The Hyperions (2022)
Film review #505
Director: Jon McDonald
SYNOPSIS: In 1960, Professor Ruckus Mandulbaum invented the Titan badges: special devices that when worn could turn anyone in to a superhero. He adopted two young orphans and a third person to become a team of superheroes. As time went on, different heroes took up the titan badges as the original heroes moved on with their lives. In 1979, two of the original superheroes want their badges back, and take hostages until Mandulbaum agrees to release them…
THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: The Hyperions is a 2022 sci-fi film. The film revolves around a group of people given superpowers by Professor Mandulbaum and his inventions, the titan badges. In 1979, nearly twenty years after they were first invented, two members of the first generation to wear the badges stage a robbery to try and get them back, realising that they need Mandulbaum’s help to do it. Despite looking like a superhero film on the surface, it focuses more on being a drama and the relations between the characters, with a hint of light-comedy thrown into the mix. The plot is pretty threadbare, and the whole premise of the film is laid out early on for the drama to unfold. The plot tries to raise the stakes by revealing the motivations of the characters, but it never really adds anything surprising or captivating to change the state of play. The constant back and forth with flashbacks revealing parts of the story really staggers any kind of progression as well. The pacing, especially near the end, is very rough.
Being a superhero film actually plays very little role in the overall story, and as mentioned it’s very much focused on the characters. Maybe the point is to do something “different” with superhero characters and look at their humanity, but this is something that has been done to death with trying to show a “different” side to them outside of their superhero persona. While this usually results in making them angsty and tormented in comparison to their heroic status, The Hyperions seems to instead try to humanise them by focusing on the relationships between the characters, and the strain put upon them through being a superhero. Their disagreements and tensions are relatable, but maybe too much so: the superhero set-up in fact has very little effect on the content of the film, and while it can be good to have certain expectations subverted, instead the film just replaces it with…very little. The main characters have specific personalities and motivations, but the main cause of tension and drama between the characters is skirted around, and when it is addressed, is rushed and unrewarding. Aside from the main characters, there are a few support characters, but none of them really have an impact either. It is perhaps worth mentioning that this film is backed and produced by the Daily Wire, who have dipped their toes into filmmaking as a response to Hollywood’s “agenda,” in defence of free speech or something. So departing from Hollywood superhero films, they have instead used their free speech to make a film that actually says very little, which I think is quite interesting. It feels like it’s so hyper-conscious of not having any political message to preach that it just ends up being vacuous at it’s core. Superheroes are political, and they do have a message to convey: trying to erase that misses the point entirely. It might be trying to reinforce traditional family values as the solution to all troubles, which seems to be the justification of the ad-hoc ending where everything works out because they’re family, but if that is the point, then the film ends up looking seriously naïve.
One of the most unique aspects of the film is the use of a 60′s animated aesthetic that is reminiscent of Disney films. Animated characters and effects overlap with the real-world, which provides some interesting visuals, but it just feels like there’s no purpose to it as a cinematic choice: it’s not parodying it, and the film isn’t structured or feature similar characters or plot points to those films. Combine this with the recurring problem of interrupting the film along with the flashbacks, and it ends up complicating the film without adding anything of significance. The sets look good, and have a particular aesthetic with it’s 60′s technicolour vibe, but other than that nothing really stands out on that front. Some of the lacklustre elements of this film can perhaps be put down to it being a directorial debut, but there definitely is a problem with the film being reluctant to say anything of importance, and as mentioned above, I think it has something to do with the people behind it rebelling against Hollywood’s perceived “agenda” and some imagined defence of free speech to the point that it has nothing to really say. there are some good points to this film: there are some good dramatic moments and emotional scenes between some of the characters, but a haphazard structure, bad pacing, confused comedic choices, and a jumble of aesthetic choices that combine to make The Hyperions an overall dull and meandering experience.