Thunder Force on Netflix might be the worst movie I have ever seen.
The superhero genre loves perfect bodies. In Zack Snyder’s “Justice League” Jason Momoa and Henry Cavill pose shirtless and glistening, their perfect pecs testifying to their perfect goodness and perfect power. And throughout the genre, Chris Hemsworth, Hugh Jackman, Chris Evans, Brie Larsen, Gal Gadot and other ideally formed sex symbols are poured into tight costumes, the better to dazzle and overwhelm various deformed, bald, scarred and homely villains. For superheroes, glamor is virtue, and an imperfect exterior reveals an imperfect soul.
The new Netflix film “Thunder Force” initially looks like it’s planning to haul off and punch that restrictive super-beauty standard right in its graceful snoot. Its two stars, Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer, are middle-age character actors rather than Hollywood action leads. That gives “Thunder Force” the opportunity to beat up bad guys and fatphobia simultaneously, and to challenge, or at least rethink, some of the tropes the genre takes for granted.
Unfortunately, the movie doesn’t do any of that. Rather than championing its two excellent leads and their own version of super-bodies, director Ben Falcone retreats to pallid jokes and tediously familiar plot clichés. The result is a film that cosigns rather than questions the link between beauty, power and goodness.
The movie takes place some years after a global pseudoscience event granted superpowers to many people on earth — all of whom are sociopaths. As a result, the planet has no superheroes, only supervillains. These supervillains are called “miscreants,” because no one could think of a better name, apparently.
Emily Stanton (Spencer) is the child of two scientists who are murdered by a miscreant. Em swears to avenge them by becoming a scientist herself and developing super powers so she can battle the miscreants and save the world. Lydia (McCarthy) is Em’s fun-loving but bumbling best friend who defends her from bullies in high school and tries to get the serious scientist to loosen up. Lydia stumbles into Em’s final test through an inexplicably unlocked door, and ends up stealing her super strength, leaving Em to get by on invisibility and a charged up taser.