Review – The Hyperions

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Overview

Synopsis The Hyperions are a broken up team of superheroes, suddenly thrown into the spotlight again when two of them go rogue and attempt to gain back their lost superpowers.

Length 1 Hour 30 Minutes

Release Date March 10th, 2022

 

Rating TV-14

Distribution The Daily Wire

Directing Jon McDonald

Writing Jon McDonald, Mike Timm

Composition Oumi Kapila

Starring Cary Elwes, Penelope Mitchell, Elaine Tan, Alphonso McAuley, Tanner Buchanan, Keli Price

The Daily Wire’s gambit to make a dent in the culture war continues with their third film, The Hyperions. The film is a superhero comedy, but it wasn’t written and directed by Bonfire Legends—the studio behind the company’s in-house production. Instead, this film is produced by Saban Films; a boutique distribution company that previously released low-budget films such as Deadlock, American Sicario, Night of the Sicario, 3 From Hell, Jay and Silent Bob Reboot, The Assignment, USS Indianapolis, and Domino.

They’re known for producing late-career films with filmmakers like Bruce Willis, Walter Hill, Brian De Palma, Kevin Smith, Mel Gibson, and Nic Cage, but the most notable films that I’m aware they’ve produced are Fatman and Guns Akimbo. To my knowledge, Saban Films has no connections to Saban Entertainment—the western distributors of Power Rangers—although initially I assumed there might be some connection.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: Some bloody images and gruesome offscreen deaths.
Language/Crude Humor: Some severe language including s***.
Sexual Content: None.
Drug/Alcohol Use: None.
Spiritual Content: None.
Other Negative Themes: None.
Positive Content: Themes of family, forgiveness, and love.

Review

The Hyperions is a clear attempt for The Daily Wire to diversify their entertainment from their image thus far of grizzled right-wing female empowerment fantasies. Whereas Run Hide Fight, Shut In and Terror on the Prairie are stories about women defending themselves and their families from violence, The Hyperions is a superhero comedy. It’s a bright, over-saturated, and quirky indie-comedy shot and graded to look like a Wes Anderson movie.

There’s a lot of ambition that goes into a genre film with this much style and cinematic influence. It’s for that reason that I would consider The Hyperions the weakest film The Daily Wire has distributed thus far. Its massive ambitions call for a level of creativity and thematic clarity that the film doesn’t quite land.

The titular “Hyperions” refer to a comic book-style superhero family created by an eccentric supergenius named Dr. Ruckus Mandelbaum. The film is presented with a Walt Disney-esque atmosphere and presents him as an emotionally distant father figure to three adopted children. Even the title and music seem to be drawing heavily from classic Disney films. As is explained, Dr. Mandelbaum invented a special type of badge that allows for genetic manipulation, thus granting individuals superpowers if they are worn.

The story begins in media res with two of his adoptive children in the act of robbing a museum which they understand to be carrying several of the badges. They smash it up trying to obtain them only to realize that the only way to access them is for Mandelbaum to personally unlock them, thus facilitating a hostage crisis that lasts for the duration of the film. The film’s presentation is nominally about exploring how Mandelbaum’s children turned into robbers and unfolds as an exploration of neglectful family dynamics, abandonment, and hidden emotional motives.

Above all, this is the film’s greatest weakness. The film starts with a prologue that establishes Mandelbaum’s final meeting with his daughter, Vista, when she attempted to leave the family with her badge that allows her to psychically read other people’s minds. He takes the badge from her and doesn’t see her again for fifteen years. This structure should be enough to establish the basic stakes and dynamics between the characters but immediately we’re faced with the reality that Vista’s motivation can’t drive the story. There is no sense of betrayal or surprise to her actions because her dynamic hasn’t been established enough with Mandelbaum or the other Hyperions for us to understand how this works.

The outline of the story is there for this to be a solid family drama—ala The Incredibles—but the inelegance of the film’s exposition and reticence to thread drama and tension into their relationship keeps it from shaping into a fully realized narrative.

The film certainly doesn’t lack style though. The worldbuilding is mostly handled in animated transitions between the major scenes that help establish the rules of this universe and retroactively build up the characters. Some of the framing and cinematography are amazing, capturing a depth of field and use of saturated color appropriate for a Wes Anderson homage. This isn’t true during the hostage scenes, which switch to handheld shaky-cam in a bleach-white environment.

The film as a whole though doesn’t gel together. For a genre that’s usually focused on spectacle and action, this movie wants to fall back on intimate character drama. There’s nothing wrong with that conceptually. A quiet, intimate drama using the artifice of a superhero movie might actually be an interesting new way to explore the genre, given how played out it is. Unfortunately, it doesn’t set up these motivations from the start. If it wanted to have tension, most of the revelations of this film would’ve needed to happen in the opening ten minutes, playing out over the film as characters progress. A main character’s motivation generally shouldn’t be a story revelation.

