My experience with Melissa McCarthy’s films are sporadic. It take a bit to figure out out whether movie lovers are sleeping on her or that they’re participating in self care. That question is on the forefront in her latest, Thunder Force. Either way, let’s set up its plot.
The movie, thankfully, speeds through its setups. It covers forty years in the life of McCarthy’s character Lydia. In ten minutes, it shows different younger versions of her (Vivian Falcone and Mia Kaplan. Kudos to the casting director.) befriend and have a falling out with Emily (Bria Danielle and Tai Leshaun).
Lydia, in the present day, is just one of many working class Chicago residents falling prey to petty crime. She and her fellow fictional Chicagoans call those criminals Miscreants. They’re mutants who decide to use their supernatural powers for their sociopathic desires. McCarthy’s makeup, by the way, looks suspiciously good before and after one of the Miscreants (Pom Klementieff) tries to blast her.
Lydia, on a whim, decides to come to the swanky offices of the fortysomething version of Emily (Octavia Spencer). Emily, by the way, is still working on ways to destroy the Miscreants for killing her parents. Lydia touches things she’s not supposed to. What could go wrong?
Well, Lydia’s clumsiness get her in a chair that straps her in. The chair injects a serum on her, giving her the super strength that Emily intended for herself. The serum takes five years to make and Emily’s not waiting for that second batch.
Emily, then, finds herself stuck with the other power she’s working on – invisibility. The movie’s first act, then, ends with motivating training montages where Lydia complains about her routine. Her injections and everything are harder than Emily’s who , funnily enough, just has to take some pills.
I’m starting to notice three things here. First is that the movie highlights the commonalities between comedies and superhero movies. Specifically, both treat the human body like test dummies. Sure, it’s not the most profound statement to say in the film, but also, like, well, duh.
Second is that McCarthy’s over the top comedy style and Spencer’s subtle choices complement each other, as they should. A lot of their humor comes from how nobody gets Lydia’s pop culture references. Most comedies draw from that well. But it’s relatable as someone who has to explain pop culture to people.
What doesn’t help the movie’s half-profound statement is that its storytelling has its holes that become bigger as it continues. Emily starts as the movie’s entryway but she recedes to make way for Lydia’s narrative. The movie could have explored Emily more.
Also, the conflict between both Lydia and Emily and the baddies feel convoluted at times. All the characters here seem messy on paper. But it’s still fun to watch the two actresses put costumes on and fight some bad guys.
Watch Thunder Force on Netflix.
- Rated: PG-13
- Genre: Action, Adventure, Comedy, fantasy, Sci-Fi
- Release Date: 4/9/2020
- Directed by: Ben Falcone
- Starring: Bria Danielle, Melissa McCarthy, Mia Kaplan, Octavia Spencer, Pom Klementieff, Tai Leshaun
- Produced by: Adam Siegel, Becki Cross Trujillo, Ben Falcone, Marc Platt, Melissa McCarthy
- Written by: Ben Falcone
- Studio: Marc Platt Productions, Netflix