Sparks DVD Review
Written by Joel Harley
DVD released by Image Entertainment UK
Directed by Todd Burrows and Christopher Folino
Written by Christopher Folino
2013, Region 2 (PAL), 97 minutes, Rated 15 (UK)
DVD released on 7th April 2014
Chase Williamson as Ian Sparks
Ashley Bell as Lady Heavenly
Clancy Brown as Archer
Jake Busey as Sledge
William Katt as Matanza
Marina Squerciati as Dawn
Truly, we are living in the golden age of superhero films. Check the local cinema listings or issue of Empire magazine, and you’d have to be pretty dim not to notice that. Alongside the obvious superstars such as Batman, Superman and Spider-man, we have the also-rans, like Iron Man (don’t pretend you cared about him before Downey Jr.), Thor and, um, Green Lantern. It was only a matter of time before the Indies tried to cash in. With the success of such films as Kick Ass and Super came the proof that you don’t need a mega budget to make a superhero epic.
Sparks is the latest low-budget film cashing in on the superhero boom. Chase Williamson plays the ambitious young Ian Sparks (just ‘Sparks’ when he’s wearing the mask) a powerless but spunky orphan determined to bring justice to the streets of New York. He teams up with heroine Lady Heavenly, who he quickly falls for and teams up with to beat up the city thugs. All is going well until a sinister criminal calling himself Matanza arrives on the scene. One torture scene later, and Sparks finds his life and reputation in ruins. It’s like Alan Moore and Mark Millar all over again.
Me being as massive a comic book fanboy as I am a horror nerd, I was already predisposed to dig Sparks. Not letting the low budget hamper its ambition, it looks good, with some great action sequences and a fantastic retro noir vibe. Sure, the costumes are crummy, but that’s kind of the point. The acting could be better in places (especially Clint Howard, who is professional enough to be significantly less terrible than he is here) but it’s hard to knock a low-budget film for having ambition. It also has Jake Busey and Clancy Brown (the Lex Luthor of several Superman cartoons, fact fans) in it, which is always appreciated. Busey, by the way, would never be able to keep a secret identity, since those trademark Busey gnashers are instantly recognisable. Maybe a Spider-man or Deadpool style luchador mask might be in order.
The lack of funds doesn’t hold Sparks back from superpowered superheroics either, with a number of characters gallivanting about the place like X-Men reborn. It’s handy that those powers are cheap to depict, requiring no more expensive visual effects than a green forehead or bit of shape changing. If you ask me, it’s a bit rude to have your shape-changing ladyfriend pretend to be your ex during sex, but I’m sure there are a lot of people who would be into that. It’s probably why Jennifer Lawrence looks so blue all the time in X-Men: First Class. Geddit, because she’s literally blue.
The film does have a tendency to get a bit po-faced at times, but we can forgive that for its sense of ambition and heart. It may be a little shabby around the edges, but this superhero noir has just enough spark to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the big boys.
Video and Audio:
It’s a relatively cheap film, but the visuals rarely betray that (save for a dodgy CGI background or two). It sounds unmemorable, but it’s crisp and clear enough throughout.
A behind the scenes featurette, a single (and singularly unfunny) outtake and an audio commentary track make up the meagre DVD extras.