Blu-Review: Black Lightning

Directed By Dmitriy Kiselev and Aleksandr Voytinskiy
Starring Grigoriy Dobrygin, Ekaterina Vilkova and Sergey Garmash



Young Peter Parker Dima is a down-on-his-luck, nerdy student who isn’t quite as fortunate with attracting the girl of his dreams as his rich pal Harry Osborn Max. When a freak chance of fate lands him with mutant superpowers a flying car, he takes it as an opportunity to earn a stack of cash in hopes of wooing his unrequited love Mary Jane Watson Nastya. When an act of selfishness causes him to lose someone he loves, though, he opts to don a superhero persona and use his newfound powers to become a sign of hope for those in need of rescue – a choice that’ll soon bring him head to head with wealthy industrialist villain The Green Goblin Victor Aleksandrovich. Yup, Black Lightning is Spider-Man remade with airborne automobiles instead of arachnid superpowers. The film importantly borrows one more element from Spider-Man’s cinematic DNA, though: it’s a ridiculous amount of fun.

The plot is quintessential comic book stuff – a young boy struggling with his identity in the face of otherworldly new powers, clear-cut ‘good versus evil’ morality, the protagonist avenging the death of a father figure by becoming a champion for the fearful masses, and a cackling adversary whose nonsensical evil scheme would give a Bond villain pause. And while the film’s biggest crime is its overwhelming familiarity (aside from being a thinly-veiled retread of Spider-Man, there’s a dash of Transformers and Back to the Future in there, too – the design of a second superpowered car is just begging for a Robert Zemeckis lawsuit), in the process Black Lightning nails the crowd-pleasing fun of the Marvel movies with surprising conviction.

The action is fun, stylish and filled with impressive effects, with a huge high-flying, rocket-firing chase through Moscow being especially memorable. Like Spider-Man though, there’s a healthy balance between spectacle and character. Grigoriy Dobrygin isn’t exactly the most charismatic lead actor, but it serves the film in much the same way Tobey Maguire worked as Peter Parker, adding to the nerdy, mundane everyman vibe the character needs. Sergey Garmash does a great job as Dima’s father, the moral centre of the film, exuding a perfect blend of stoic authority and fatherly warmth. He’s essentially Ben Parker, only gruffer, more Russian and looks moderately more likely to down a breakfast of vodka and spend the day punching wild bears in the face. It’s a nice added bonus that love interest Ekaterina Vilkova is infinitely more appealing than Kirsten Dunst’s M.J. Watson, too.
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It’s undeniably daft as hell, less content with making a lick of sense than entertaining the audience, but the goofy comic book logic (or lack thereof) and sillyness only adds to the fun; Spidey’s agile, precise rescues replaced with merely crashing a car into things to somehow save people, a flying Russian Volga fighting the DeLorean (well, a Mercedes, but you really wouldn’t know it) and the most gleefully fun despatching of an archnemesis in recent memory are all moments worth rejoicing.

The derivative, predictable nature of the film keep it from being anything truly great, but Black Lightning is nonetheless an incredibly fun popcorn flick filled with well-staged, exciting comic book action and an entertaining, breezy plot. Those mourning the relative lack of big-screen superheroics this summer would do well to give Black Lightning a look; it’s a Marvel superhero movie in all but name and credits.
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On the Blu-ray:

The transfer of the film is as predictably flawless as you’d expect from a recent glossy blockbuster, with amazing aural and visual presentation that flourishes during the slick, explosive action scenes.

The main attraction on the special features is a 30 minute ‘Making Of’ feature. There’s interview footage with involvement from the main cast and crew, but most of the feature is focused on the mechanics of the car stunts and CGI work. It’s an entertaining watch, with some fun behind-the-scenes anecdotes, screw-ups and interesting insight into the practical effects work.

There’s also a 9 minute selection of deleted scenes. They mainly give more screentime to Dima’s boss at the flower delivery shop and add more to a recurring gag surrounding a trio of drunks. There’s nothing really essential to the plot, but it’s certainly fun to see.

Audio-wise there’s a Russian DTS-HD Master Audio track, along with DTS 5.1 dubs in English, Italian, German and Spanish, with subtitle tracks in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Swedish, Portuguese, Norwegian, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Phew.

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Black Lightning is available to buy on DVD and Blu-ray in the UK on 6th September 2010.
Click here to order the Blu-ray from Amazon.co.uk.

(Note: The images above were captured and saved at a reduced quality, and though they give an idea of how the film looks, they might not reflect the true quality of the Blu-ray image itself.)