It is no secret how big of a fan I am of the studio SpectreVision and the films they have produced. Those films being Mandy, Cooties, Greasy Strangler, and Color Out of Space. So when I heard about their newest entry, I of course got very curious and extremely excited, especially once I learned it was a gritty superhero movie.
The big budget superhero action movies have their place and they are fun, don’t get me wrong. But sometimes I want something a bit more grounded.
That’s were films like Super, Special and Defendor come into play.
To me, those are the three top low budget superhero movies, that also all share a certain similarity. Their heroes are all delusional with a serious mental illness, or the film plays with the idea that maybe they aren’t just batshit insane.
Much like 12 Monkeys, Archenemy tries to get you thinking one way while also trying to surprise you with another.
Is Max Fist just another homeless drunk claiming to be something he isn’t? Or is he really a superhero from another dimension?
I’m also pairing this review with another movie, Songbird because they actually share something in common. That being filmed during a pandemic.
Oddly enough, doing so hurts both movies. But we’ll get into that later.
First up is Archenemy as this was the one I have been hyped up for the most for a few months now if you’ve been stalking my twitter.
Now obviously since Mandy is the greatest movie ever made in all of mankind and cinema, Archenemy has some pretty high set expectations for me.
Unfortunately, those expectations were set way too high, at least for me.
Don’t get me wrong. This isn’t a bad film, not at all. And I did enjoy it, however it does have some issues that start around the second act. I can’t think of any other reason for these issues, other than they were filming during a pandemic.
The whole second act feels so rushed over, and that momentum keeps going until the final third act.
Scenes felt missing at times, jumping straight ahead to something when there really needed this buildup.
They’d at times cop out by showing you in-between scenes… for example, the front of a gun store, then instantly cut to our lead in full battle gear, loading himself up with guns from the gun store that we never see him enter.
Just things like that, where I’m sure in any other situation, there would be a scene of them going gun shopping. Like Commando to set an example.
It gives your characters something to do, while they have some character moments, talk. Terminator being another fine example.
Say you need your character to drive somewhere and end up at that location. You don’t need to show them walking to their car, getting in and driving. But it seems like Archenemy just decided to only show the car. You get what I’m saying? Not the person walking to the car or even in the car, just the car and then cut right to the new location.
That’s what I mean by in between scene.
Things like this only start to pop up in the second act when things are about to go down. And by go down I mean Max Fist murdering a whole shit ton of people.
I guess I should jump into the plot a bit so you all have a clue as to what I’m even talking about.
The story centers around Max Fist, a kind of Superman type character that rules over a city in his own dimension.
There’s a great line he says later on in the film, people had to invent things to kill me.
Long story short, his archenemy, evil scientist lady, has created a device that will wipe out the city, punching a hole into reality, sending him elsewhere.
He thinks he defeated her, but the device goes off anyways, tossing him through space and time, where he eventually lands in our world but without his superhero abilities.
Now he’s mostly… okay, not mostly, he is this homeless drunk that tries to tell his story to anyone who will listen. And of course whoever buys him a drink or two. Maybe three.
I do love this concept. Kind of the opposite to Superman’s situation, him having these godlike abilities thanks to our sun, while Max Fist’s powers reside in an underground source, or was it a black hole…
Anyway, he’s basically Hancock, except no one believes him when he tells them about how great he used to be.
The only one who believes him or at least humors him is Hamster, a kind of wannabe street journalist.
He desperately wishes to join the ranks of this online magazine.
They give him a chance but needs to find something news worthy, in steps Max Fist.
Hamster finds him punching a wall while in a drunken stupor.
He sees this as a chance to interview someone kind of interesting, who isn’t a drug dealer.
Speaking of drug dealers, Hamster’s sister Indigo works for a local drug dealer played by Denis from Always Sunny in Philadelphia, but here he’s calling himself The Manager.
He sees something in Indigo, wanting to give her a bigger responsibility.
Her job is to visit a crazy dude named Krieg who is in town to deliver a duffle bag of drug money.
But when Krieg accidentally shoots himself in the head in front of Indigo, she sees an opportunity and takes it, stealing the bag of money for herself.
Max has been sharing his story with Hamster, at this point it’s kind of unclear if he believes him or not or still just humoring him.
At one point Max takes on a douche bag in a car, fighting it with his bare hands.
