ORBzine - Superheroes Movie Reviews

TITLE & REVIEW

Archenemy (2020)

Archenemy (2020) A young man befriends a drunken homeless man (Joe Mangionella - True Blood ) who claims to be a superhero named Max Fist. He says he came from a different universe, and he has magical blue blood.

A superhero needs a villain. Luckily the young man's sister is involved in the local Organised Crime syndicate. She needs Max to wipe the other gangsters out so she can get away with some loot she swiped. Of course, the gangsters have no superpowers so the fights are all incredibly one-sided.

Some attempt is made to flesh out the supporting cast. However, it is all a bit grim and depressing.

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  • At First Light (2018)

    At First Light (2018) This is a drama, not a thriller. There are lots of long silences when characters need to emote, instead of loud music and explosions.

    A tweenage girl gets superpowers. She goes on the run from the sheriff. The MIBs are also looking for her.

    This is a dull, slow little drama. The nearest comparison is with Midnight Special , although there is a splash of American Butterfly in there as well.

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  • Birdman (2014)

    Birdman (2014) Michael Keaton ( Batman ) is a past-his-best movie star who has decided to write, direct and star in a Broadway play. He has to contend with his estranged daughter ( Emma Stone ) and an uncontrollable actor (Ed Norton - Fight Club ).

    The publicity for this film plays up the Birdman/Batman angle. However, it is more a behind-the-scenes comedy-drama. That said, the irony is that Keaton's dramatic ability in this film was carried over into his next major role - the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming !

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  • Bloodshot (2019)

    Bloodshot (2019) A Special Forces hitman named Garrison (Vin Diesel - Fast and the Furious ) and his beautiful wife Gina ( Talulah Riley ) fall victim to a dancing hitman, Martin Axe (Toby Kebbel - Hurricane Heist ). All pretty standard stuff for an action movie.

    A scientist, Harting (Guy Pearce - Iron Man 3 ), revives our hero from the dead. Typical Tech Noir stuff, like in Robocop (1987) and Universal Soldier (1992) . The rehab centre has other cyborg patients, a team of former Special Forces types including a swimmer ( Eiza Gonzales ) and a Navy Seal (Sam Heughan - Outlander (2014) ). This is all a bit Chekov's gun, as everything revealed will play an important role in the Third Act.

    Our hero goes on a revenge rampage. He single-handedly ambushes a convoy of SUVs, in a more semi-realistic way than Deadpool .

    Of course, this is slightly more complicated than a straightforward revenge story. But it is all pretty un-original, since it is based on a comic-book that was inspired by 1980s action movies.

    For example, in one scene the hero is hit by a truck ... like the title character in The Terminator (1984) . The big difference is clear - instead of using real effects like in the 1980s this movie uses lots of high-quality CGI.

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  • Brightburn (2019)

    Brightburn (2019) This starts with a familiar story. A meteorite crashes in Kansas, USA, and a young boy is discovered in the wreckage. He is found by a young couple, who adopt and raise him as their own. Yes, this has all the trappings of the Superman story. The boy is called Brandon Breyer, and the local town is Brightburn. Yes, just like Smallville this is named after the town.

    Ten years later, the boy hits puberty. This starts a series of changes, and not for the better. He starts to hear alien voices in his head, like in Species (1995) . We watch, mostly through the eyes of his mother ( Elizabeth Banks ) as her son spirals out of control.

    Brandon starts killing defenceless animals. Next he upgrades himself to full-on supervillain status. His goal is not world domination - not yet, anyway. Instead he abuses his powers for personal gain by being a selfish jerk. This could be a slasher movie, like a good old Giallo, but there is limited suspense when the killer has super-human powers. He is unstoppable, and thus the victims are doomed no matter what they try to do.

    This all builds to a climax which is not about saving the world, but rather takes place on a more human and domestic level. We do not get Batman Versus Superman , but instead a heart-wrenching conflict involving a protagonist we actually care about.

    The film has a few flaws, such as the main character's conflicted motivations. Real-life serial killers start by torturing small animals because it is a power fantasy, while a super-human would not have need of such infantile behaviours. In fact, it is made apparent that the boy's species are unable or unwilling to raise their own young - so they act like cuckoos and leave the infant to be raised by another species.

