Directed by Antoine Charreyron
Aesthetically speaking, it's no surprise that French director Antoine Charreyron comes from a videogame background, having both a Tomb Raider and Terminator game under his belt. The Prodigies looks like an extended live action videogame, comprised entirely of CGI environments, with ray cast lighting and eerie, deadened motion cap animation. Shot flatly, it could be almost as painful as a machinima animation, but Charreyron has a good eye for storyboarded action and invigorating static sequences, with bold camera movements and intense propulsion. This is why this take on the American superhero mythology manages to work despite visible budgetary limitations, taking a thematically mature and often graphic approach to the populist origin mythology story of "special" teenagers struggling with the morality of having superpowers. The story isn't particularly original, acting as a hybrid between recent release Chronicle and the X-Men universe, as a repressed superhero with requisite personal demons – his superpower led to him killing his abusive parents at a young age – uses Internet gaming and an elaborate foundation to find similar geniuses, which, conveniently, are all in the U.S. Having an inherent psychic link, the teens and their new mentor hide their ability to manipulate the actions of others while appearing on an ersatz American Idol mockery called American Genius. Things go bad when all five of them are viciously beaten in Central Park and one is brutally raped, leading them to enact a rather gruesome revenge on all involved. Unfortunately, everything is set up as an origin story, keeping things from going as far as they could in a universe structured around power unhinged. Resultantly, the plot developments and ultimate outcome are entirely predictable, resting on the laurels of an existing cinematic moral lexicon already defined by the genre. What's of note here is that this is a film set in the U.S. despite being written and directed by French men and being funded by Canada and an array of European countries. As such, the implied subtext isn't subtle, noting the inherent danger in raising a culture to believe they are inherently superior and entitled, much like out of control superheroes enraged by an exploitive capitalist enterprise. It's no accident these kids are on a show called American Genius and it's no accident that the superhero genre is used incisively outside of America. What is an accident is how this inherent critique gets a little muddled in translation, ultimately noting the dangers of raising everyone to believe they are unique and special in a society structured around assimilation and common ethos while hypocritically embracing the inherent male fantasy of phallocentric power. Still, the dark nature of the overall story and impressively rendered action sequences are nothing to scoff at. Unfortunately, no discussion about any of this is included with the DVD, which has only the options of English or French as supplemental material.
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