Thunder Force (2021)

“I am unbelievably bored.”

I liked and admired the concept driving Thunder Force. After all, why can’t too middle aged women be gallant, imposing superheroes? The representation here really does matter, but that doesn’t mean the subpar execution does its two leading ladies any favors either. In actuality, the poor plot is a ball and chain on a story about friendship, and it drags the entire endeavor down into the deep end of muddled, muddied waters. Thunder Force simply doesn’t know what type of movie it wants to be or should be. It borders on the unbearable.

Opening with the two best friends as young children, eventually segueing to their falling out during high school, Thunder Force gives its heroines the kind of origin story you recognize from any given PG-13 comedy, then the film gets heavier than expected and confuses the tone of what’s to come. Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) was a bruiser as a youngster, meanwhile Emily (Octavia Spencer) was the brains, balancing each other out when they’re not arguing. They live in a world where “Miscreants” are superpowered sociopaths who can’t be stopped, and who even killed Emily’s parents. The early scenes are fine and the casting choices are believable, but the dialogue is about as bad as it gets, and the emotional connection flickers out with every abrupt cut. You can’t build on top of such a soft, porous structural base. Collapse is inevitable.

Yet that’s exactly what Thunder Force does for the remainder of the film: add more dense layers until it finally implodes altogether, showering the credits in a dust storm of hacky mediocrity. The big bad guy The King (Bobby Cannavale), a Chicago mayoral candidate who’s so egregiously villainous it can be hard to stomach or take seriously, is as painfully transparent and thoughtless a character as I’ve seen of late. He lacks rhyme and reason and depth. There’s no intent or purpose, no meaning behind his greed and insatiable hunger for power. He’s an empty vessel, as is Laser (Pom Klementieff), a Miscreant with the self titled abilities who wants to kill foes for the sake of killing. I honestly can’t believe a film this poorly written secured this kind of financial backing or recruited this solid of a cast. Netflix will probably make money off of this one, which is fine. But intellectually, Thunder Force is bankrupt. This is, once again, bottom of the barrel stuff from Ben Falcone, a borderline incompetent and artless filmmaker.

One of the running gags early on is how a mindless male character can’t remember how to tell a joke for the life of him. Not even to get laid during school or at the class reunion. And that sequence of events, combined with a scene during the finale where Lydia violently vomits water, add up to create something so emblematic of a movie this painful, careless, and distasteful. Thunder Force might have good intentions, decent performances, and yet once again Melissa McCarthy’s dedicated turn is saddled by her husband Ben Falcone, who is wasting his wife’s talent while buoying his own sinking ship. He’s such a bad writer/director, one whose humor tops out at “Jason Bateman as an easily buttered up baddie with crab claws for arms.” The bit works in the second half, but even then it feels like a half-baked Alaska idea for an SNL sketch akin to “Diner Lobster,” and this one ends up more like a combo platter of Netflix’s horrific original film Bright and the dated – albeit funnier – 1994 Blankman than any recent fare. Melissa McCarthy’s raw talent enables her husband to make one horrible star vehicle for her after another, and I’m glad they seem so happily married, because this professional partnership has officially soured.

“Wow, you’re bad.”

Rating: 1.5 out of 5

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