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  • Covenant (2012)

    Covenant (2012) A quartet of teenage boys attending a posh school have magic powers. Taylor Kitsch ( Battleships ) is one of the clique, Stebastian Stan ( Captain America: Winter Soldier ) is the new boy at school, and Kyle Schmid ( Blood Ties ) is the school bully. They compete for hot girls like Jessica Lucas . The School Principal is Kenneth Walsh ( Twin Peaks ).

    The idea sounds like The Craft with boys instead of girls, hence CovenANT instead of Coven. However, Director Renny Harlin delivers his trademark flashy camerawork - and there is at least one car chase that seems reminiscent of Lost Boys.

    The four teenagers inherit the bulk of their magic when they hit eighteen. It is addictive, and will cause them to age exponentially. But this is turned to nonsense in the climactic action scene, where super-powered teenagers battle with no sign of any consequences.

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  • Darwin Conspiracy, The (1999)

    Darwin Conspiracy, The (1999) In 1998 a human body is discovered by American scientists in Antarctica. It turns out that he came from an advanced world, long forgotten by time. The US National Security Advisor (Kevin Tighe - Lost ) hires a specialist ( Stacey Haiduk ) to test a formula based on the ancient body's DNA.

    The project also needs input from a renegade scientist (Jason Brooks - ). The bad news is that the scientist does not trust the military-industrial complex. However, he has a weakness. His brother is a special-needs person with a love of baseball.

    The NSA lie to the scientist, and secretly dose his brother with the DNA formula. As a result, the brother's IQ rises to normal. Then his visual acquity increases. Finally, he develops a telekinetic superpower.

    The focus is not on superpowered villains or on prevention of a disaster. Instead, the conflict is between the scientist and the government - the Conspiracy of the title. After all, this was made at the end of the Clinton administration when the biggest threat was a Waco-style overreach against citizens. If this had been made in the post-911 era, it would have been very different.

    Since the Producer is Glen A. Larson ( Battlestar Galactica ), this is probably intended as a pilot for a TV show. The ending is open for a series, with the usual story-of-the-week format.

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  • Defendor (2009)

    Defendor (2009) A mentally ill man (Woody Harrelson - Natural Born Killers ) relates the facts leading up to his incarceration to a psychiatrist ( Sandra Oh ). The main body of the story is told in flashback.

    Our hero dresses up as a superhero and patrols his crime-ridden city at night. The bad news is, he has a run-in with a sleazy undercover cop (Elias Koteas - TMNT (1991) ). The good news is he meets a tart with a heart of gold ( Kat Dennings ). This is a sleazier version of her poverty-stricken waitress in Two Broke Girls, not to mention her other superhero sidekick role in Thor !

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  • Franklyn (2008)

    Franklyn (2008) A masked vigilante (Ryan Phillippe - Way of the Gun ) searches for his nemesis on the streets of Meanwhile City, a monolithic fantasy metropolis ruthlessly governed by faith and religious fervour. Eva Green provides some glamour to the grim proceedings.

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  • Higher Power (2018)

    Higher Power (2018) The world is doomed, because a gamma-ray burst will incinerate it. However, the same scientist who predicts this also has a plan to stop it.

    An alcoholic with anger management issues (Ron Elard - Super 8 (2011) ) is abducted and subjected to an experimental procedure. Then he wakes up with a creepy voice (Colm Feore - Chronicles of Riddick ) telling him what to do. This may sound an awful lot like an episode in the Saw Franchise , but it is actually a strange sort of superhero movie.

    The mission is designed to activate the test subject's superpowers. Unfortunately they only come out when he is stressed.

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  • Max Steel (2016)

    Max Steel (2016) A tweenage boy and his mother ( Maria Bello ) move into small-town USA. The boy tries to fit in at school, but is a bit of an outsider. Unfortunately he is cursed with a secret superpower, the creation and manipulation of electromagnetic fields. He also gets a friendly flying robot sidekick.

    The family gets visited by the father's friend Miles (Andy Garcia - Passengers ). Anyone familiar with the Marvel Comics Universe (MCU) series will see the obvious plot twist coming up.

