STREAMING REVIEW: Our everyday heroes, super and far from super

Published May 7, 2021, 3:00 AM

by Philip Cu Unjieng

Today’s reviews have to do with Netflix attempting to play the superhero game in 2021 with a complex set of parenting situations; and a Horror film that takes a woman who plays religious heroine/martyr in her own mind – with disturbing, disastrous results.

Jupiter’s Legacy (Netflix USA) – We all remember the super-funny animated superhero feature The Incredibles. This 8-episode Limited Series that drops on Netflix March 7th essentially asks the question, ‘What if we remade The Incredibles as a live action film, made the children progress a full decade or so, and they were either juvenile delinquents or kids with superhero successor issues – such as just not good enough.’ Also, let’s strike humor out of the equation and turn this into superhero psychodrama. Based on the graphic novels of Mark Millar & Frank Quitely, I’d say the series leaves something of a ‘hung jury’ state of mind. Is it brilliant to watch and actually a step up from formulaic superhero tropes, or is it a qualified failure, making drama from the most mundane of issues?

To be frank, I don’t think even the creators of this series were sure what they had on their hands. The series unfolds as a double helix narrative – one strand devoted to the today, and all these issues that the aging superheroes have with their progeny; and the second strand takes us back in time, to how our original band of heroes acquired their superpowers. Josh Duhamel (former husband of Black Eyed Pea Fergie) and Leslie Bibb are the most recognizable names in the cast. The cast do seem invested in their roles, but I can’t help feel that in the end, they do depend on stock images from such films as Superman and X-Men to bring this supposedly fresh attack to fore. I’m sure this will find an audience, but I think jettisoning humor was the first misstep of the producers. With something like parenting issues on the foreground of the series, you’d have thought sly subversive humor was called for.

Saint Maud (Video on Demand) – Written and directed by Rose Glass, this was one of the films of 2020 that had critics reaching for superlatives, given that this is Glass’ first film. Categorized in the Horror/Suspense genre, it’s really more psychodrama of an extreme order, both visually stimulating, while weird and disturbing. At its heart, it’s a tragedy predicated on how the over-zealous in religious beliefs can end up living a delusional life – and how that delusion can be tripled in danger when this religion fanatic has private nurse or caregiver as her profession. And of course, central to the sinister success of this film, is the breath-taking performance of young actress Morfydd Clark as the caregiver.

She kneels and prays by first putting sharp stones on the floor where her knees will land, at one point she even walks around with nails embedded in her feet – inserted into her sneakers. It’s all part of her belief that God is actually talking to her, and is a living, breathing physical presence in her life. She proselytizes, takes care of a retired ballet dancer suffering from cancer, and it’s obvious that there’s no line drawn between her religion and her professional duties. Glass turns this into a hard-hitting tragedy precisely because Maud thinks she’s answering God, doing his Will, and performing goodness. Will remind you of such films as Taxi Driver, The Joker, First Reformed, and even Carrie – in that it takes the disturbed loner into sharp focus, and dares us to blink, or look away. The kind of film where you’ll want to shut your eyes at particular scenes – so be forewarned that this is highly visceral and full of disturbing images. Not for the faint of heart, or those who offend easily when it comes to their religious convictions.