The thing is, Max is from an alternate reality, the same as life on Earth up until a divergence when people started developing superhuman abilities thanks to an underground cave. Or black hole. I remember them mentioning a black hole at one point.
Hamster suspects the source of his power must still be on this Earth, they just need to find it. Unfortunately the place the cave would be is now an abandoned mall.
The Manager is pissed because the money Krieg was sent to deliver is missing, so of course the blame falls on Indigo the last person to see him alive, so he sends a few goons to check on her.
Once they find the stashed money they go to execute her, Max Fist comes to the rescue, summoning his inner superhero and brutally killing the goons.
At this point he has claimed to never of killed anyone, however you always got this sense that is a lie. He has way too much rage for that to be true.
I kind of suspected from the start that if what he said about himself was true, he’d be this ruthless dictator. The city he protected didn’t love him, but feared him.
I also like this twist to the Superman tale.
Max kind of sees this as he reason for being here, to save Indigo and Hamster.
All of this is really jammed into the second act. One minute he’s having these delusional fits, remembering his past and then the next he’s arming himself, looking like The Punisher, murdering countless people.
At one point he walks in on a group of thugs playing poker, but wearing goblin looking masks. It’s never explained why, it was so bizarre.
It got me thinking, pandemic reasons? Group of people wanting to wear masks but couldn’t figure out how to pull it off, so they all wore goblin masks?
I don’t know. It was strange.
But the scene that followed was pretty fun, Max armed with a riot shield on one arm and a beretta in the other, killing everyone he comes across.
After seeing the carnage Max leaves in his wake, Hamster and Indigo cuts ties with him, going their separate ways.
But it turns out that the magazine Hamster worked for is owned by the evil scientist lady, Max’s archenemy.
She landed on this Earth years before Max, setting up an empire, while Max was drinking himself to death.
Evil scientist lady is actually called Cleo. She isn’t exactly evil, even though she kind of is, but her goal to stop Max comes from her love of him, not some evil destroy the city plot.
Max and her were married, until the power got to his head and he needed to be stopped, turning to the planet’s greatest scientist to help defeat him.
I’m not really sure what her goal is now that she’s living on this new Earth, it mostly seemed like she just became this tech billionaire who also sells drugs for some reason…
But not a big operation, but like this low level drug dealing business.
Honestly, I feel like they should have scrapped this whole “twist”. It didn’t make a ton of sense and honestly it wasn’t needed. They already set up The Manager as being the big bad. Adding in this extra person at the last moment seemed unnecessary.
It was like they couldn’t figure out what certain characters should be doing during the finale. They needed to give everyone something to struggle over, but by the third act Max has already killed everyone.
I also really didn’t care for the ending. It was also too telegraphed. Her name is Indigo, but not only that she is obsessed with the color blue, decorating her apartment in blue, her hair is blue.
And when you learn early one that Max’s blood is actually blue, you can kind of piece together what is going to happen.
Max is going to die and Indigo is going to get his powers somehow.
I also really wish they stuck with his old superhero costume, as the new one they put him in is identical to the one The Punisher wears in the Netflix series or Punisher: War Zone.
Speaking of outfits, what the hell was Indigo wearing in the final act? It looked like assless chaps. Which wouldn’t be that off putting if not for the fact she looks 12 years old.
Bizarre outfit choice.
Anyway, my final verdict for Archenemy, in terms of rating it to Mandy, I give it 3 out of 6 Mandy The Beast battle axes.
But for my rating, it gets a RENT IT.
Now on to….
A film shot during a pandemic, about a pandemic. But not some made up fantasy raging virus, no the actual virus we are all dealing with for a year now.
Films like this aren’t new. Hell, the 1993 film Daybreak with Cuba Gooding Jr. did almost the exact same plot but instead of people living in a society ravaged by a pandemic and authoritarian rule, Daybreak was about the AIDS epidemic in a society ravaged by authoritarian rule.
As I was watching Songbird, I couldn’t stop thinking just how similar the two movies were. And not to mention how outdated and forgotten Daybreak was and how quickly Songbird will be forgotten within a few months even.
It has been years since I’ve seen Daybreak, but I’m sure if you watch it now it’s just laughable.
That’s Songbird, but even now it’s kind of laughable.
