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After a radioactive meteor strikes Earth, a genetically altered group known as The Rochester 13 gain astonishing, superhuman powers. Ian Sparks doesn't feel remotely super... but after his parents' death, he throws himself into battle against the criminals plaguing the mean streets of New York. Teaming up with, and falling hard for, the beautiful Lady Heavenly, the unstoppable duo quickly decimates the city's army of thugs. But when they tangle with the nation's most twisted arch-villain, they end up losing everything - including each other. Sparks' rage-fueled quest for vengeance ignites a battle that will change the world and alter his destiny, forever. Written by
Amazing story and wonderful movie. 1940s Noir Superheroes!
I write this review neither as a professional critic nor as someone directly involved with movie making. Instead I am simply a long time fan of movies in general and of the various genres that make up the melting pot that is Sparks. Sparks in its simplest description is a combination of noir style and superhero action with a late 1930s to early 1940s backdrop. It is a wonderful film and should be included in anyone's personal catalog of DVDs.
Sparks is based on a graphic novel of the same name written by Christopher Folino. During the original run of the comic he and William Katt (yes of Greatest American Hero fame) decided to try to bring it forward as a film. There's more to it than that but this is supposed to be a review of the film and hot a historical treatise of it. However, it does bear to point out that the film was produced completely independently. It is very much a labor of love and it shows in the finished product.
Visually the film is a study in contrast. Scenes are shot in a way that is similar in feel to a combination of Sin City and a theatrical production. Because the production was completely independent and was shot quickly in one location, a lot of green screening was used. Much like it was in Sin City but it doesn't take anything away from the shots. It's the same kind of feeling you would get watching a play where you know the characters aren't actually in the location they're pretending to be in but you accept the conceit and go along for the ride anyway.
The effects overall are magnificent. Yes certain nitpicks could be made about their quality if you were to go frame by frame but given that all the visual effects were the work of TWO guys alone, it's a marvel of artistry and talent. For a superhero movie, there aren't that many big, in your face effects (no city destroying climax here) but how and when they're used is done to perfectly illustrate and forward the plot which is a lesson that many effects heavy blockbusters could learn.
The musical score is perfectly interwoven to the film and blends in with the entire package to nicely frame things and add to the flow without being blaring or overpowering the dialog. It is dramatic without being corny. No noticeable dead girlfriend violin.
The acting was spot on with Chase Williamson (John Dies At The End) going from adorably sweet one moment (the meeting Lady Heavenly scene is perfect illustration) to angry and world weary the next with ease as Ian Sparks. Ashley Bell (Last Exorcism) is wonderful as Lady Heavenly in every aspect of the character. To say more about her portrayal would be to spoil a bit of plot. Clancy Brown, Jake Busey, and Clint Howard all turn in stellar performances but William Katt deserves special note for his chilling portrayal of Matanza. He delivers his lines and presence with a gravitas that is calm and sinister without being campy.
The plot and writing is where the movie shines the most. Like most noir works (at least that I've seen) the film makes heavy use of flashbacks. Sometimes repeating the same moment but from different points of view or with people admitting things they hadn't before. Sparks will not spoon feed you everything up front but by the end of the movie you will get what was going on. Fair warning though that it will not happen until quite literally the last minute but the film does tie up all the loose ends in a very satisfying way. More than once you will find yourself going "Ohhhhhh so that's what that was." So to sum up, is the film absolutely 100% completely perfect? No. But it is a masterpiece of ingenuity, storytelling, and a perfect demonstration that for all the jadedness in the world, there's still some magic to be found in movies. Beyond all that, it's just a fun movie to watch with a great story and the world needs more great stories. Here's to hoping there's a sequel somewhere down the road.
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