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  • Mind Blown (2017)

    Mind Blown (2017) This is about a secret CIA telekinesis (TK) project with the very subtle codename Mind Blown. Yes, they must have spent a long time thinking that one up. The name implies mental powers and big explosions. Of course, anyone smart would realise that the codename must represent the opposite of the truth. So by giving it the most stupidly obvious name, the CIA ensured that any rival agencies would automatically discount the idea of it being a TK system.

    The General (Luke Goss - Blade 2 ) pays a surprise visit to inspect the base and oversee a test mission. Instead of hitting the real target, the TK team accidentally destroys a real town full of real people. Worse, since they are in California it has a knock-on effect on the fault-line. Soon, San Francisco is in ruins.

    The base is put under lockdown. Nobody is allowed in or out. For some reason, nobody closes the front gate or even physically lowers the cross-bar so there is nothing to prevent people going MIA.

    The General sends out his SWAT team, dressed in what is meant to be hi-tech body armour but basically makes them look like a paintball team or airsoft enthusiasts. For example, they all carry different weapons - a Swiss Vektor, a German G36 and even a bolt-action sniper rifle.

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  • Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016)

    Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children (2016) The trailer is misleading, because it makes this seem like a schmaltzy drama about the Tim Burton version of Dr Xavier's school for gifted children in the X-Men series. However, this is much darker.

    Our young hero (Asa Butterfield - Ender's Game ) is unable to save his grandfather (Terence Stamp - Star Wars: Phantom Menace ) from the monsters.

    The boy and his father (Chris O'Dowd - Gulliver's Travels ) make a journey to a small island off the coast of Wales where grandpa lived during the Second World War. The locals do not speak with a recognisably Welsh accent, but this was filmed in Cornwall and Americans cannot be expected to know the difference.

    Samuel L Jackson tracks down the juvenile superheroes, just like he did in Jumper .

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  • Mortal (2020)

    Mortal (2020) This is set in Norway, with a mixture of dialogue in both Norwegian and English. A homeless man is arrested by local police on suspicion of involvement in several deaths. The cops have him interviewed by a young female psychologist, who is suitable love-interest material for the story. They do not respect doctor-patient confidentiality, since they observe the interview via CCTV.

    The suspect, Eric Bergland, reveals he has the power of pyrokinesis. He cannot control it, and it gets stronger when he is in a highly emotional state. The American government sends a team of scientists to collect him. They obviously suspect he has superpowers, but since they use a helicopter to collect him it apparently never occurred to them that he might be able to affect the weather.

    Eric and the psychologist go on the run together. The cops are after them, aided by the American woman. Also, the father of one of the alleged victims seeks revenge.

    While this may seem to be a low-key film, filmed on location with a relatively low budget, there are a number of impressive set-pieces when Eric's emotions kick in.

    The American woman realises how dangerous Eric is. Not simply because of his strong and uncontrollable pyrokinesis, or the fact that he could be the first of a race of super-humans. The very existence of a single solitary super-human could be proof that all current religions are wrong. This could drive religious fanatics to an even worse mental state.

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  • Supervillain Parody

    Minions (2015)

    Minions (2015) This is a prequel to the Despicable Me Films, featuring the tribe of Minions. They are a prehistoric tribe of creatures that live as henchmen to super-villains. The creatures are all male (they are too stupid to be female) and they are apparently immortal, which explains their inability to breed.

    In 1968, a trio of Minions visit the USA to find a super-villain they can be henchmen for. Due to an incredible series of coincidences they accidentally discover the Supervillains’ TV channel, and then get a lift with a group of amateur villains to the annual Super-villain convention. The best villain of the bunch is Ruby ( Sandra Bullock ), and the guys manage to impress her enough to get hired. But given their slapstick nature, things will not go according to plan.

    The film also introduces a very young Groo, who becomes their master in the other films in the series.

  • Despicable Me
  • Despicable Me 2
  • Despicable Me 3
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  • Despicable Me (2010)

    Despicable Me (2010) Groo (Steve Carrell - Evan Almighty ) is a super-villain whose MO is to steal something impressive and then ransom it to the original owners. Unfortunately his most recent robbery, that of a Pyramid, was pre-empted by a nerdy rival named Vector. In order to pull off his latest robbery, Groo needs to steal a gadget from Vector. And the only ones who can get into Vector’s fortified home are three little orphan girls ...

    Groo adopts the girls, purely as a temporary measure for the duration of the robbery. But the loveable little things eventually get to him. All the usual clichés come into play, and he must eventually choose between success in his career and success as a father.