In this future, COVID has run rampant, putting all of society in a permanent lock down. The only ones allowed to leave their houses are those immune to the virus. They work mostly has mail carriers, taking packages to and fro to those trapped inside.
Our lead character Nico is one of those “munies” as they call them. He works for Lester who employs a whole team of bike messengers.
One family Nico delivers to are the Griffins, played by Demi Moore and Bradley Whitford. They have a daughter with an autoimmune disorder, so quarantine is their only option to keep her safe.
Yet they also sell immune bracelets on the black market with the help of a dirty government agent played by my personal favorite Peter Stormare.
If that wasn’t dangerous enough, the dad William is also sneaking out at night to visit May, played by the always lovely Alexandra Daddario. She’s stuck in LA because she came down to get a record contract, only to have the pandemic hit, stranding her in her hotel room.
So now she mostly gets on webcam and sings to lonely folks.
One of those lonely folks is wheelchair bound ex-soldier Dozer, who works for Lester as kind of the eye in the sky for his delivery service.
Dozer is a drone pilot. It’s the only way he sees the outside world.
Actually, now that I think about it, why use people to deliver these packages when they could just pull an Amazon and send out drones?
I guess we wouldn’t have much a movie that way. Since everything all connects to Nico one way or another.
Nico has fallen in love with Sarah, who he has never met. Since no one can meet anybody anymore. They mostly Edate, watch movies and talk on the phone…
I honestly didn’t get much of a connection between the two. But that’s hard to pull off without our characters ever interacting with each other.
Only movie right now that comes to mind is The Truth About Cats & Dogs with Janeane Garofalo. I’m a sucker for romance films and that one has always been my favorite.
So the plot for the most part of Songbird is this, it’s 2024, the virus has mutated, everyone is in lockdown under harsh laws. Everyone must take a mandatory test on their smartphone, if it reads a temperature, men in white hazmat suits come and take you away to a massive infected camp called Q-Zone.
Though, apparently the virus kills you now in 48 hours. So… how is there this almost half a city wide of infected?
Anyway, one of the people in charge of these raids is Peter Stormare’s character Harland who loves to stab people from time to time.
So Nico’s girlfriend’s grandmother gets the virus, failing her morning test. That means not only is she going to get taken away but so is Sara.
Now Nico must find a bracelet like his for her to use.
Enter the Griffins.
Afraid Nico might be a problem, they set him up, handing him over to Harland and the police.
He manages to escape the raid assault but the help of some random character. He only exists to save our main character and then die. What is this, Last of Us 2?
Meanwhile, Demi Moore’s character finds out her husband is having an affair with May, but not only that, May has incriminating evidence against him.
So now William, her cheating husband, must get to May and get the evidence from her one way or another.
Coming up empty handed, Nico breaks into the Griffin’s house to steal a bracelet, only to get caught. But showing some sympathy, Demi Moore helps make a bracelet for Sara.
Sara’s grandmother has died, but the men in hazmat suits are still after Sara, so she disguises herself as one of them, escaping the building.
However she doesn’t get too far before getting caught and taken to the Q-Zone.
To rush things to a finale here, Nico kills Harland and races to stop the van they have Sara in, where he manages to sneak the bracelet onto her wrist just in time.
Turns out she was immune this whole time.
I feel like I missed a subplot…
Oh yeah, Dozer kills Mr. Griffin with his drone, saving May.
I really didn’t care for this movie very much. We kept switching back and forth to all these different characters, but I honestly didn’t care for any of them.
Nico is just kind of blah.
Sara is just kind of meh.
And everyone else is just kind of filler.
This is another example of how filming during an actual pandemic hurt the production, as you never have more than two characters in a room together unless they are literally wearing a gas mask.
The messaging also felt weird to me, almost like taking a stand against quarantining, felt like it was geared more towards those who like to stand outside government buildings protesting their right to not wear masks. While also armed with an assault rifle.
I’m sure that wasn’t the intent, but it kind of came off that way, at least to me.
There’s also a lot of claustrophobic close up shots of everyone that really annoyed me.
At first the plot did kind of intrigue me, but doing a film on the actual virus we are still currently dealing with for some reason rubbed me the wrong way. Even if it is still an exaggerated slightly fictionalized version of the virus.
It wasn’t a bad film, for most it might just be a RENT, but for me I think I might have to say SKIP IT, guys.