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Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Boy Wonder: Close to Greatness

There is this small little film which surprised me a couple weeks ago – Boy Wonder. I don’t know if I can recommend it, simply because I’m not sure if it’s actually a good film. What I can say about Michael Morrissey's debut film is that it wasn’t far off being something special. I know that doesn’t make sense – how can I not recommend something but say that same film wasn’t far from being special?

Boy Wonder is about a mild mannered but troubled teenager called Sean, who saw his mother murdered when he was a child. Now, in his teenage years, he tracks down violent and despicable criminals to dish out his own brand of justice.

I’m pretty sure this may sound familiar.

I love Batman, but I’m not a Batman expert. My knowledge of the character stems from my love of the Nolan films, my admiration of the Barton films, my secret affair with the Joel Schumacher and my recent experience with the excellent Long Halloween comic series.

But, with that said, the core of the Batman mythos just doesn’t ring true to me – at least the Batman stories that I'm aware of. If you saw both your parents murdered and you believed it to be your fault, how doesn’t that send you crazy? You can argue that running around in a rubber costume in the dead of night is crazy, but in the Batman stories that I have experienced, that tragic event is treated as a plot device to turn Bruce into the caped crusader.

Boy Wonder on the other hand treats a similar event very differently. The death of Sean’s mother is at the centre of everything in this film; that event touches every character in this film in some way. Its effect on Sean is the reason why I buy into this world and it's also why I get so frustrated about the films short comings.

Caleb Steinmeyer is excellent as Sean Donovan (and to be fair, so is Bill Sage who plays Sean’s dad). Sean could have been as clichéd as most of the characters in the film, but he does his quite, shy, silent broody thing with a menace that I have never seen in a comic/teenage action film before. There is a rage bubbling inside of Sean and when it first explodes it's all the more shocking and believable as anything in the Batman series.

And here is the thing, although it is obvious that Sean is well trained, intelligent and focused; his rage is, well… messy. His rage is actually brutal and importantly, it’s deadly. Yes, Sean kills his victims. As stupid as this sounds, this was another thing that shocked and surprised me about this film, because once again, I was so used to the rules set out by the Batman stories.   

While Batman works outside of the justice system to ultimately aid it, Sean simply doesn’t believe in the system at all. He believes that the system is complicit in the injustice surrounding his mother's death. If you get a change to see this film, take note of his speech about due process.

What is frustrating about this film is that apart from Caleb Steinmeyer and Bill Sage, everyone else in this film sucks. It’s poorly acted and I’m not convinced that this is all because of the script, because I’ve heard many clichéd things said in Nolan’s Batman films that sounded very cool. This thing is littered with very bad actors.

What I will blame Michael Morrissey for is the inconsistency in his directing. There are parts of this film that are jaw droppingly good, such as the opening sequence – but there are other parts where the camera work is student film poor. You can hardly follow the action scene because the camera is so damn shaky and the cutting so damn quick that you don't know who's shot who.

Also, did I mention how bad the acting is? It really is bad.

But, I really don’t want to get bogged down on the negatives, because this is a great story stuck in a poor films body. It really is.

Sean is what Bruce Wayne could have been if he didn’t have all that money. And it’s this element which makes this film worth while to me. I bet Bruce got a lot of psychological help when he was younger.

This film asks a really interesting question at the end: Has the lack of psychological help and support to deal with his mother’s death left Sean mentally unstable?