Thursday, December 10, 2020

Adam Egypt Mortimer’s Archenemy

If Earth and Krypton had the same color of sun, Superman would not have had superpowers here. However, since he arrived as an infant, he still could have had a successful career in journalism. It is a harder transition for Max Fist, a former superhero from a different world. Powerless and friendless, Fist became a mean drunk, but its still sort of a superpower the way he does it. He will need all his beer muscles when he starts fighting crime again in director-screenwriter Adam Egypt Mortimer’s SpectreVision-produced Archenemy, which opens tomorrow in theaters and on-demand.

As the Fist will tell anyone willing to buy him a drink, he was once the heroic guardian of the futuristic city Chromium, but when he smashed the dimension-destroying device invented by his archenemy, Cleo, he was inadvertently pulled through into our world. Inconveniently, the source of his powers does not exist here, so he is just an average, swiftly aging dude. Yet, he is still a minor skid-row celebrity, especially when Hamster, an aspiring neighborhood vlogger starts posting videos of his angry exploits.

Hamster’s sister Indigo always thought she was the responsible one, hustling for the dealer known as “The Manager” to support them. Yet, she risks both their lives when she makes a spectacularly ill-advised play. They will need a hero, but Hamster happens to know one who is willing to step-up. Of course, he must adapt to his mortal circumstances, even though he is still tormented by memories and visions of Cleo (who’s referenced right there in the title, so she must be important).

is the best superhero movie since Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse and probably the grungiest one ever (even grungier than American Hero). Mortimer takes all the classic superhero elements and gives them a brutally realistic twist. The Boys will probably be a lazy point of comparison for a lot of critics, because the two darkly rendered superhero worlds are nearly as violent, but Archenemy clearly has real love for the genre it subverts.

The two antagonists also really help sell it. Joe Manganiello is terrific as Max Fist, reveling in his degenerate excess, but also showing suitably hardnosed grit in the action scenes. Likewise, Amy Seimetz makes a worthy super-nemesis, delivering death-stares and stone-cold attitude as Cleo.

Mortimer has improved steadily over his three feature films, from the pretty good
Some Kind of Hate, followed by the creepy and surprising Daniel Isn’t Real, with Archenemy being the best yet. Real fans of comic book superheroes will appreciate its cleverness, but it never panders to the audience. Highly recommended, Archenemy releases tomorrow (12/11) on VOD (and in theaters as best it can).