Invent

2018 August


This should be a movie: POWER PACK

I love Power Pack. Compared to X-Men or Spider-Man, it’s a lesser known Marvel comic, but it sits alongside those characters (hell, they even interact with them) as one of the great titles of the 80s.

It’s about a group of four kids, all brothers and sisters in the Power family, who are granted superpowers by an alien horse that crashlands on Earth. They each have different abilities, hide their identities from their parents, avoid bullies, do their homework, and fight aliens intent on stealing their father’s research on anti-matter.

If that doesn’t sound great, I don’t know what to tell you.

What makes this comic so interesting to me is two-fold. First, the kids are really young, but the stories keep the full-on action tone of a regular comic book. The team find themselves in serious danger, go up against huge threats and find themselves under extreme pressure. These events are not fun for them, they’re downright frightening. Their fragility makes you feel things that would normally wash over you unnoticed in a regular superhero story. Responsibility put on a person’s shoulders before they’re ready is extremely compelling.

Secondly, it’s about kids, but it’s not aimed at kids. It’s aged up to an older audience. Think of something like E.T. or The Sixth Sense, where the story is taken with a level of seriousness that makes it satisfying. That is the way to do it, and they got it right.

The kid’s powers, and their personalities, don’t just play well off one another, they kind of fit together like a puzzle. The eldest, Alex, can control gravity. He feels the most responsibility and assumes the role of leader. Julie can fly at unlimited speeds, and tends to take care of everyone. Jack is able to change his mass and size. He is the quickest to get upset, not ready to deal with pressure yet. Katie, the youngest, can turn objects into energy, and discharge it as a weapon. She’s the most powerful, and a complete innocent, which is a great combination. She’s still learning right from wrong, and needs protecting from some of the situations she finds herself in, emotionally and physically.

The stories are pretty out there, forming the science fiction part of the universe that the Fantastic Four and Doctor Strange live in. The balance and interplay between the kids is extremely well constructed. They learn as they go, absolutely need each other to succeed, and barely scrape by even when working as a team. Plus their powers are cool as shit.

Would that work in a movie? It could.

If it was taken seriously as part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, that is. The tone would have to be aged up and aggressively protected. It would need to be communicated that this is not a kid’s movie, it’s a superhero movie that happens to have kids in it. Then it would need some child actors behaving like real, intelligent, believable kids. Finally, it would need to aim high with regards to spectacle and action.

Tough sell, but then everything a tough sell until it’s a success. But it would be so unique. And if they can make Guardians of the Galaxy work, they can definitely do Power Pack. Personally, I would kill the last Kymellian to see it.

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MOVIE RECOMMENDATIONS

Timecrimes

Timecrimes is an insanely clever time travel/horror thriller from Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo. The major difference between this and other time travel movies is that the protagonist only goes back in time one hour. What could go wrong? A lot as it turns out, and the problems and paradoxes pile up on each other.

I know firsthand how hard these things are to write, so to be able to keep events straightforward to follow, while still head-hurtingly complex is an amazing achievement. It’s also creepy as hell, and has a distinct ‘Lost’ vibe, which are all good things in my opinion.

Time Bandits

This is arguably Terry Gilliam’s most complete film. Sometimes an idea with broad appeal can be overwhelmed by a idiosyncratic director, but here his particular vision is fully realized. Obviously it’s still a little bonkers: a bunch of dwarves on the run from God, who they stole a time map from, gatecrash into the bedroom of a young boy called Kevin, who gets dragged through time and space, until some evil dude catches up with them and turns into a carousel.

It makes complete sense to your child brain. The effects and production design are pulled off perfectly, and there’s excellent cameos from lots of Monty Python people and a ton of famous stars.

Time Masters

A very intense French animated movie about a boy being stranded on an alien planet, and a crew attempting to rescue him. It is way out there in terms of sci-fi, with concepts such as a sentient planet of faceless angels, “water-lily like organisms blooming into dozens of empathic, sentient, primary coloured homunculi” and a big egg that you talk into.

The majority of the movie was designed and storyboarded by Moebius, so it benefits from his vast imagination. The co-produced French/Hungarian animation is great (especially the two cute flying dudes). It’s fairly violent and unnerving, and the ending blew my tiny mind as a kid.

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