DVD Review: “Sparks” Is A Remarkable Superhero Movie

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Review by James McDonald

Ian Sparks, a masked vigilante who discovers the dark side to heroism by going after the nation’s most notorious super criminal, leaves his life and reputation in ruins.

Superhero movies are very unpredictable. For every “The Avengers”, there’s a “Fantastic Four.” For every “Spiderman”, there’s a “Daredevil.” The good movies are enjoyable because we see these characters that have powers and abilities that normal people don’t possess and it’s fun to watch the good guys play off of the bad guys and vice versa. “Sparks” is based on the independently released graphic novel series and has been adapted for the big screen by series creator, Christopher Folino. Set in the 1940s and after having lost both his parents as a child in a freak car crash, Ian eventually moves to New York city with an appetite for revenge. He dons a mask and starts fighting crime where he becomes known as the crime-fighter ‘Sparks’ and soon thereafter, he meets ‘Lady Heavenly’, another crime-fighter and heroine who also wears a mask and fights lawlessness. Together, they operate in the shadows and what they have in common is greater than Sparks can imagine but the cost of finding his parents’ killer and uncovering the truth, may be more than he can afford.

According to the producers of this film, they claim that “Sparks” is a true independent film. It’s not a studio backed, Kickstarter or crowd sourced funded film. We have day jobs just like you!” It’s so refreshing to hear those words because for thirty years, I have done the exact same thing: made movies while working in a regular day job. It’s not a hobby, it’s a passion and there is a big difference. Having read their claim and then having watched the movie, I enjoyed it even more. I know how difficult it is, just to get a short drama off the ground but here we are, a full-length, independently-financed superhero movie with known names and good special effects. The movie is cheesy at times but it actually works for it instead of going against it. Like “Batman Begins”, it had a combination of good action and storytelling but where that film’s subsequent sequels and the world that the story took place in, continually got darker and darker until all the joy was removed from it, “Sparks”, thankfully, keeps the elements of hope and love alive and allows our hero to gradually move past his need for vengeance, so he can begin to live again.

“The Avengers” and the “X-Men” movies, for me, have always found the right balance of action, storytelling and character development and with “Sparks”, they have achieved the same level of execution, taking into consideration they don’t have a multi-million dollar budget at their fingertips. The cast has some well-known names such as Clint Howard (“Apollo 13”), William Katt (“The Greatest American Hero”), Jake Busey (“Starship Troopers”) and the always reliable, Clancy Brown (“The Shawshank Redemption” and “Cowboys & Aliens”). Our titular hero Sparks (Chase Williamson) is handsome, has a constant five o’clock shadow and for much of the movie, walks around in a constant state of despondence. He is almost a precursor to Bruce Wayne, not being thankful for what he has until it has been taken away from him but these days, I guess that’s what we have come to expect from a superhero (Thanks Christopher Nolan). The cast occasionally hams it up but thankfully, it’s never overly exaggerated.

The movie, at times, reminded me of “Sin City” and “The Spirit”, using the same visual style and graphic flourishes but again, with less of the budget. I have such great respect for these filmmakers, for getting out there and deciding not to make a drama or comedy which, for independents, would be far less expensive, but for going all-out and producing an enjoyable and entertaining superhero movie that would put many of the studio-produced movies to shame. I don’t know if there’s talk about a sequel but of course the ending of the movie, like all superhero movies, leaves it wide open and literally screams for a continuance. If they get around to doing it, you can bet I will be supporting them.

In stores March 18th

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James McDonald
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James McDonald

Film / Theater Critic & Interviewer at Red Carpet Crash
Born in Dublin, Ireland, but living in Dallas, Texas, James is an Independent Filmmaker and also a Film Critic and Interviewer at Red Carpet Crash. He has worked in the film industry for over thirty years and has won many awards with his movies playing at film festivals worldwide.
James McDonald
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