  • Minions
  • Despicable Me 2 (2013)
  • Despicable Me 3 (2017)
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  • Despicable Me 2 (2013)

    Despicable Me 2 (2013) Groo (Steve Carrell - Evan Almighty ) has settled down, gone straight and become a single parent to the three girls. Unfortunately they require a female role model, and they want a mother figure. The problem is that Groo only became a super-villain because he was an involuntary celibate. Now his celibacy is voluntary, even though he is no longer a villain.

    Groo gets recruited by the Anti-Villain league, which partners him with Kristen Wiig and sends him undercover to locate a rival villain. This leads on to a couple of separate but overlapping plot-lines. One is the inevitable romance with his cow-orker, while the other is the lukewarm supporting plot about searching for the villain.

    The Minions get some screen time themselves. It turns out that they were the franchise's real break-out characters, hence the two prequels were named after them.

    A supervillain has stolen a super-serum that the Russians invented. The next stage is to weaponise it by injecting it into the Minions, thus converting them from bumbling fools into an army of indestructible killing machines.

    The movie may have a number of competing plots, but the climax ties them all together quite nicely. After all, it was so successful there was another sequel.

  • Minions
  • Despicable Me (2010)
  • Despicable Me 3 (2017)
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  • Despicable Me 3

    Despicable Me 3 The story starts with the events shown in the trailer. Groo, once the world's greatest super-villain, now helps the forces of law and order take on a rival villain. Our hero does his best. However, the new boss is a nasty woman who needs a scapegoat for her failures.

    The newly unemployed Groo gets invited to stay with his twin brother, which is a surprise because he always thought he was an only child. He takes his girlfriend and adopted children along for the trip.

    Groo's brother wants to learn the family trade as a super-villain. Groo decides the best way to get him a rep is to steal from the other villain If this sounds familiar, that is because it was the plot of the original film.

  • Minions
  • Despicable Me (2010)
  • Despicable Me 2 (2013)
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  • Henchmen (2018)

    Henchmen (2018) This is set in a world where superheroes are real. Of course, only the select few have superpowers so they are basically an arrogant aristocracy. Since their spokesman is Nathan Fillion ( Serenity (2005) ), this smacks more than a little of Dr Horrible's Sing-A-Long Blog .

    The protagonist is a young lad who wants to be a supervillain. After all, the villains may be evil scientists but at least they have a meritocracy of sorts. He has to start at the bottom, so he signs up as a henchman. Since he has no real talent, he gets apprenticed to a janitor. The good news is that, while cleaning up the museum, the boy accidentally activates an exhibit - an Iron Man style super-suit.

    It turns out that the janitor, who was demoted from a higher rank because he had a crisis of conscience, has a plan to sort his life out. This makes his so-called friends turn against him, even though he wanted to give them MORE choice and control over their own lives!

    The final act involves the arrival of a genuine supervillain who wants to take his revenge on the city the henchmen live in. Yes, there is always a greater evil.

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  • Igor (2008)

    Igor (2008) This is a CGI animation, in a style reminiscent of cartoons by Tim Burton . The story is set in a country called Malaria. Once upon a time it was a land of farmers, and the main export was agricultural produce. Then someone developed a superweapon that destroyed the climate. Luckily the King has a plan to boost the military-industrial complex. Now everyone in the country is a supervillain, or a hunchbacked henchman named Igor, and the primary export is superweapons.

    The protagonist, Igor (John Cusack - Hot Tub Time Machine ), narrates the story. He is a frustrated supervillain wannabe, stuck as a henchman to an incompetent boss (John Cleese - Life of Brian ). Secretly running his own experiments, he has created his own sidekick - Scamper the Rabbit (Steve Buscemi - ). His next plan is to create a humanoid life-form, a Frankenstein's monster of sorts.

    Dr Schadenfreud (Eddie Izzard - Mystery Men ) and his wife ( Jennifer Coolidge ) intend to win the Supervillain of the Year award again. In true villain style, they intend to cheat and steal the best weapon their competitors come up with.

    Igor creates Eva ( Molly Shannon ). Unfortunately, while she looks monsterous she has a personality that fails to be evil. Can Igor make Eva evil?

