When Thunder Force's trailer first debuted, it seemed like fans of the impeccably talented Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer held a collective breath – the trailer was, for lack of a kinder phrase, not great. McCarthy has a history of making off-beat, and sometimes unfunny, comedies with her husband Ben Falcone, and many feared Thunder Force would be another to add to the list.
Well, we're here to tell you, with a huge sigh of relief, that is not the case.
Thunder Force takes place in a world where a pulse of interstellar cosmic rays has activated superpowers but only in people who are predisposed to be sociopaths, and so the world is terrorised by these supervillains, called Miscreants.
Scientist Emily Stanton (Spencer) develops a process to give superpowers to regular people, but accidentally imbues her estranged best friend Lydia (McCarthy) with incredible abilities, and so the two women must become the first superhero team and save Chicago from the clutches of The King (Bobby Cannavale).
The movie itself doesn't do anything particularly groundbreaking in terms of storytelling or plot, and its big reveals are standard fare to anyone who has seen a single comic-book movie, but that isn't really what Thunder Force is about. There is a kindness to Thunder Force that saves it from being classed as just another rehash.
Unexpectedly, the humour isn't as crass as you might think, and those who couldn't stomach the toilet-raunch of films like Bridesmaids will be pleasantly surprised that the humour stays away from too-gross gags.
Instead, it blends tropes of the superhero genre with humour to make them relatable (for instance, the constant comment about how bad the super-suits smell which, let's be real, is a legit question we have for every Marvel hero ever).
It has to be said that McCarthy does a lot of heavy lifting (pun intended) with a so-so script, her impeccable comedic timing rescuing the flatter lines and turning the better-written ones into moments of howl-inducing laughter. Likewise, Spencer does a nuanced turn as Emily, making a character that could have been one-note into a believable human being.
Believable within the world of Thunder Force that is. And oh what a world! Populated by the likes of Cannavale as a conniving mayoral candidate, Pom Klementieff (Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy) as a psychopathic laser-shooting villain, and Jason Bateman (Ozark) as half-crab-half-man, it's one that makes you laugh at almost every turn.
There's also something deeply enjoyable about watching two "older" women as superheroes, sans any superficial "glow-up" or "sexifying" – they simply are who they are. Neither Emily nor Lydia are punchlines to anyone's jokes, except their own. Their humour is the same humour you'd find between long-time friends: over-the-top, a bit stupid, sometimes self-deprecating, but not mean.
Both Spencer and McCarthy are proven talents individually. Paired together, they never outshine the other but instead play off each other exactly as you'd expect two childhood, if estranged, best friends would: awkwardly, endearingly, and humorously.
Though it's hardly a scathing satire of superhero movies, that wasn't what we were expecting. Instead, about 20 minutes in, it'll hit you: 'Wow, this is surprisingly enjoyable.' Thunder Force is equal parts silly and sweet, and though it may not be the smartest film on Netflix, it's one worth watching.
Thunder Force is now available to watch on Netflix
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