Superhuman life isn’t easy, at least in a fictional version of modern day Paris, France. They stay in the closet for reasons that Douglas Attal’s debut feature How I Became a Superhero eventually explains. One of those closet superhumans is Lily, who gets the attention of a boy in her school.
Living within these superheroes, whether inside or outside of the closet, is Gary Moreau. He’s a police officer during the present day, but the film shows flashback scenes. There, he encounters superheroes like Callista (Leila Bekhti). I kid you not, there’s also another hero who calls himself Monte Carlo (Benoit Pollvoorde).
Playing Moreau is Pio Marmai who, despite of what I’ll write about this film, has a great presence. Here’s to hoping that he appears on more French films I see in the future. Moreau the French cop, then, has to reunite with Callista, who have different jobs at this time. That’s because he’s investigating a series of super arsons. And he’s trying to trace the steps of the person he thinks is responsible.
How I Became a Superhero ties Lily’s story with Moreau’s is ways that, to its credit, are surprising. As it turns out, the superhero Moreau thinks is responsible dies after becoming a kidnapping victim. And Lily might be the next target. The person targeting her is a man (Swann Arlaud) who has his own backstory.
This film, then, is less about superpowers and more about the power of inconsistent police work. Figuring out who’s behind the super arsons apparently involve Moreau’s partner, Schaltzmann (Vimala Pons). She roughs up some racialized teenagers who are also victims of the attacks.
There’s a sort of inconsistency involved in writing Schaltzmann, who basically plays the bad cop when interrogating more racialized teenagers. The writers – including Gerald Bronner, who wrote the source material – also intend her toughness to be a flaw. It’s as if she can’t connect with both superheroes and the underworld.
There’s supposed to be a reveal about Moreau the cop that I can’t write about. Even though yes, the title suggests otherwise. What I can write though is that that reveal turns him and Schaltzmann into friends. The writers rush these and try to play their rapport as comedy, which falls flat.
Another revelation in How I Became a Superhero comes when it pieces the flashbacks into a more full story. The thing is, that back story only comes when present day situations incapacitate Moreau. This leaves all that exposition work for Callista and Schaltzmann.
And those superheroes have more people with tangential connections to other characters, making this feel more unnecessary convoluted. Camille Japy plays a dead superhero’s psychiatrist which, does her character really need to be here? No she really doesn’t.
Superheroes have to do the grunt work before they become celebrities in their respective countries. I wish Superhero gave more consistent writing and better fight choreography deserving of such characters. It also has the most inconsistent score, which brings this film to a lower level. But of course, I hope everyone involved tries again.
- Rated: TV-MA
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy
- Release Date: 7/9/2021
- Directed by: Douglas Attal
- Starring: Leila Bekhti, Pio Marmai, Vimala Pons
- Produced by: Alain Attal, Emma Javaux, Marie Jardillier
- Written by: Charlotte Sanson, Gérald Bronner, Melisa Godet
- Studio: Artémis Productions, Shelter Prod, Tresor Films