I went to the Mission Park premiere and reception at the Brattle Theater the other night. Bethie wanted to turn back when we saw the limos and camera flashes, but I’m a blogger! That means jeans are the perfect ensemble for all occasions! (And also, I like superheroes.)
Mission Park is an independent movie about Boston superheroes, written by Chip Perro. Superteam Tessa Faux, Apple Orchard, Timothy Note, Victor Strength and Chris Ember dash around Boston fighting crime (except when they’re, you know, causing it), evading the police, protecting the innocent and saving the world. The story hinges on an Evil Corporation who commissions an artist to create the perfect work of art, a painting so aesthetically perfect that everyone who sees it immediately gets superpowers. It’s hard not to be reminded of the Monty Python sketch about the funniest joke in the world as the artist finishes her masterpiece and keels over with newfound superpower.
Mission Park is the first of six planned movies, each one to focus on a specific character from the superteam. I’m hoping that later movies will explain some of the ill-defined powers the superfriends have. I’m also hoping that Victor Strength, underused both for the character’s superstrength powers and the actor’s ability to deliver superhero apocalypse lines believably, will have a bigger role.
Ensemble movies are hard because there’s a limited amount of time to develop so many characters. Each superfriend had a catchphrase or overwhelming character trait, so I was never left wondering who someone was, but there wasn’t much growth and change, either.
Tessa Faux, the oversexed vigilante, is racking up body count or bedpost notches in every scene. Every supergroup needs one character who’s ruled by sex drive, and bonus points to Chip Perro for making Mission Park’s playboy a girl. But, meanwhile Note’s girlfriend also tries (desperately and unsuccessfully) to drag him to bed, and every girl in Boston tries (desperately and unsuccessfully) to sleep with Ember. Too many girls chasing the male leads for sex started to have a male MarySue feel.
I forget the exact wording, but I think there’s a theater maxim if the audience sees a gun in the first act, there will be a shot fired in the second act. I guess the corrollary to that is when a character keeps saying that now’s not the time for foul language and that she never swears, you know an F-bomb is coming. I was not disappointed.
The story’s final resolution was… odd. I’m ok with superheroes who cause massive collatoral damage and leave high body counts. (Bethie: But I wish they didn’t kill everybody in the lab!) I’m also ok with superheroes who decide to give the world superpowers and trust to individual conscience to keep the world safe. But, like chardonnay and raw cookie dough, sometimes two things I like don’t work well together.
The story of Mission Park was endearing and frustrating by turns, but it was always visually interesting. Rick and Chip Perro aren’t sneaky about greenscreening. Characters appear with colored outlines in front of hand-drawn backgrounds or still photographs of Boston scenes. An overturned car, used for cover in a shootout, bears a distinct resemblance to one of my nephew’s toys. The final result is a perfect format for the magical realism of superheroes.