of the Sony Pictures franchise. It boasts a different cast than the previous three films, as well as new director. In certain regards, it’s more faithful the source material. In others, it’s wildly divergent. While it admittedly finds a happy medium between the two, it ultimately fails to embody the true spirit of its title character.
The world of The Amazing Spider-Man feels more superficially realistic than that of the Raimi films. The film’s vision of New York is a neo-noir throwback to 70’s revenge classics such as Death Wish. While this works to modernize the film to an extent, it also renders it generic.

While Spider-Man has never been a dark character per se, there has always been a dark undercurrent running through his mythos. Both he and his rogues gallery are the direct result of science experiments gone awry, often with tragic results. The filmmakers choose to bring such elements to the surface, and wind up pushing a bit too far in that direction. Certain moments evoke David Cronenberg style body horror. It gets to the point where even Spidey himself comes off as somewhat creepy.

The action scenes are bit more grounded in reality this time out, and as such not quite as dependent on CG as previous Spider-Man films. Stunt Coordinator Andy Armstrong incorporates elements of parkour and MMA. The difference is noticeable, as Spider-Man is more fearsome in combat than ever before. Strangely, this doesn’t result in more exciting action scenes. The set pieces, like much of the rest of the film, feel strangely indistinct.

The film’s conception of Spidey also proves to be misguided. It’s a complete 180 from the Sam Raimi/Tobey Maguire characterization. The fault lies not with Andrew Garfield’s performance, nor with his physical appearance. The problem lies with the film’s overall depiction of Parker, who’s shown to be a social outcast only in the most romantic sense of the phrase. He never seems particularly put upon, nor do his social inadequacies seem like anything that he won’t eventually outgrow. His transformation into Spider-Man never feels like an organic or even a necessary evolution.

As Conners, Rhys Ifans is much too mannered and distant to be a truly sympathetic villain. The Lizard’s creature design, while somewhat true to the original one by Steve Ditko, is too humanoid. The CGI used to bring the creature to life unintentionally evokes the stop motion creations of Ray Harryhausen.

The Amazing Spider-Man isn’t truly a bad film, but a frustratingly adequate one. Director Marc Webb has a vision for the character, but it consists of making him little more than a garden variety brooding loner. Raimi’s films were light as air, and never felt too tethered to modern expectations of what a superhero film should be. In that regard, they were very much like the title character. By contrast, The Amazing Spider-Man feels much too beholden to fan expectations. As a result, it never truly soars.

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By Scott Tre

In the year 2089, archeologists Elizabeth Shaw (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie Holloway (Logan Marshall-Green) make a startling discovery. The couple uncovers a star map which seems to lead to a mysterious Alien race on a far off moon. They believe the map to be an invitation, and become obsessed with the idea of making contact with these strange beings. Elizabeth suspects they may be the architects of life on earth. Multibillionaire Peter Weyland (Guy Pearce) agrees to fund the expedition, which includes the construction of a scientific space vessel called the Prometheus.

Four years later, the Prometheus finally completes its two year journey across the galaxy. Its crew is awoken from stasis and given its mission. Upon touching down on the seemingly barren moon, they begin to explore a massive structure on its surface. Once inside, they encounter something wholly different than what expected, though no less amazing. Their awe soon turns into abject horror as the true intent of the Star map’s makers in revealed. Instead of unearthing the origins of mankind, the crew of the Prometheus may very well have sealed its fate.

As everyone surely knows by now, Prometheus is a prequel to Alien. It’s also a standalone science fiction epic meant to be the first of a trilogy. It tells its own story, and is not an Alien movie in the standard sense. While Xenomorphs and facehuggers are never shown, director Ridley Scott means to explore the origins of such creatures. He also means to probe a number of philosophical questions. Unfortunately, his reach ultimately exceeds his grasp.

Ridley Scott is first and foremost a visual stylist. Even his worst films are usually quite beautiful to look at. Prometheus is no exception. The images are startlingly crisp. The sight of the Prometheus penetrating the storm laden atmosphere of LV-223 is breathtaking. Billowing grey clouds roll in the background as though part of an animated matte painting. The production design of the “vase chamber” is neither as foreign nor as hypersexualized as that of Alien. It looks like a cross between an Alien civilization and an ancient earthbound one. That compromise helps ground the story in a certain reality. It’s clear that Ridley Scott has given considerable thought to the look of this film.

Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for its story. The screenplay, by Jon Spaihts and Damon Lindelof, fails to provide coherent explanations for much of what transpires onscreen. Things happen inexplicably, yet matter-of-factly. The characters are woefully underwritten. Some are initially cautious, yet suddenly become bold and overly adventurous. Others are miraculously able to interact with alien technology despite never having encountered it before. Meredith Vickers is clearly meant to be a stand in for Sigorney Weaver’s character. Two scenes featuring her echo similar moments from Alien. Unfortunately, like everything else in Prometheus, they function on a mostly superficial level.

Prometheus owes perhaps even more to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 than to Alien, though it lacks the ambition of either. The film raises a number of challenging questions that it can’t be bothered answer. Is it possible for science to debunk religion? If so, would mankind be foolish for maintaining religious faith in the face of irrefutable evidence to the contrary? What if the God that so many humans worship is revealed to be both malevolent and wantonly destructive? What then? In a braver and more intelligently written film, such questions could provide the basis for a truly enthralling sci-fi epic. Here, they merely play like an arousing tease.

The film’s unfulfilled potential is doubly frustrating in light of its more tangible assets. The set pieces and sight gags elicit a visceral response despite the ineptitude of the storytelling. They provide both great visuals and palpable tension. The sight of living and animate engineers (formerly known as Space Jockeys) is a marvel to behold. This film has a Hell of a lot going for it, yet still manages to be surprisingly less than the sum of its parts.

Prometheus is all foreplay with no climax. Where Alien was deceptively complex, Prometheus is deceptively shallow. It’s also a much more problematic work than both Alien 3 or Alien Resurrection, either of which could be simply be written off as bad movies. Prometheus has too much going for it to dismiss it in such a way, yet it has too many problems to recommend it to anyone but the converted. Fans of the Alien films and ponderous sci-fi will find a lot to like. Everyone else will simply stare at the screen in a state of bemusement.


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By Scott Tre

As their white counterparts wage war with the Nazis over the skies of Europe, the Tuskegee Airmen wait patiently in the wings. Uncle Sam, however, apparently sees them as something of a nuisance and would have them permanently sidelined as World War II rages on. However, this particular band of brothers flat out refuses to let their talents wither and die on the vine. With the help of powerful allies in the upper ranks of the military, the airmen eventually earn the right to fight and possibly die for a country that hardly values such a noble sacrifice.

Supposedly having finally put Star Wars behind him, George Lucas can now focus on his other enthusiasms. Red Tails has the distinction of being the first Lucasfilm release in 19 years that isn’t related to either Star Wars or Indiana Jones. After 24 years in development Hell, it’s finally ready for exhibition. The shadow of the well-received HBO original film The Tuskegee Airmen looms ominously overhead like a dark cloud. Red Tails looks to distinguish itself from made-for-cable competition by offering pulpier and more thrilling take on the material.

As has been well documented, Lucas is largely responsible for the various forms of baby boomer nostalgia that dominated pop culture in last quarter of the 20th century. Red Tails continues down that same path, albeit without the unflagging energy of the original Star Wars or Raiders of the Lost Ark. WWII as imagined by Lucasfilm is a dreamland of heroic daring-do and mustache twirling villains. Despite such dated touches, Red Tails falls right in line with the kind of ultra-serious Black military dramas that have become common since A Soldier’s Story. That’s not to say it attempts the same level of depth and resonance, only that it plays everything very straight faced.

The cast of characters featured here mainly function as stock character types, defined entirely by personality traits and physical ticks. Ne-Yo plays Andrew “Smoky” Salem as a snuff chewing hick. He comes off as more of a cartoon than an actual human being. Terrence Howard’s usual shaky voiced shtick serves him well here, though he isn’t asked to do anything outside of his particular skillset. A bit of House Negro vs. Field Negro tension is allowed to play out between David Oyelowo and Nate Parker, but it’s mostly shown as an occasional flare up in their otherwise close friendship.

The film mostly treats the adversity faced by the airmen as fodder for a story about a group of scrappy outsiders looking to prove themselves to the powers that be. Racial confrontations are handled in a superficial manner. The indignities that were suffered by the airmen in real life probably ran deeper and darker than anything Red Tails would be willing to show. To the films credit, the characters are never passive victims, even when attempting to build bridges with the otherwise antagonistic white fighter pilots. The film has no pretensions about itself, though a much more substantial entertainment clearly could have been crafted from this material.

