Sparks Movie Review
Written by James Ferguson
DVD released by Image Entertainment
Written by Christopher Folino
Directed by Christopher Folino and Todd Burrows
2013, 98 Minutes, Not Rated
Movie released on March 14th, 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
Clint Howard as Gordon Eldridge
You know what would have made World War II more interesting? Super heroes. That's where Captain America found his glory to begin with. Sparks is a film that picks up in the aftermath of WWII where a handful of vigilantes have started fighting crime on their own terms. There was also a meteor that landed in Rochester thirty years earlier that might have given a few people actual super powers, a villain that's been brutally killing people and filming it, and a corrupt cop out for cash. If you're a little confused by all that, you're not alone.
After surviving a car accident that took the lives of his parents, Ian Sparks (Chase Williamson) becomes a crime fighter. He falls for fellow vigilante Lady Heavenly (Ashley Bell). Everything seems to be going well for them until they encounter the killer known as Matanza (William Katt). Lady Heavenly is presumably raped, but Sparks blacked out during the attack and doesn't remember anything. The pair break up and Sparks mopes around doing nothing for about a year. It's around this point that the film lost me.
Sparks introduces an interesting villain in Matanza, does little to explore his background, and then ignores him for over half of the movie. Instead of pursuing this trail further, we follow the title character as he goes on a weird training quest with Archer (Clancy Brown), a cop who was involved in the accident that killed Sparks' parents as he was chasing the fugitives that crashed into the car and pushed it into a train. Oh, and he knows real life super heroes. Then we get to spend a chunk of the flick going after this mutant mob boss for a misguided revenge.
By the time Matanza returns, it's hard to sympathize or care about Ian Sparks at all. He's resorted to becoming a two-bit pimp for a shape-changing hooker and consistently longing for his lost love (who is still very much alive, just not with him). The big reveal as to Matanza's origin is so convoluted that the filmmakers had to have a newspaper reporter explain it all in narration.
Chase Williamson gives a lackluster performance as Ian Sparks, which is disappointing considering how great he is in John Dies at the End. I actually didn't even realize it was the same actor until after the film was over because of how different the performances were. There's no emotion to Sparks, even in his happiest moments. He's dead inside. One could argue that he's been dead since the car accident, but he's an untrained loser who put on a mask. He's not Batman. The other actors are similarly lacking emotion. Whether it's Ashley Bell's uninspiring super heroics as Lady Heavenly or Jake Busey's wooden dialogue as Sledge, it's all a little rough. It's like none of the actors could figure out what they were doing here. The scene in which Bell's character is about to be attacked should be far more gripping than it is. Instead it comes across as an amateur music video with a creepy guy filming himself while apparently tickling her.
Sparks is based on a graphic novel of the same name written by Christopher Folino, who also wrote and co-directed the film. While I haven't read the comic, I understand how the story could be better suited for that medium. I could also see this being a decent web series. There's an interesting plot buried in here, but it's bogged down by a lot of convoluted and unnecessary side stories. As it stands, it's a trial just to get through some of the stretches of the film where practically nothing happens, only to eventually limp to an unsatisfying conclusion.