Alter Egos is a superhero movie set in a world where public opinion has turned sharply against the hero community. Superheroes are organized in a public group called “Supercorps”, which has lost funding due to scandals and animosity.
Set in that world is the story of a couple of heroes, “Fridge” and “C-Through”, who are on a mission to move a prisoner. The protagonist, Fridge, is dealing with relationship issues as the mission unfolds.
In most productions where a prisoner is being moved, the writer sets up an action movie where the heroes must run a gauntlet of opponents. That’s not the case here, because Alter Egos is more a slice of life movie. If you’re expecting blockbuster-type action sequences, go watch The Avengers movie again. Alter Egos is a character study. No wonder this film was given the Kevin Smith seal of approval.
When I started watching Alter Egoes, I had read almost nothing about its background, so I had few expectations. Since it was an independent movie, I expected a low-budget B-movie or C-movie feel. Frankly, I kind of expected something close to an amateur effort. It turns out this was much better than expected.
First of all, the cast involved accomplished actors that viewers are likely to recognize. John Ventimiglia, who played Artie Bucco on The Sopranos, plays “Shrink”, a self-described super-villain. Danny Masterson of That 70’s Show fame plays a troubled cop with his own nifty superpower.
Direction and Musical Credits
The director of Alter Egos was Jordan Galland, whose eclectic work ranges from writing to direction to making music. Speaking of musical talents, much of the music production on the film is done by a personal friend of Galland’s, Sean Lennon, son of John Lennon and Yoko Ono. Music was used effectively in the film. It was effective enough I told myself several times, “I want to look up that song later on.” So kudos to Sean Lennon for his fine work.
At first, I was a little put out by the slow pace of the film and the idea that all the mundane people in the film seemed to inexplicably hate superheroes. Superhero movies tend to portray the characters one of two ways: either being demigods on the competence chart or being pathetic losers. I was concerned I’d have to sit through an hour and a half of watching people make fun of heroes in silly costumes.
When the characters turned on the TV set later on, you start to get some idea of why people hate heroes. Every single channel had another self-absorbed superhuman on it. Some were trying to sell stuff. Others were involved in personal scandals. You could tell these were the spoiled celebrities, pitchmen, and tabloid fillers of their world and people were tired of hearing about it. Combine that with several violent incidents involving the Supercorps and the cynicism made a little more sense.
Also, you get the idea the heroes had been pretty effective. Part of the reason they had been de-funded is the fact most, if not all, the super-villains were off the street. Apparently, about 400 of them are still behind bars. So at least these people were good at what they did.
Fridge: The Protagonist
It also turns out that Fridge is a bit of a ladies man. He’s coming to grips with the dynamic between his everyman secret identity and his heroic alter ego. That’s why I ended up liking this film, because it does touch on the dichotomy between the hero and the man beneath the mask. I’ve always thought the most effective superhero stories deal with that dichotomy–the multiple personalities, or at least multiple personality traits.
A character with two names and two “faces” should be complex and varied, and the best comic book characters play with that duality well. While Alter Egos doesn’t study its protagonist as well as other comic stories have, it presents an interesting enough plot and a character worth watching. As you might imagine, there’s more to the prisoner story than meets the eye. Even some of the supporting characters turned out to be multifaceted, so I’ll give solid marks for the effort.
If you want to deduct points, I’d say Danny Masterson’s character was a little too one-note for my taste.
I’d expected a twist, but he was there for a specific plot point, which I understand.
He was an antagonist character, but he was more plot device than anything else.
Also, the hero powers were pretty sparse. I understand it’s easier for low-budget flicks to deal with low-powered people. But having a hero whose sole power is to see through walls is a little too low-powered for my taste (though he seemed to have ESP, because he saw and “heard”.) Still, C-Through was a juicer and he showed fighting skills, so I wouldn’t say he was a total waste as a superhuman. On a side note, I thought the superhuman ability to read body language was a great idea.
On the other hand, Shrink had a good look and characterization, and I wish I’d have seen more of his back story. Sean Lennon made an excellent-looking “Electric Death”, the man who recruited Shrink into the criminal world in the first place. Notice I say “excellent-looking” instead of excellent, because their wasn’t much of an appearance. I’d like to have seen more of his story.
In fact, I’d like to have seen more about the criminals in the Alter Egos world.
The scene where we got a picture of the super-villain scene was instructive. Seeing the tightfisted approach Supercorps had towards its employees, it certainly put into perspective why people in this world would become supervillains in the first place–they seem to live a lot more glamorous lives and they seem to have a lot more fun.
All in all, this is a movie worth watching. If you like comic book superheroes, you’ll either like the loving portrayal and the gentle satire of the genre, or you’ll find the relationship plotline to be tedious. While I was afraid this portrayal of heroes and villains would be insulting and maybe even sneering, I didn’t find it that way. In these stories, the characters (and actors) have to take themselves seriously, even if it’s supposed to be a comedy, and I think the cast did their job well.
The world depicted had some crunch to it. The end credits, along with the brief television scene, did a lot to establish the world. I wish the producers would have added more of that into the production, especially earlier in the film. I think that would have done a lot to “sell” the world to the viewers, to bring them into the character’s lives a bit more. Those are minor quibbles and really an indication that the director and writer did his job well: he made me want to know more about the Alter Egos universe.
Here’s the trailer:
And here’s an interview with the cast:
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