Toronto After Dark 2011: Vs
As the marketplace becomes flooded with more and more superhero inspired films, the question arises whether or not there are any stories left to tell? It seems that everything from the emotionally damaged hero (Batman Begins, Spider-Man, Watchmen) to the average Joe trying to be a hero (Kick-Ass, Super, Defendor) has been captured on film. Avid comic book readers would tell you that there is a plethora of tales still left to tell and director Jason Trost would probably agree. In his latest feature, Vs, Trost attempts to take the superhero genre in a direction that is rarely seen on the big screen.
The film follows four superheroes who wake up in a seemingly abandoned town with no recollection of how they got there. Little do they know that they are about to participate in a sinister game orchestrated by their arch-nemesis, Rickshaw (James Remar), which consist of a series of rounds each deadlier than the next. Stripped of their powers and with innocent lives at stake, the heroes must not only figure out how to stop Rickshaw but also how much they are willing to sacrifice in order to do so.
Vs is a film that could have really made an impact on the genre given the right components. There are several great ideas in the film that are never fully realized. The film’s overall premise is solid and Trost does a good job of providing character backgrounds without resorting to making a full-blown origin story. The way Trost uses flashbacks in the story is effective, though it would have been better had those scenes arrived earlier in the film. Vs also benefits greatly from the hilariously over-the-top performance of James Remar. Providing much needed levity to the film, Remar is a treat to watch.
Sadly Remar’s hilarious performance as Rickshaw does little to hide the film’s two main flaws, the script and the character of Shadow (Sophie Merkley). The script for VS was written in one week and it shows. Aside from the characters of Charge (Trost) none of the other characters are fully realized. What is more infuriating is that there are numerous scenes where the heroes act like it is their first day on the job. Yes, they are trying to cope with not having their powers anymore, but that is no excuse for the levels of inept behaviour that occurs in the film.
Often characters stand around dumbfounded when obvious solutions are right in front of them. An example of this is the scene where Cutthroat (Lucas Till) is trying to defuse a bomb before it detonates and kills innocent people. Without his super speed Cutthroat is at a lost as to how to stop the fuse until Charge grabs the ax laying right beside Cutthroat. No character succumbs to moments like this more than Shadow. There comes a point, before her super powers are revealed, when the audience cannot help but wonder if stupidity is her special ability. If she is not pointing out the obvious with lines like “these coffins have our names on it”, Shadow is waiting for someone to tell her what to do. This is especially disappointing since she is the lone female character in the entire film.
Given more time to refine the script Jason Trost could have had an outstanding film on his hands. The film itself looked great despite its small budget, and Trost’s concept clearly shows he has a good understanding of superhero mythos. However the weak script and annoying characters keep Vs from being the superhero film it really wants to, and should, be.