By Jenny Kornreich
Boston University News Service
“Thunder Force” is proof that Netflix needs to quit movie making and stick to what viewers actually want.
This movie has everything viewers love to hate about cheap, cheesy and chummy Netflix originals: poor set design, loose plots and a script so predictable viewers can deliver the lines along with the characters their first time watching it. Which is good since viewers will not be watching “Thunder Force” more than once.
The movie’s main plot lethargically starts when Lydia Berman, played by Melissa McCarthy, visits her estranged high school best friend Emily Stanton, played by Octavia Spencer her shiny, futuristic genetics lab. The lab was created to take down the “miscreants” that killed her parents and have been ravaging the city of Chicago ever since. Emily leaves the grungy and awkward Lydia alone in the lab for a few minutes, telling “her not to touch anything while she’s gone.”
Surprise! Lydia touches the space-age beep-bop technology while she’s gone. Take some time to catch your breath after such a twist.
What ensues in the next hour and a half does not even attempt to stray from the superhero buddy-comedy standard. The protagonists train to become superheroes in a mildly-enjoyable montage, get some cool gear from a pant suit-wearing supercoach, find out the good guy is actually bad and save the city with the help of an unlikely hero.
The “film” is a dumping ground for low-hanging and worn-out tropes: an unlikely duo, a side character hero that comes in at the end to save the day and a good guy who ends up being a bad guy. Anyone who is paying remote attention to the movie will catch the “twist” about 45 minutes before it happens.
In an attempt to be relevant, there is also a political subplot. An Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez look alike is running for mayor of Chicago against an Andrew Cuomo dupe. The Cuomo dupe turns out to be a “miscreant.”
In a further attempt to add something vaguely deep and generally important to an otherwise shallow movie, Lydia throws a bus using her super strength. How unique.
The camera then pans to a little girl onlooker, holding hands with her two male parents. She says, “Dads, that lady just threw a bus!” before the trio immediately scampers to safety. That’s the only time viewers hear a reaction from any bystanders. It adds nothing but a shiny gay token so unhidden that you can practically see the writers checking “gay” off a legal pad.
“Thunder Force” is a masterclass in a begrudged and highly recognizable form of storytelling in which nothing is left to the imagination. Subtlety finds itself at an all-time low in the script and cliches run untamed. In the first three minutes of the film, a school bully pushes down one of the main characters and says, “say you’re a dork and I’ll leave you alone.” That was written in the script. It went through rounds edits, and probably multiple takes during filming.
The less than subtle script continues to make viewers cringe when a hero throws a villain in a dumpster while saying “it’s time to take out the trash.”
For all of the bad there is to say about “Thunder Force,” it is a movie viewers can leave on in the background without fear of missing anything. A person could even leave it on, go make himself or herself a nice, slow-cooked dinner, come back and piece everything together. It is great for not thinking. Leave it on for your dog while you run out the store to keep him company!
Maybe your dog will enjoy Berman sexually disco dancing with “The Crab,” a half-crustacean villain played by Jason Bateman, because that scene surely was not made for people.
“Thunder Force” does not deserve all 24% percentage points it got on Rotten Tomatoes. It’s not worth watching. Yes, this movie had some good one-liners, a decent backstory and a killer cast. One can only assume the actors did the best they could with what they had to work with on paper.
If Netflix had enough money to lure Octavia Spencer, Melissa McCarthy and Jason Batemen into this messy movie, they should have had enough money to hire writers keen enough to come up with a title other than “Thunder Force.”