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  • Megamind (2010)

    Megamind (2010) This is the newest in a recent slew of revisionist superhero-themed films. It is also one of a number of new 3-D animations, although this probably has the most incredible soundtrack

    The protagonist is supervillain Megamind (Will Ferrell - Land of the Lost ), who constantly battles the local superhero (Brad Pitt - ). But when the villain unexpectedly wins, he must learn to take responsibility.

    Feisty lady news reporter Tina Fey may be over-privileged and exploitative, but Megamind accidentally finds himself in a relationship of sorts with her.

    Megamind gets bored, and decides to create a new superhero with the same super-powers as the old one. Naturally, this backfires horribly.

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  • Wreck-It Ralph (2012)

    Wreck-It Ralph (2012) This is the story of a supervillain who wants to be a hero for a change. He goes on a hero's journey, complete with character development and redemption. If this all sounds familiar, the concept is not unlike other cartoons ( Despicable Me, MegaMind ). This time the animation is provided by Pixar, the studio that did Toy Story ), and the characters are computer game AIs instead of toys.

    Our anti-hero is Ralph (John C Reilly - Gangs of New York ), the villain in a 1980s arcade game. He is sick of his rival Fix-It Felix (Kenneth from 30 Rock) getting all the glory. Instead, he sneaks into another game, a violent 1st-Person Shooter named Hero's Duty. His plan is to win a medal so he can impress everyone with his bravery. Naturally, it all goes terribly wrong.

    Ralph gets trapped in Candyland, where he befriends a Glitch ( Sarah Silverman ) who wants to win the Sugar Rush go-cart race. Felix and a lady Space Marine ( Jane Lynch ) try to clean up Ralph's mess, by preventing xenomorph Bugs from taking over Candyland.

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  • Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018)

    Ralph Breaks The Internet (2018) Our anti-hero Wreck-It Ralph (John C Reilly - Gangs of New York ) is back. He and Vanelope ( Sarah Silverman ) are still hanging out in her racing game, until someone breaks the handle on the arcade machine. The machine will be junked unless someone can buy a second-hand handle on Ebay.

    Ralph and Vanelope take advantage of the arcade's Wi-Fi. The Internet is portrayed as a city. For exampls, Websites are skyscrapers. Ralph and Vanelope, as AIs, interact with users' avatars and website software alike.

    Vanelope goes out to get publicity, and discovers what happens when all entertainment is owned by Disney. Some stormtroopers chase her so she hides in the dressing room of the Disney Princesses. Yes, this is the scene from the trailers. The Princesses complain about being rescued by a big strong man. Well, in the more recent films that was certainly not the case. Also, Ralph is Vanelope's friend - not her love interest. He was the protagonist of the original film, so by definition he was central to the outcome.

    The final act is about Ralph trying to overcome his own insecurities.

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  • Superhero Parody

    Big Hero 6 (2014)

    Big Hero 6 (2014) This is a Manga-type effort from John Lassiter’s animation studio. The protagonist is a teenage boy who builds miniature robots that he uses to compete in robot-fighting games. His big brother persuades the kid to help in his University project - a human-sized robot that provides a full range of medical treatments. The kid’s own application to attend the University is his new invention - self-assembling lego bricks. Basically, they are like the Replicator cells from Stargate SG-1 . Unfortunately, tragedy strikes.

    The kid and his new friend the medical robot discover that a supervillain is mass-producing the replicator cells. The supervillain wants to use them to repair an actual Stargate !

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  • Captain Underpants (2017)

    Captain Underpants (2017) This is an animated story about a couple of pre-teen American boys who spend their time at school working on their own comic-book about a comedy super-hero entitled Captain Underpants. They manage to hypnotise their arch-enemy, the School's bossy Principal, and order him to become the title character whenever they want.

    The story's basic premise established, it now needs some conflict. As a superhero story, this means a supervillain. Enter Professor Pee, a mad scientist who gets a job as the school science teacher. Why an Elementary School needs a Professor to teach primary science is not explained, but this is hardly the kind of film that has to make sense. After all, none of the children seem to have any parents!

    It turns out that in their reality biological waste, which in real life creates energy by way of methane gas, in fact has the same powers as radioactive elements in normal comic-book stories. Much like the radioactive spider that gave Spider-Man his superpowers (instead of a lethal dose of cancer or radiation poisoning).

