Today’s film is one of the lesser known entries in the “comedy super hero team” sub-genre of superhero movies, which is probably my favourite sub-genre of the lot of them. Unlike films that deal with superheroes that are, well, any good at their jobs, the comedy super hero team genre deals with superheroes that range from a bit, to very, crap. They may not have the best powers, or even powers that are in any way useful; they may not have any money and have to base their operations in the house of the leader; hell, they may not have any powers at all and only think that they are superheroes. But that doesn’t stop them. And that is exactly what today’s film deals with – today’s film is The Specials.
Presented as part dramatic/comedic traditional film and part mockumentary, The Specials tells the story of the world’s seventh or eighth greatest superteam. Lead by egotisical doogooder, The Strobe, and his nearly estranged (and so very over the superhero business) wife, Ms Indestructble; the film opens with the team coming in on a new member, Nightbird; coming in close on their biggest moment – finally getting an action figure license ; and totally coming apart at the seams. All of this within the first half hour of the film; so, what follows is a bunch of neuroticly fucked up people slowly coming to terms with the fact that this is all they really have in their lives, and it’s something that they are actually good at.
If you are expecting to see a film with epic superpowered battles, explosions as far as the eye can see or a universe spanning story – you have come to the wrong place. In fact, you don’t actually get to see any superpowers until the very last scene. But, let’s face it, when you are dealing with a movie written by the guy who gave us Slither (and the upcoming Super), you have to know that you are going to get something that turns the genre on its head. In fact, the only actual fight you get in the whole movie is The Strobe throwing a punch at his wife (he wasn’t aiming for her, but she was the cause of the fight – note: the author does not condone male on female violence – EVER), and a whole lot of angsting as the various members’ lives implode in on themselves.
Released a year after the somewhat similarly themed Mystery Men, I honestly feel that The Specials gets the feel of the genre a lot better than its larger budgeted cousin. It could be because Mystery Men is based on an actual comic property, whereas The Specials is a fully original team and, as such, doesn’t need to root itself in any “standard” comic mores, and can relish flipping around in somewhat real world patheticness. And hell, it’s that severe lowbudgetness that gives the film so much of its charm – they don’t care that the makeup is running, that the effects really aren’t all that special, they just ignore it, because to them, it doesn’t mean anything – hell, it’s not even there.
Another thing that sets this apart is the great cast – the always awesome Thomas Haden Church (playing what I imagine Nathan Fillion will be playing in Super), Rob Lowe, Jamie Kennedy (hey, it was the early 2000s) and Judy Greer being the most recognisable names (and an amusing cameo from Melissa Joan Hart) and they all have their egotistical asshole hats on. In stark contrast to the other half of the team, who all manage to maintain some sense of moral rightness (and actually have powers that can actually prove useful),but are no less awesome in and of themselves, as far as their actors are concerned. Hell, they even manage to fit in a mighty special dance scene – which is probably the happiness highlight of the film, at least to me.
CSB time, I actually cosplayed as Jamie Kennedy’s Amok at Supernova two years – no one knew who I was, which is what I was going for (and Amber Benson used me in an anecdote, so, yeah, that happened).
This is a film that, if you haven’t seen, you should do yourself a favour and hunt it down.