Compare it to something like James Gunn’s Super, a superhero black comedy about its lead character grappling with depression from a breakup and processing his grief through brutal violence, escapism, and denial. The Hyperions tries to have a similar cathartic finale but the revelations aren’t tied to character decisions. The reveal of Vista’s actions isn’t caused by character motivation but by manipulation, and Mandelbaum’s responses don’t feel earned. The superhero setting doesn’t add anything to the film either, merely highlighting the film’s low-budget production design.

I feel like I’m being harsh on The Hyperions and maybe it’s just because I’m holding it to a very high standard. I’m not sure what they saw in the film that made them want to buy the distribution rights, but I’m not sure it will impress most audiences. If The Daily Wire wants to compete in the film market, it needs to focus on its strengths. There’s a reason a thriller like Jeremy Saulnier’s Blue Ruin can be made for $420,000 and look like a masterpiece but Deadpool is made for $80 million and looks like it was shot in a parking lot. High-concept genre filmmaking is some of the hardest filmmaking out there and it requires a lot of money. Their thrillers are better made and more interesting.

Positives

+ Some beautiful shots
+ Wonderfully animated transitions

Negatives

- Frustrating script
- Inconsistent cinematography
- Strange approach to worldbuilding

The Bottom Line

The Hyperions is a movie many fans of The Daily Wire are rooting for and one hopes that they enjoy it, but I'm not sure it will appeal to politically neutral moviegoers or superhero fans. It is in no way a political film but it is a film that needed more passes in the screenwriting stage.

 

6.3

Tyler Hummel

Born into the unexplored residential backwater of Chicago, Tyler Hummel is a graduate of Tribeca Flashpoint College where he studied Sound Design for Film and Interactive Media. When he isn't hosting his public access talk show The Fox Valley Film Critics or collecting DragonBall Z figurines, he enjoys writing and directing short films. As with Rick from Casablanca, "he's a man like any other man, just more so!"

7 Comments

  1. Bethany on September 18, 2022 at 4:12 pm

    A very fair assessment. Even the rating is exactly where I’d place it. Such a complicated film that would appeal to a very specific audience.

  2. FR on May 19, 2022 at 12:21 pm

    DW subscriber and I couldn’t get through it, I found it boring. I am happy they are working on brining more content but this one was not for me.

  3. Mike on April 1, 2022 at 1:58 pm

    Also a DW subscriber and disappointed. Disappointed in the gratuitous use of the GD exclamation which is offensive to those who claim to be followers of Christ. There was really no need for it to be used and I’m surprised that DW claims to be an alternative to Hollywood while at the same time sinking to that same level. At least in it’s early days Hollywood managed to produce great content without blasphemy’s. I was hoping that DW would do the same. If this is what they call an alternative to Hollywood they missed the mark by a mile ….

  4. David Van Houten on March 11, 2022 at 5:11 pm

    I wish I could give it 5 stars. . .heck, I wish I could give it any, but couldn’t because I couldn’t watch it. After waiting the additional 10 minutes to get to the preempting discussion (which the sound was not sync’d), the stream errored out and would not come back online. I would normally assume it was my internet, but I am getting 300down and 300 up on AT&T fiber. Everything else on my internet was cruising as usual. Maybe they’ll show it again. I think they may have underestimated the number of viewers. A good problem to have, but a problem none the less.

  5. Travis on March 11, 2022 at 11:57 am

    I wouldn’t call the movie “garbage,” but certainly in my opinion, it is an exercise in style over substance. Cary Elwes’ acting is wonderful in it, and I would say for me the most frustrating shortcoming was, as your review highlighted, the failure to fully flesh out and explore the characters. The actual premise of the movie is solid, and would be able to sustain itself adequately were it not for this. Modern superhero movies are bloated with convoluted plot devices to keep viewers on their toes, and I found the lack of both this sort of complexity and focus on dynamic, CGI-enhanced scenes refreshing.

  6. CJ on March 11, 2022 at 11:04 am

    Great critical review. I think you are even still too kind to this terribly acted, terribly written tv grade movie. I hate to see story potential wasted and that’s exactly what this was. As a Daily Wire member, I’m embarrassed for them that they have to shill for this garbage.

  7. L on March 10, 2022 at 9:50 pm

    Just watched it on the live stream and thought it was great! Made me laugh, definitely made me weepy a few times. Absolutely beautiful cinematography, I wished I watched it on a bigger screen.
    I disagree about the professor’s responses not feeling earned. I think the love and pain felt complicated and real. It’s a tall order to get a whole lifetime of family relationship drama crammed into that short a timeframe but they did it in a convincing and visually compelling way.

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