    An effort has also been made to make the movie more watchable for parents. The children are too young to have a love story, so a romantic subplot is added between two of the adult characters.

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  • Incredibles, The (2004)

    Incredibles, The (2004) This is a big-budget CGI animation taking a humourous (and cynical) look at the superhero genre. Superheros Mr Incredible and token black guy (Samuel L Jackson - Deep Blue Sea ) get sued, just like the Ghostbusters were after their first film. They end up being forced into retirement. Mr Incredible gets a day job working for Insurance company bureaucrat Wallace Shawn ( Princess Bride ). Naturally, this cannot end well.

    Luckily, Mr Incredible is headhunted by an anonymous employer (Jason Lee - Dogma ) who hires him to sort out an enormous killer robot that is running on the loose on a remote island. Naturally, this cannot end well either. Luckily, his wife and bickering offspring also have superpowers, so they come to save him.

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  • Incredibles 2, The (2018)

    Incredibles 2, The (2018) Superheroes are still outlawed. The Incredible family are in Witness Protection, and despite trying to save the city from a rampaging super-villain they still get a raw deal from the authorities. The police would rather just sit back and collect the insurance money.

    A billionaire wants to persuade the government to decriminalise superheroes. He needs a superhero as a figurehead. Elastigirl gets the job, while her husband stays at home to look after the super-kids.

    Elastigirl gets a new arch-enemy, a hooded figure named Screen-Slaver. He hijacks television signals, and brainwashes the viewers by hypnotising them. This seems like a terrible waste of a world-changing technology, as Elastigirl later points out. However, the super-villain has a secret agenda.

    The government is impressed with Elastigirl's heroism, and intends to create a world-wide treaty decriminalising the use of superpowers. A hundred VIPs from countries all over the world will gather in one place at the same time to sign the treaty. Hmm, we can only wonder what the villain's target in the third act will be.

    The main storyline is well-done but predictable. In contrast, Mr Incredible's sub-plot of looking after the kids is less thrilling but actually turns out to be important. The kids have powers, including the baby.

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  • Superhero Movie (2008)

    Superhero Movie (2008) This is part of a series of low-budget parody movies filled with cheesy slapstick humour. This particular effort parodies the Sam Raimi version of Spider-Man (2003) , only the hero gets bitten by a genetically engineered dragonfly instead of a radioactive spider.

    The hero, Rick Riker, lives with his uncle (Leslie Nielsen - Forbidden Planet ). Unfortunately this does not work out. Luckily, Professor X (Tracy Morgan - 30 Rock) invites Rick to attend the school for superpowered kids.

    The villain is the billionaire uncle of the school bully (Ryan Hansen - Veronica Mars ). He has a fatal medical condition. However, his employee (Brent Spiner -. Star Trek: TNG ) informs him that a rare element will save his life. Rather than just buy the element, he becomes a super-villain and tries to steal it.

    As has been noted, this is all taken from generic superhero films. The plot itself is nothing original or comedic. Instead the comedy is, as with the other films in the series, cheesy slapstick.

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  • Zoom (2006)

    Zoom (2006) This is a superhero comedy that stars a couple of sitcom actors who were big news on TV at the time of its release. Why it flopped is not evident - it is not entirely different from movies like Spy Kids . Perhaps that is the reason it disappeared without trace: it did not find its audience. Before the MCU series started with Iron Man (2008) , super-heroes were a dead genre and thus this movie parody of them was pointless. Also, it focuses on the adults instead of the child characters so it is not really aimed at a child audience.

    A dangerous space anomaly is headed towards Earth. US Army General Rip Torn ( Beastmaster ) orders mad scientist Chevy Chase ( Memoirs Of An Invisible Man ) to pull ex-superhero Zoom (Tim Allen - Santa Clause ) out of retirement.

    Zoom's love interest, lady scientist Courtney Cox , compares him to fictional comic-book speedsters. She says he is faster than Quicksilver, the Flash and Superman. Presumably he pre-dates the villain from The Flash: Season 2 who bears the same name as him.

    Zoom's job is to help recruit and train some teenage superheroes. The teenage girl is Kate Mara , a decade before she played a similar role in Fantastic Four . Remember, this movie is played for laughs while the later movie flop was intended to be serious.

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