Convert the galactic dogfights in Star Wars to the skies of WWII Europe, and you have an idea of how the air combat in Red Tails plays out. Fighters slip in and out of tight squeezes like thread through a needles eye. In some instances, they charge headlong into the camera itself with guns blazing. The film’s opening titles evoke the sensibilities at work. This is an old war comic come to life, or perhaps even a pulp novel. It’s all rather quaint, but not offensively so.

Red Tails populates the same cinematic universe as Indiana Jones save for the latter’s supernatural elements. However, even Indy’s outings showed a bit more willingness to explore the dark side. To be fair, Lucas never had such intentions for Red Tails. Unlike his playmate Steven Spielberg, he sought not to make the grittiest and most harrowing war film imaginable. He opted instead to make the kind of film that he would’ve liked as a boy. While that might not be in line with modern tastes, in its own way it’s sort of fitting. Though I would have preferred something more along the lines of Spielberg’s approach, I have a bit of affection for the lighthearted, cornball sentiments of Red Tails.

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By Scott Tre

The very concept of a “realistic” superhero film would seem to be a gross contradiction in terms. The fantastical conventions and tropes of the genre seem irreversibly resistant to such iterations. This has not stopped a plethora of filmmakers from offering pseudo realistic takes on the caped and costumed set. Kick Ass, Watchmen, and Christopher Nolan’s Batman films all purport to be the genuine article in terms of grit and realism. All of the aforementioned address the various implausibilities and impossibilities of the genre in a myriad of ways. Though these films can in no way be considered artistic failures, none of them ever has ever been completely successful in accomplishing their goals. Writer/Director Michael Morrissey has attempted to remedy this problem with his gritty vigilante film, Boy Wonder.

Sean Donovan is a seemingly ineffectual teen leading a seemingly uneventful existence in Brooklyn. He’s a severely introverted young man who scores straight A’s in all of his classes. However, his meek and unassuming demeanor disguises a huge propensity for violence. At night he prowls the streets of Brooklyn, brutally assaulting and sometimes murdering any violent criminal he happens upon. His one man campaign of vigilante justice is the result of a horrible childhood tragedy. As a young boy, he witnessed the brutal murder of his mother by a carjacker. He hopes to one day exact vengeance on her killer. Until that point, his crusade will continue indefinitely.

As one can easily assert by reading the plot synopsis, Boy Wonder Is not film about Batman’s brightly costumed sidekick Robin. Michael Morrissey, an avowed comics fan, has taken the origin stories and revenge fantasies inherent to the form of comics and allowed them to play out as a brutal urban drama. The results are at times uneven, but nonetheless intriguing. The stripped down approach essentially turns the film into an unrelentingly dark character study of a young man who could be considered a blue collar version of Bruce Wayne, sans the “no killing” policy.

There are no huge set pieces or lavish special effects. The drama is not punctuated by constant or relentless action. The set pieces are mostly low key, centering on brutal one-on-one confrontations that end fairly quickly. Though the hero is obviously trained and proficient in combat, the fights unfold in a rather messy and spontaneous manner. Caleb Steinmeyer’s size and weight are surprisingly taken into account. Larger, stronger opponents are able to fling him around like a rag doll, yet he is able to turn the tables on them through resourcefulness and use of various weapons. One wishes that these scenes could have been filmed more clearly, but the muddled aesthetic is in line with the tone that Morrissey is aiming for.

The film has some slow moments, but the movie soldiers through on the strength of the performances and character relationships. Caleb Steinmeyer is the darker version of Peter Parker that Spider Man 3 ineptly tried to bring to life, only here it’s not played for laughs. Steinmeyer elicits sympathy despite his emotionally distant performance and brutal nature. As detective Teresa Ames, Zulay Henao exudes both ambition and sex appeal. Her motherly concern for Sean seems genuine and even suggests a feint hint of sexual attraction to him. Of course, the characters consummate professionalism would prevent such a thing from ever coming to fruition. It’s that kind of complexity that keeps the film from feeling as routine and mundane as it might have otherwise played.

Boy Wonder won’t appeal to everyone. It lacks the obvious and vulgar thrills of traditional action pictures and modern superhero films. It is not in the same mold as either Spider-Man or Death Wish. It holds the viewer’s interest through more subtle and cerebral means than either of those films. Though the execution isn’t flawless, it is nonetheless a thoughtful film with a lot on its mind. It actually seems interested in what might really happen should a psychologically unbalanced teenager actually decide to take the law into his own hands. Boy Wonder is worthy viewing for anyone who has ever wanted to see the concept of superheroes taken deadly serious.

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