film & game reviews, the retro way.
Released directly to Netflix, Thunder Force is a comedy starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer about two childhood friends who grow apart but later find themselves stuck together fighting supervillains after picking up superpowers themselves.
With superhero films and TV shows constantly battling it out both at the box-office and on streaming networks these days, more spoofs were imminent so Thunder Force certainly came at the right time. Another collaboration between Melissa McCarthy and director/husband Ben Falcone, the film definitely had potential considering the reliable cast and the fun premise. It opens with a genuinely charming new friendship developing between then high school girls Emily and Lydia, the former a smart, studious kid who is being bullied by other students and the latter, a straight-talking goofball who defends her against said bullies. We see their friendship blossom and then fall apart, which is bittersweet and frankly really well done: you feel for these characters and look forward to them reconciling in the future.
Unfortunately, then the rest of the film happens.
We pick up the characters' story when they are much older as Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) attempts to convince Emily (Octavia Spencer) to attend a high school reunion. Emily now being a world-renowned scientist who has developed a way to give superpowers to people in order for them to fight back against the supervillains (aka Miscreants) who are terrorizing the world. Lydia's first meeting with Emily is, of course, a complete disaster and, long story short, she ends up accidentally adopting the powers that Emily had planned for herself. Already, the idea of a 50 year-old scientist planning to turn themselves into a superhero instead of using someone who is properly trained to face the real dangers ahead like a soldier, for example, is very hard to buy and, in fact, this flawed idea ruins the Emily character to the point where she feels completely out of place and Octavia Spencer comes off as miscast. This is a shame as a few minor changes to the script could've turned this mess into a clever Tony Stark parody.
This is not the film's only misstep, obviously. Having Emily's power be invisibility might make sense for the character but the film visibly (no pun intended) felt bad not giving a great actress like Spencer screen time so whenever Emily becomes invisible the film makes her... visible but transparent which kinda defeats the point of that power in the first place. The writing is also all over the place here as Melissa McCarthy's improv often conflicts with the script itself (one second she found her T-shirt in the trash, the next she got it at a concert), Jason Bateman's crab-like villain and love interest is thoroughly underwritten, the jokes mostly go on for way too long and are hit-and-miss to say the least, Spencer and McCarthy don't really work off each other that well comedically and the plot is just ludicrous, and not always in a fun way.
Admittedly, there are some amusing jokes here and there courtesy of the effortlessly funny McCarthy (the raw chicken bit is great) but Thunder Force sadly feels like a missed opportunity that manages to waste both its excellent cast and a superhero spoof premise with lots of potential.
Watch Identity Thief or Spy instead.