The concept behind Thunder Force sounds exactly like what the superhero genre has lacked: diversity. On a deep level, this genre lacks female superheroes that are not sidekicks. When I say diversity, however, I also mean normal people—not Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, or Henry Cavill. Even with more heroines receiving their own solo installments such as Wonder Woman (2017), Captain Marvel(2019), and this year’sBlack Widow (2021), a superhero film with two women front and center (Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer) that do not fit the standard Hollywood mold sounds refreshing. When a friend informed me of not only the premise but that it was streaming on Netflix, I eagerly launched the streaming app.
Like a giddy schoolgirl, I felt as if I was opening a gift of change. Admittedly, the opening drew me in: two social outcasts who meet on the playground, establishing the foundation of not only their connection but who they would become in the world. That world is one filled not with superheroes—but villains. The catch? The villains and superheroes are one and the same. Labeled as “miscreants,” the superheroes are destructive in nature, resulting in the murder of Octavia Spencer’s parents when she was a child.
Even while writing this description, it sounds unlike a movie with a Hollywood budget. There was hope that this film would represent social outcasts and anyone who has never felt represented on screen.
This female-led comedy attempted to harness both the comedic prowess of Melissa McCarthy and the stunning intensity of Octavia Spencer to drive a plot that failed to reveal itself by the end of the film. The casting of Octavia Spencer alone had convinced me if the plot fell short, her performance could at least carry the film. This was a short-lived conclusion.
The opening scene that initially drew me in became predictable and trite, but I still wanted to give the set-up credit—this was a time to establish the bond between the two main characters. Following the conclusion of the opening scene, I couldn’t help but think the set-up was all wrong. The first major event that took place on the playground was the junior version of Lydia (Melissa McCarthy) saving Emily (Octavia Spencer) from a bully. Que the white savior. This established an imbalanced power structure for the character development going forward. Emily should have saved Lydia in this scene.; which would not only send the progressive message but be a proper inciting incident for the rest of the film. In actuality, Lydia should have been the sidekick, as the film struggled to support itself with her as the lead.
From this point on, it was extremely difficult to follow the events that transpired for the rest of the movie. The comedy should’ve been enough to keep one entertained, but the cringe-worthy scenes overrode any ability to laugh and filled my living room with uncomfortable energy.
In terms of story structure, there wasn’t anything to offer past the visceral CGI and one-dimensional characters. The main villain’s name escapes me, nor do I remember if they even mentioned it in the film—that’s how forgettable she and every other character was. This stymied me the most when watching, as it made zero sense. She’s played by none other than Guardians of the Galaxy‘s Pom Klementieff, whom I never imagined I’d find so dull. The other supporting characters were played by Melissa Leo, Jason Bateman, and Bobby Cannavale, all of whom I hardly noticed.
The most frustrating character was the forced comedy, however, which got worse each time they reused jokes. For example, there were several scenes in which they forced the audience to watch Melissa McCarthy eat raw chicken. Why? Just why? The raw chicken served no purpose, didn’t help move the plot, and most of all it just wasn’t funny.
With the constant obscene jokes being thrown around, you barely noticed Octavia Spencer’s role and all other characters who had major potential because there was nothing worth noting.
By the third act, the plot had failed to develop into anything that could result in a climactic finish and I never figured out what the movie was about. Was this a film about friendship? Corruption? Power? Feminism? I never figured it out, nor did I learn what was at stake for the two heroines. Sure, the big-picture was they had to save the world from miscreants. But two characters who should be relatable I couldn’t relate to at all, so I found that I did not care. My initial assessment was completely wrong: the comedy failed to carry the film, and my interest was quickly destroyed.
Writing about this film was difficult, as I struggled to gather my thoughts on where to begin. Minutes after finishing the film, my brain had already begun removing all evidence of it from my memory. Visually, the cast was diverse however because of every character being written as a one-dimensional character, this film failed to become the groundbreaking film it should have been. Thunder Force failed to bring the force to last an entire film.