Higher Power: A Story of Divine Proportions – Hulu Review

A man is given superpowers, but is controlled by a mad scientist. 

SUMMARY

There is a black hole collapsing out in the galaxy and it is poised to release a huge burst of gamma rays. In the event that it does, Earth will be destroyed. A mysterious voice contacts a scientist (Colm Feore) and tells him that there is only one way to save the world. At the same time, Joe Steadman (Ron Eldard), a recovering alcoholic who lost his wife tries to reconnect with his daughters. When he meets with his oldest daughter, Zoe (Jordan Hinson), he loses his temper and attacks her physicist boyfriend, Michael (Austin Stowell). His youngest daughter, Rhea (Marielle Jaffe), is revealed to be a drug addict. Later, Joe is attacked and knocked unconscious. When he awakes, the scientist now has a chip embedded in Joe’s head and eye, and he forces Joe to start committing crimes, eventually causing him to overload an experimental energy source. Now Joe has control over the four fundamental forces of the universe, but they are tied to his emotions. He can potentially save mankind… if he doesn’t destroy everything first. 

The beam of death that renders all of human life pointless. Very pretty.

END SUMMARY

I’ve mentioned repeatedly that I tend to love horror movies especially when they serve as an effective metaphor for some kind of trauma. Even though this movie isn’t solidly in the horror genre, it still contains a lot of horror elements, and one of them is that this movie does convey an excellent metaphor. But more on that in a second.

For example.

Any movie that has Colm Feore in it, particularly as the bad guy, is off to a good start. While my favorite of his villainous performances is in The Chronicles of Riddick, Paycheck and even Stephen King’s Storm of the Century got a boost from his ability to play a calculating and sadistic character. In this, he mostly operates as a disembodied voice that controls Joe, but his voice adds a level of gravitas to it that other actors might not have been able to pull off. Ron Eldard, who I really only remember from the movie Ghost Ship, does a good job playing a morally ambiguous character. Joe is massively flawed, having lost faith in almost everything due to the loss of his wife and instead turned to alcohol and violence. He’s trying to get his life back together, but it’s obvious from his daughter’s reaction that he’s failed at this before and he immediately fails again upon hitting any hurdle. Then he gets dragged into a situation in which he is being forced to do things against his will because they can threaten his daughters. After he gets powers, he has to deal with trying to control his anger in order to become something more than himself. 

Seriously, Colm Feore is so great at villainy.

While the script for this film is kind of basic in terms of dialogue, often having some clunky exposition or over-the-top melodrama, the concepts are so neat and the film progresses so swiftly that you probably will overlook it. It helps that the movie contains a visual style that alternates between being drab and gritty and being vibrant and luminous to separate the local with the cosmic. The film frequently talks around the insignificance of humans on the universal scale, yet it embraces the idea that perhaps humanity can ascend. 

Ascend to control the universe itself.

The big metaphor for the film is that of recovering from addiction. The film’s title, and a few lines in the film itself, reference the twelve steps of Alcoholics Anonymous. The first step of AA is to admit that you’re powerless over alcohol (i.e. that there is a problem), but the second step is to believe that a higher power (i.e. God) can restore you. In this film, Joe is revealed to be powerless over both his drinking and his anger. However, after the scientist takes control of him (the scientist is literally billed as “Control”), then Joe is forced to give himself up to a higher power who is literally controlling him. Eventually, after successfully giving himself up to it, Joe has recovered enough to finally take control himself, over both his addiction to alcohol and to anger, allowing him to self-actualize. As is common in addiction recovery, the film has Joe put something above himself in order to finally change: His children.

And aren’t we all the children of a god?

Overall, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie. Give it a try.

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.

Fantasy Island (2020): Welcome to Overwritten Plot

Blumhouse continues its new line of “creepy version of nostalgic properties.” It’s lame, boss, it’s lame.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Welcome to Fantasy Island, where all your fantasies become real! It’s run by Mr. Roark (Michael Peña) and his personal assistant Julia (Parisa Fitz-Henley). Five people arrive on the island, having won a contest: Gwen Olsen (Maggie Q), Melanie Cole (Lucy Hale), step-brothers J.D. and Brax Weaver (Ryan Hansen and Jimmy O. Yang), and Patrick Sullivan (Austin Stowell). Gwen is there to take her boyfriend Alan’s (Robbie Jones) proposal that she refused five years ago, J.D. and Brax are there to live it up at a high-class party, Patrick enlists in the army to honor his father (Mike Vogel), and Gwen is there to torture her former bully Sloane (Portia Doubleday). However, they soon find that their fantasies are taking a dark turn… Except for Gwen who was there to torture a person, so that is pretty dark to begin with.

FantasyIsland - 1Cast
There’s something really surprising to the right.

END SUMMARY

This film has 7% on Rotten Tomatoes. I will say that, while this movie isn’t great, I don’t think it’s 7% on RT bad. That’s less than Holmes and Watson and I thought that movie actually gave me brain damage. The problem is that this movie actually could have been really good if they’d just stuck with what seemed like the natural structure for the movie, as opposed to what they ended up with.

FantasyIsland - 2Torture
Also, the dark fantasy of torturing someone for high-school bullying… just why.

The original Fantasy Island show was always about people learning the lesson of “be careful what you wish for,” and usually a specific moral related to the person’s particular fantasy. An episode would typically have 2-3 guests in it who arrive together and then each live out unrelated fantasies, they find out that the fantasies often don’t go the way they expect, and they leave, having learned something. The proprietor, Mr. Roark (Ricardo Montalbon), always seemed to be aware of what was going to happen in the fantasy, giving cryptic warnings, but also saying that he was unable to interfere (though he did once in a while). When I heard that this premise was being adapted into a film, I assumed that it would be a Creepshow-esque anthology, with different fantasies turning into nightmares. When the film started, that still seemed like it would be the case, and that was actually working pretty well. 

FantasyIsland - 3OldSchool
I mean, this just seems like a natural setting for a nightmare.

Unfortunately, the movie decided that, rather than just letting each of the stories wrap up, they start interacting, then end up being part of a larger narrative. While this could have still worked out, the stories really don’t mesh well, and the entire thing feels completely jumbled. Moreover, the larger narrative is extremely stupid and the movie actually takes the time to POINT OUT THAT IT’S STUPID. They try to chalk it up to one character just being nuts, but it feels like a tremendous cop-out. It also feels like they just couldn’t think up full stories for each of the fantasies gone awry and instead decided to just bail out… including bailing on the larger narrative itself. 

FantasyIsland - 4Toast
Cheers, to dropping the ball in Act II.

I think the film really suffers from the terrible third act, because other parts of it were actually working well. I also particularly love Michael Peña’s take on Mr. Roark, because he is much more relatable than Ricardo Montalbon’s “fallen angel” interpretation. This Roark is bound to the island by his own actions and he is forced to cooperate with it. 

FantasyIsland - 5Roark
I’d forgive everything if he did an Ant-Man-style recap of the movie at the end.

Ultimately, I would love to see them give this another try, but I can’t recommend this one. It’s not fun horror, nor is it bad enough to be worth watching as a trainwreck. 

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.