THUNDER FORCE stars Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer, with excellent supporting performances by Bobby Cannavale, Jason Bateman, Pom Klementieff, and Taylor Mosby. The film is helmed by writer/director/producer/funny man Ben Falcone and producers Marc Platt and Adam Siegel.
The year is 1983. A massive pulse of interstellar cosmic rays has struck Earth and awakened strange powers and genetic mutations in humans. What begins as a new era of discovery quickly gives way to a reign of terror as it is discovered that the cosmic rays unlock these powers in those that are genetically predisposed to be bad guys. Thus the reign of super villains, known as Miscreants, begins.
Emily (Octavia Spencer) is dedicated to the study of genetics and intends to unlock the secret to battling Miscreants, in order to avenge the death of her parents. Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) is her rough-around-the-edges and free-spirited friend who believes in playing hard before working hard. Their friendship eventually becomes estranged as both girls grow up and take different paths. The pair reunites on the night of their 25-year high school reunion, this time these two polar forces have the opportunity to save the world and their friendship.
THUNDER FORCE taps into the overwhelming presence of superhero stories in Hollywood and attempts something that falls between outright parody and subversion. On the one hand, there’s a lot of potential and intrigue in taking the perfect chiseled bodies of your average MCU film and replacing those heroes with leading ladies that are plus-sized, middle-aged, and just as capable of turning out a great action flick. It’s refreshing to allow superheroes to remain so human.
On the other hand, a farcical take on a superhero origin story is still a superhero origin story and superheroes of all stripes feel a little played out. It begs the question, “What is this film doing to make this genre feel refreshed and exciting?” More on that later, but what I can tell you is that THUNDER FORCE allows for color and flash and fun – which is always welcome in any superhero film.
Notably, the supporting characters are responsible for every delightful moment in THUNDER FORCE. Jason Bateman’s “The Crab” character is bizarre and his dry approach to the absurd character only makes it more hilarious. Of course, McCarthy and Bateman’s teasing and sexually awkward on-screen relationship is so delightfully weird and delivers on some genuine laugh-out-loud moments. These dynamics are par for the course for a McCarthy comedy, but ridiculously fun nonetheless.
It’s a well-established fact, for this critic, that every film instantly gets 10% better when Bobby Cannavale makes an appearance. In THUNDER FORCE, he’s doing his best sleazy-politician impressive and it’s good to see him be so bad. Like Bateman, Cannavale leans into the cheese of this comedy and it makes all the difference.
Where the overwhelmingly fun performances fell short was in our two leading ladies. It’s not to say that Spencer and McCarthy’s efforts aren’t appreciated, rather I could use so much more. When the rest of the film allows itself to be so bombastic and ridiculous, the two leads stick out as being grounded to the point of being out of place. Lean in!
As a film, THUNDER FORCE is just fine. It hits all the necessary beats for a comedy, some great jokes and some misses, and as a superhero film, it’s a tad ho-hum. Again, there’s nothing that really detracts from the film but there’s nothing that makes it exceptional either. The superhero genre is so vast and runs the gamut of gritty action pieces, all the way to wacky adventures. THUNDER FORCE doesn’t do enough to land it firmly in parody and ultimately fails to play it straight, as a result. It’s a good time. More significantly, it’s a unique opportunity to see a more diverse approach to the traditional hero.
THUNDER FORCE premieres exclusively on Netflix on April 9, 2021.