It was an honor and a pleasure to watch two feature length films from two gentlemen who have their roots in the genre of the fan film. Having them graduate to the next level of their passions was a genuine thrill. I share with you my thoughts on both productions. As always these are my honest opinions. Seek out both these films and form your own.
THE PHOTON EFFECT
I’ve been a fan of Dan Poole for over a decade now since the wide spread consumer use of the internet. It was the dawning of this new digital age that I was able to find “The Green Goblin’s Last Stand” online – a Spider-Man fan film made before anyone knew what the hell a fan film was. Last Stand is a full length feature shot on that crude VHS format that easily deteriorates over time due to overuse, the elements or if you even look at it funny. But it was a cheap format and highly assessable to the independent, home movie maker at the time. With the ease of how we all can make our own productions today many who watch Last Stand present time may mock its simplicity. Compared to the more sophisticated fan productions being produced today it can come off very amateurish. On the flip side we’re talking about a film that’s almost twenty years old. Dan was certainly ahead of most before an age where fan films are released online by the bucket loads.
Since 1992, after “The Green Goblin’s Last Stand” was released, Dan had tried his hand in a few other projects. He had a Captain America idea that didn’t quite get off the ground. Dan did manage to produce a Wolverine short fan film that was made for comic con in a year when fan films became banned thanks to Sandy Collora’s “Batman: Dead End”. Poole even attempted to make his superhero mark on the now defunct Sci-Fi reality show “Who Wants to Be a Superhero?” at a time when the show was still being shopped around. It appeared Dan just couldn’t find his footing towards his filmmaking or superhero aspirations. Not until a few years later anyways.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what Dan can do with his own story with present day technology and perhaps a few more dead presidents in his pocket? We finally get that opportunity in the form of his new feature length, independent superhero film – The Photon Effect. A project I’ve been anxiously waiting years to finally see completed.
During a freak accident involving an experimental microwave antenna, two tower engineers gain superhuman abilities. While the powers they gain are similar, the paths they decide to take are not. Derek Powers wants to use his abilities to help others and to uncover the truth behind Randall Communications Incorporated (RCI), the company who designed the antenna. Meanwhile, Jay Powers secretly becomes part of the experiments performed by RCI, whose lead scientist, Tina Viccarini, is a former love interest of Jay. This series of events ultimately leads to the birth of a new superhero and supervillian.
I wouldn’t say my expectations were low as I prepared for my first viewing. Dan has always produced some solid entertainment. I think it’s safe to say I was expecting a great story even if the budget of the production couldn’t sustain that story, pretty much the same expectations I have towards any independent film that graces my mailbox. I knew there would be some acting, dialogue and pacing issues, but those points are always forgiven on a next to zero budgeted production. Give me the meat and I won’t sweat the small stuff.
The Photon Effect has an extremely strong opening that instantly got me thinking this film was going to exceed my cautious expectations. It was a just a cool opening befitting a superhero movie. Unfortunately, that thought dissipated as the film continued and when I got midpoint I knew that the excitement I felt in the first few minutes of The Photon Effect wasn’t going to return. It was an enjoyable film, but not as enjoyable as I thought it would be after viewing those opening credits.
What transpired was a mish mash of what I expect from an independent superhero feature. There were moments of brilliance and then there were moments not so much. In the case of The Photon Effect the film’s strengths often times parallel the film’s weaknesses.
The production looks great. It’s shot really well. Overall, the sound is top notch. There are a lot of nice locations for the backdrop. You’ll get some nice eye candy in the form of the special effects as well as cool choreographed action sequences. We have solid performances from the entire cast. Directing, editing and pacing are all consistent – overall a nice package. Where the film falters is the story and some of the cliché dialogue.
And the story is pretty basic. It’s not filled with a lot of plot devices or clever turn of events or anything that will make you think too hard. It’s a simple superhero/supervillain story we’ve seen countless times before on television and the movies or have read in our favorite comic books – which is fine. What’s overly frustrating is the fact that at times the script has moments of brilliance, but at a turn of the hat it’s got some zingers. I mean “GEE WHIZ” 1960’s Batman – 1970’s Superfriends zingers. The script really needed more polishing and maybe even someone not totally invested in the project to give their critical input.
