Netflix UK film review: Thunder Force
James R | On 09, Apr 2021
Director: Ben Falcone
Cast: Melissa McCarthy, Octavia Spencer
Were to watch Thunder Force online in the UK: Netflix UK
What if superheroes were just average people? That’s the starting point for Thunder Force, Netflix’s new comedy. The only problem is that superhero movies and shows have already reached that point and, thanks to Ant-Man, WandaVision, The Boys and Deadpool, there aren’t many self-aware jokes left to tell.
Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer star as slacker Lydia and hard-working Emily, two friends who have made an unlikely double-act ever since their school days. Fast forward 10 years, though, and the pair have drifted apart, with Emily driven by grief to create a serum that can give people superpower – and Lydia, drunkenly trying to get her to come to a high school reunion, perfectly positioned to stumble into the lab and accidentally take the first dose.
With the world already teaming with supervillains, after a comic ray blasted the Earth and turned the bad guys into even worse guys with strange abilities, Emily decides to take the rest of the serum and they end up as a crime-fighting duo: Thunder Force.
With Lydia’s ability being strength and Emily’s being invisibility, the screenplay is ripe with opportunities for some interesting social commentary or some skewering of Hollywood’s lack of female, plus-sized superheroes. But the gags that do come never come together to form something sharp or memorable.
There are flashes of brilliance along the way, particularly in the form of Jason Bateman’s henchman, The Crab, who has crustacean claws for arms – an unlikely attraction between him and Lydia is hilariously weird, including one surreal dance number and a shared fondness for raw chicken. But Bobby Cannavale as a calculating mayor and MCU veteran Pom Klementieff as laser-wielding villain Laser keep things firmly in familiar territory, which stops the film from going full Barb and Star.
Throughout McCarthy and Spencer’s friendship shines through with a warm message of support and understanding. “She’s not a nerd, she’s smart,” Lydia repeatedly insists in defence of her other half. The rest of the film, though, is disappointingly conventional enough not to surprise, with Lydia’s slobby, loud presence the brunt of most gags, while Spencer plays things sweet but straight. It’s great to see them both in these roles in this genre, but Thunder Force still feels like a super-missed opportunity. It’s not that they’re bad here; it’s just that they can be better.
Thunder Force is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.