Sep 04 2013
When I was a kid, I wanted to be a superhero. I really did. I thought about it all the time. I would go for walks hoping radioactive meteors would crash to Earth and grant me amazing powers. I think I was a pretty stupid kid, though, because in hindsight, the heroes often had to go through great ordeals after being granted whatever gift they were granted. And if you think in terms of Batman, he was granted nothing but pain. Batman was given no powers to counteract all the tragedy in his life, and even by embracing justice, it has only led to even more death and loss in his life. So really, wanting to be a superhero as a kid is a masochistic, unrealistic thought, and one that would come with some heavy burdens as well. But what if, in your teens, you just snapped? What if you had it with every vile thing around you, and decided to start seeking vengeance? What if you decided to be a superhero, knowing full well that this is not some comic world?
This is a very real world of very real violence, that you would only be countering with more violence. Would you still want to be a superhero if you knew you may very well end up killing someone in the name of justice? And at what point do the lines of justice become blurred? These are just a few of the questions Boy Wonder asks of its audience, and truth be told, Boy Wonder might just be the best “home grown superhero” movie I have ever seen. I talked about it before in passing on the list I just linked, but this film deserves ATLEAST 1000 words.
“Dude, you got something on your face.”
So for a moment, I want you to imagine the movie Kick-Ass, but take out humor. Then I want you to take out the constant stream of pop culture references. Then, I want you to wipe all that shiny, multiple million dollar budget away. Then, when that is done, I want you to fill the movie with complete unknowns, take away any of the hope, and completely blur the lines on who is bad and who is not bad. If you did that, and then dipped Kick-Ass in a nice coat of nihilism, you would have Boy Wonder. Here, doing things different this time and giving you a trailer right off the jump:
This could also be called The Wonder Years version of The Punisher.
So as you can piece together from that trailer, this is sort of your usual “become a superhero” fare, in the sense that the main character in the movie, Sean, endures much as a child, including the violent loss of his mother from random attackers one rainy night (Bruce, is that you). But he ends up noticing some things during the attack that bother him, and he sets it in his mind he is not going to let that happen to anyone else. He does not don spandex, and does not have any cool powers. He is just a kid, who in confused and angry, and sometimes, that can be the biggest power of all, laying waste to all around it. And the more Sean plays the vigilante, the more he becomes like the people he hated, at one point, viciously beating a man with brass knuckles to near death on a train after he witnessed him being rude to a Chinese family. And that is the other thing Boy Wonder asks us. At what point, do we cross the line? We start by seeking vengeance (a theme I love to explore), but we need to remember, vengeance turns us into ugly people, seeking out closure for all the wrong reasons, and even if our intent is good at first, like I said, those lines blur.
They may have similar upbringings, but Boy Wonder does not share the same ethics as Batman.
There are elements to the story I am leaving out, and I am doing so on purpose. As you could see from the trailer, there is a female detective, and it doesn’t take long for our antihero and this detective’s paths to cross. She is his Commissioner Gordon, but I won’t ruin it for you whether or not their relationship is as amicable. And there is also a strange element between the Father and his son, and that dynamic gets revealed to us in many different lights across the course of the film. Again, and I need to stress, lines blur here, and the deeper we go, the more they blur. People we see as friends become foes, and people we see as foes, well, actually, there are few friends in this world, which is really what makes it so believable to me. Life can be ugly, and the best movies know that and reflect that back to us. Boy Wonder shows us that world magnified.
So now, ofcourse, I need to talk about our lead in the film, Sean Donovan, played by Caleb Steinmeyer. Though you may not know him from much (he played a young John Locke on Lost), that only helps to envelope you in Sean’s world that much more. You are not watching some TV star trying to get an edgy image by doing a grittier role. You are not seeing some pretty boy from young Hollywood trying to show his chops. No, this is pretty much a one man show, and that man dictates SO MUCH with just a troubled stare. Another movie sparse in dialogue, there are lingering shots of Sean, looking on at some crime scene, or watching someone do something horrible, and he has this look. It is troubling, and haunting, and exactly the kind of look you would expect a homegrown vigilante to give.
Or a school shooter.
That’s the same determination I have in my eyes when I order food from a restaurant.
Now you know this is the part where I talk up the director, and this case, director Michael Morrissey did an amazing job of painting this grim world for us, and then letting us watch it get dissected from inside. But what is really shocking to me is how this 2010 gem is the only feature film he has ever directed. This is what saddens me about the industry. The guy makes an amazing film, and few people hear about it so few people see it, so the director gets delegated to directing TV shows and commercials. I know work is work, but he really hit the nail on the head with Boy Wonder, and it will be a great injustice to us all if we never get to see anything else this guy can do.
And you know how I deal with injustice, right?
Um, I do this. Whatever this is. Which is to say, duckface and Microsoft paint.
So really, what is left to tell you other than “why haven’t you seen it”? Boy Wonder has everything Unreality readers love. It is influenced by comic books, it is a wildly dark morality tale, and it is exactly the kind of mental hell you would imagine being a super hero would be. And if being a superhero means you have had to endure an insane life of loss and tragedy, I guess the real question is, why am I not a superhero?
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