‘Fast Color’ and the Superhero In Need [Review]

‘Fast Color’ and the Superhero In Need

★★★

Since 2008, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has released 23 feature films. The combined budget for these films hovers around $4.5 billion while the combined box office adds up to more than $22.5 billion. Audiences love these movies, and our view of a superhero has morphed in the process. We look for superheroes to have at least one of a variety of traits, including but not limited to super strength, teleportation, mind control, suits with super armor, a godly hammer, or even just an array of assassin skills. With each new film, our expectations for a superhero and their abilities raise 

Enter writer/director Julia Hart (Miss Stevens) and actor Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Motherless Brooklyn) and their film Fast Color. Hart’s movie focuses in on Ruth (Mbatha-Raw), a woman who has powers she cannot control, which cause earthquakes. Her abilities cause destruction, and we her on the run from the law and from scientists hoping to capture and study her. 

After a couple close calls, she decides to head home, finding her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and abandoned daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney) living somewhat happily. Both also have these powers, and can see “the colors,” which Ruth hasn’t seen in years once she lost control of how to use her superhuman features. The women decide to help Ruth take back her life, her body, and her powers, as Ruth hopes to reconnect to her mother, her daughter, and herself in the process. The setup looks like a far cry from those Marvel movies we’ve come to know and love.

‘Fast Color’ and the Superhero In Need
source: Codeblack Films

The difference between Marvel and Fast Color is in the protagonists. In most superhero or at least superhuman films, those with the powers save someone or something. They are protectors, last lines of defense. In Hart’s film, the superhero needs saving. She asks for help, and she’s the destructive force in the universe. An oddly poetic story follows, which pushes the narrative that we all require saving from time to time, and that superhuman abilities don’t need to translate into saving the world. 

Mbatha-Raw gives more of herself as the film progresses, and the performance actually becomes much better after a few weeks of reflection. Fast Color is the first superhero movie, outside of Black Panther, that stuck itself in the corner of the mind, existing more as a thought-provoker than a one-time explosive experience. Hart’s film also becomes more beautiful as Ruth rediscovers her powers, and finally sees “the colors,” a worthy wait for the audience. Once she, and we in turn, see them, it all begins to have meaning on a deeper level and resonance beyond just a mother/daughter story.

Though it falters during a few scenes and the dialogue can be a bit shaky, Fast Color holds a weight in its hands, and changes how you think about the (de-glamorized) superhero as human instead of godly. It puts a face to a genre that usually is filled with masks and suits. It shows the pains and difficulties, instead of the heroics. Ruth’s gender and ethnicity only add to the nuance and importance of Fast Color, as you learn that she deserves screen time just as much as the Avengers, the Eternals, and any other group of people we assign admiration and value to as a society.

Fast Color and its hero have more than superhuman powers, they have drive and purpose, and intent to do good in the world. If more movies follow suit, a new superhero will be formed, one void of perfection and full of promise.

‘Gemini Man’ is a flashy gimmick that can’t stand on its own four feet

The idea of watching two Will Smiths battle each other for two hours is enticing. The trailer was enough for me to head on into the theater on opening night. The movie poster, flashing multiple Smiths and promising epic, superhero-esque showdowns, was a bit of icing on top. It was hard to turn down this movie, especially watching it on a big screen.

Gemini Man, Ang Lee’s directorial disaster, is a fun movie, but only part of the time. That’s the issue. It brings together elements of a successful movie: Will Smith being charming, Will Smith being an action hero, Benedict Wong being reliable, Mary Elizabeth Winstead being a badass, Ang Lee being a visionary, and even Game of Thrones’s David Benioff being a main-stage writer.

The movie opens on Smith, playing Henry Brogan, a fantastic name for an action movie lead. He gets his 72nd confirmed kill by shooting someone long-distance on a moving train. He goes back to his home in Georgia, though not one person in this film has a Southern accent, and puts up a birdhouse. He’s an animal man.

So much of this movie is ridiculous, and the chief problems are with the script, but we’ll trudge on. He cracks open a Stella, as Brogan has to be a beer man, and is set to retire from a life of governmental assassin work.

Smith soon finds out that he didn’t kill a terrorist, but rather a biologist! Then, his friends die, he gets hunted by his own government agency, grabs Danny (Winstead), and we’re off. A few fantastic things happen in the first 30 minutes.

  1. Brogan is seen drinking Stella Artois, Budweiser, and Hoegaarden. He’s drinking beer throughout the movie, and in the final scene, Budweiser boxes are blown to smithereens by gunfire. Lots of beer in this movie.
  2. When Brogan wakes up to find that his house is being surrounded, he’s fully clothed. When he wakes up Danny, she’s fully clothes, yet he says to her, “Get dressed.” That’s actually hilarious and no one can say otherwise.
  3. Brogan and his friends always use the same line when they cheers when taking a shot. “To the next war, which is no war.” How can you not love that?
  4. Ray Charles’ “I Got A Woman” plays and it’s truly not relevant but just a great song.

None of the above make this a better movie in terms of cinematic storytelling, but they do make the experience much more enjoyable.

The rest of the story plays out without much surprise: Brogan begins being hunted by Junior, his younger clone, and they have a few huge fights. Brogan convinces Junior that he’s being used and then they team up to take down the bad guy. One of the fights deserves a bit more attention though: the motorcycle chase.

The motorcycle chase is the best scene of the film and once it’s over, you wish you could watch it again. The younger clone, Junior, chases Brogan through side streets and busy streets and on rooftops, all while both are riding motorcycles. It’s fast-paced, fun, and entertaining as can be. It’s action movies at their best.

Outside of the that chase scene, the rest of the film ultimately falls flat. The gimmick of two Will Smiths begins to fade and you’re wishing the runtime was 20 minutes fewer. The dialogue is formulaic and the characters aren’t given a chance to grapple with the questions that could’ve been asked. Smith isn’t allowed the opportunity, by Ang Lee, to breathe life into either of the two roles, regardless of his commitment and stardom within the film.

The acting isn’t bad by any means by any of the main or supporting characters, and the cloning technology didn’t take me out of the film until the final scene. The action sequences were big, as promised, but the payoff was minimal. Our connection to Brogan, to Junior, and to this world was small and untethered. Not even a third Will Smith brought me the joy it should have.

The Will Smiths deserved better.

★★☆☆