Tonight many of you will be in line, waiting to be the first of your friends to see The Avengers: Age of Ultron. Marvel has dominated the comic book and superhero genre for the past several years now, and I suspect that won’t change come May 1.
There’s plenty of speculation as to why the MCU is able to create hit after hit while DC Comics continues to be inconsistent at best. I’m not going to really delve into this debate, but more throw out an idea. Maybe Marvel has just adapted their guys into more likeable (or love to hate) characters.
This is a concept that indie superhero flicks can gather around. You’re never gonna have the power of the Mouse behind you to shell out wads of cash. RDJ ain’t gonna swagger onto your set. So without seizure inducing graphics and big stars, what’s an indie filmmaker to do? Write a good script, that’s it.
The Posthuman Project is written by Matthew Price & Sterling Gates, that latter having worked on several DC projects such as Tales of the Sinestro Corps, Supergirl, and World’s Finest. Gates has a history of exploring the early lives or origins of various DC personalities and it is this focus on character that makes the screenplay work. The Posthuman Project is a superhero origin story ala John Hughes. At least, that is when the film is at its best.
All of the promotional material I received made mention of the influential director, and one poster for the film even has the teens from Posthuman posing in the manner of The Breakfast Club. You are making quite a statement, taking quite a risk, when you compare your work to the master of adolescent-portraying cinema. But director Kyle Roberts is rather on the money when he says that “this film is tonally influenced by John Hughes movies of the 1980s and Marvel’s X-MEN.”
The Posthuman Project follows high school senior Denny Burke and his friends as they near graduation. Thank god these kids realize that high school isn’t the best years of their lives, because for most of them the last four have sucked. Denny’s younger brother, Archie, is bullied for more than just his name. Gwen Black has had to deal with the stereotypical abusive stepfather and must complete summer school before she can escape him. Then Denny, who use to be big man on campus, injured himself on a rock climbing incident and lost his girlfriend.
Yet somehow these kids are able to look on the bright side of things and decide to celebrate early, going on one last camping/rock climbing trip before the big ol’ ceremony. What they find upon the top of Mt. Dominic, however, is far more dangerous than what any normal collection of high school caricatures can handle.
When the film is focusing on Denny and the gang, it sings. The banter may not be as seamless as that of an 80s teen flick, but there are plenty of jokes that work. Talent may not be spread equally amongst the teenagers, but particularly actors Josh Bonzie and Lindsay Sawyer are able to bring the comedy or gravitas when needed. The moments where the filmmakers let the kids just be kids, those are what make this film worth seeing.
There are other great parts as well. Jason Leyva brings maniacal glee to the role of the creepy uncle…poor choice of words…uncle/mad scientist. His right hand man, played by Rett Terrell, would fit well amongst the rank of H.Y.D.R.A. agents. But these two, though their characters are well developed and believable, do not seem to be in the same movie as the kids.
The Posthuman Project has in common a major issue I had with The Amazing Spiderman 2 last year; there seem to be multiple movies playing at once. On one hand you’ve got the coming of age dramedy, on the other is a way over-the-top cheesy superhero flick filled with cliché and clunky dialogue that you would expect from a Syfy monster flick. Both work to some degree, just not together. At least you can say that there is something for everyone, because the film throws everything at us but the kitchen sink.
It features many of the major tropes from both genres, clearly showing off Roberts’ love and understanding of comics. I’d advise you check out his stop-motion TMNT video if you need proof of his geekiness. If you pick which storyline and tonal directional you prefer, ignoring the rest, there is an unpolished gem in there for you. The script, written by Price and DC Comics’ Sterling Gates, is rough but clearly has potential. I’d like to think of The Posthuman Project like 2003’s Saw or 1994’s Bottle Rockets. Yes, I got those dates right. I’m talking about the short films that laid the groundwork for better feature length movies. The Posthuman Project does run at ninety minutes, but with its major pacing issues an easy fix would have been to make this film borderline feature length.
Usually what happens to an indie pic when it is remastered with studio assistance is a big change in visual quality. But if Kyle Roberts were to remake The Posthuman Project, he wouldn’t need to waste the increased budget on better-looking images. You gotta give it up to Red Digital Camera; they are the independent filmmaker’s dream when it comes to easy to make higher quality shots. With Roberts editing and Samuel Calvin behind the camera, they are able to pull off more impressive, blockbuster-worthy shots compared to the static, in desperate need of better lighting look common to lower budget filmmaking.
The lack of funds becomes more and more apparent as the film comes to an end. The movie feels rushed, almost as if multiple shots and scenes were edited last minute. Just as I was getting impressed by the creative use of the superpowers, the story blazed right through them. I mean, the digital effects actually work without a big post-production house behind them and yet we barely get enough time to enjoy them, as the film starts late and ends early.
The Posthuman Project doesn’t feature any big names, really, in front of or behind the camera. It wasn’t shot by some USC graduate with daddy’s money. This film was a personal project, for better or worse. You can feel the passion but see the flaws that come without support from above. Keep this in mind when you go to see it.
You can find The Posthuman Project, produced by Reckless Abandonment Pictures, on all major VOD platforms beginning May 1. For more information about the film and where to pre-order, visit www.posthumanmovie.com.
And, as a special surprise, Overmental.com is proud to present the final trading card for the project. Drawn by comic book artist Jerry Bennet, the nine character cards will be on sale in a pack later this summer for $5. They are are designed similar to the 90s Jim Lee Danger Room, so when you put all 9 together it makes one large, awesome image as seen above.