Derek Minter portrays the character of Jay Powers. Jay Powers is an unsympathetic character and annoyingly so. He’s just a complete jerk from his first appearance to his last. And I think this is really the reason this film doesn’t work. I never cared what happened to his character.
In the story both Dan Poole’s character of Derek Powers and Derek Minter’s character gain superpowers. Dan takes the side of good and Derek the side of bad which makes sense because as indicated Derek plays a jerk the entire film. It seems Dan is always there as the voice of reason no matter how big a douche Derek’s character is portrayed. It would have been far more interesting if Jay Powers were a sympathetic character taunted by the “dark side” due to his new found powers rather than just being his usual asshole self with superpowers. And it would have been far more interesting with Derek Powers trying to steer Jay towards the light. It was kind of bizarre how they played out the dynamic of both characters and in the end it just didn’t make for an interesting enough story.
I may be overly critical of the film as a whole, but I have to tell you the running commentary with Dan Poole, Derek Minter and Doug Adams available on the DVD release is pure gold for any independent filmmaker and anyone interested in how films are made in general. It’s extremely insightful into the process. Dan and team have a sincere passion for what they’ve put together. And although I may not be the film’s number one fan I can respect all the efforts that brought it to completion.
THE SUM UP
The Photon Effect has a foundation of potential. I’ve been in contact with Dan over the years and consider him a casual friend. I was really rooting for him to make something outstanding. I think the technical aspects are there. Dan knows how to make a film. I just felt The Photon Effect lacked in the story and characterization department.
THE LONG SLOW DEATH OF A TWENTY SOMETHING
The natural progression of fan film makers is that they eventually branch off into their own ideas and concepts. Dan Poole did so with his comic book meets science fiction film The Photon Effect and Larry Longstreth does the same in his comedy The Long Slow Death Of A Twenty Something.
How much did I enjoy The Long Slow Death Of A Twenty Something? Well – let’s put it this way. I may not have originally obtained the film in the most ethical of means. I may have accidentally found the film online. I’m not saying that I did. I’m just saying I may have. Now if I did find this film online I may have watched it after downloading it. I’m not saying I downloaded the movie illegally or watched it immediately after. I’m just being hypothetical.
OH SCREW IT! I torrented that mother, watched it and liked it so much I picked up a legitimate copy. And I’ve watched it about six more times since.
The Long Slow Death Of A Twenty Something is not gut wrenching funny. I like to call it humorous. I’m not really one to laugh like a fool at movies in the first place so a lot of people reading this review may be the type to break out in uncontrollable laughter to this type of material. The film does bring a smile to my face though and more so with each viewing. Probably because I know people who act just like the characters spotlighted in the movie.
The plot is pretty simple. Ben Baker played by Longstreth has pissed away his twenty’s with his excessive drinking, drugs, video games and Dungeons & Dragons. To add insult to injury his highest level of employment achievement is a clerk at the local video game store. But at least he has a job. The same can’t be said for his peers that surround him. Now that Ben Baker is reaching the tender age of thirty he begins to question his life choices to date.
I know Larry enough to know that he’s very opinionated no matter what the topic may be. Just take a look at his FaceBook page and you’ll read what I mean. So he has a lot to say. Thankfully, Larry didn’t preach in his film. He certainly brought up certain points, but they were more subtle than in your face obnoxious. And of course those points for the basis of the film were done in a satirical tone.
As a side note and a warning – don’t play the drinking game every time the word fuck is spoken throughout this film. I tried. I was fall down drunk fifteen minutes into the movie. The word fuck was said more times in this movie than any other movie I’ve ever seen. I’m sure a call to Guinness World Records is in order. Holly Fuck!
The commentary for the DVD rivals The Photon Effect and was equally insightful. A really fun listen.
THE SUM UP
I can’t really think of anything wrong with this movie. I enjoyed it more each time I watched it. Buy it and consume.