Monday, March 5, 2007

Stan Lee’s Lightspeed (REVIEW)

I’ve never been the biggest fan of Stan Lee (and, by osmosis, Marvel). But I do have an abiding fascination with live-action superheroics, so checking out the SCIFI Channel TV movie, Stan Lee’s Lightspeed, was perhaps an inevitability.

Now, before I get down to the dirty work, I should say that I have long contended that one of the main problems of live-action superheroes on the small screen is the weak plotting and writing. (Heroes is a big step in the right direction.) Name any live action superhero series, and chances are, you’ll find that one of its major weaknesses was its writing.
Well, Lightspeed displays that same characteristic. The plot is nothing spectacular (deranged scientist becomes the sinister snake-man Python due to his own stupidity; Python then inadvertently causes his do-gooder nemesis Lightspeed to come into existence; the two enemies eventually clash), the dialogue is worse. The script (by John Gray and Steve Latshaw) even has an awkward flashback early on in the proceedings that just compromises the story structure in a terrible way.

Then there’s the sense of a really bad case of miscasting. Performances aside (and that’s pretty easy given that the acting here is nowhere near Emmy-worthy), Daniel Goddard (TV’s Beastmaster, who plays Python under pounds of rubber and latex) certainly looks a hell of a lot more like a hero than Jason Connery (Sean Connery’s son, who has appeared in Smallville, Night Skies, and—ulp!—Wishmaster 3: Beyond the Gates of Hell, who plays the titular hero). Somehow, there’s this niggling feeling that they should have just switched roles. Then of course, there’s Baywatch’s Nicole Eggert (who plays Beth, Lightspeed’s love interest, and member of the “Ghost Squad,” apparently some special ops group, of which Lightspeed, in his civilian identity of Daniel Leight, is also a member). Nicole Eggert: now that’s a case of miscasting on a whole different level.
And then there’s the fact that Python spends a lot of time during (and just before) the climactic showdown having a terribly embarrassing, rambling, meltdown…. Sort of like Paula Abdul, apparently drunk and gonzo wasted, during a live TV interview. Believe you me, not fun to watch…

There is nothing even remotely interesting or engaging in this 90-minute production. (Save perhaps for the brief appearance of the stoner sports store clerk, responsible for Lightspeed’s duds. Now this guy looked like he was having fun.)
Sure, there’s a plausible and reasonable explanation for Lightspeed’s bodysuit, but did it have to look so painfully ordinary? And even after years of advances in special effects, the running-at-speeds-far-faster-than-the-eye-can-see scenes are still awfully dodgy.

Director Don FauntLeRoy (cinematographer on the Jeepers Creepers films) doesn’t really help any either, apparently not getting the superhero genre at all. Nowhere in the hour-and-a-half of Lightspeed do we get a single money shot of the hero in some superheroesque pose, perhaps lifting up a bad guy by the front of his shirt, or just standing on a rooftop with the lights of the city arrayed before him. Nope. All we get is a lot of running around, a few gymnastic tumbles and flips, a little kick here, a head butt there. A pregnant Sydney Bristow could kick Lightspeed’s a$$ without breaking a sweat or her water.
I mean, if we didn’t get humanity and characterization, the least we could get should be the trimmings of the genre; the biff, bam, pow. Instead, we get yawn, squirm, snooze.
I realize that Stan Lee’s Who Wants To Be A Superhero? has been a ratings windfall for the SCIFI Channel, but did he also have to subject us to the horrors of Lightspeed?

(Originally posted 020407)

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