From the Vault: The Posthuman Project
Everybody loves a superhero movie, right? The indie film The Posthuman Project has recently been released to the masses, and I’m confused why people are so ga-ga over it.
THE POSTHUMAN PROJECT
Executive Producer: John Scamehorn
Producers: Vahid Farzaneh, Sterling Gates, Matthew Price, Kyle William Roberts
Director: Kyle William Roberts
Writers: Matthew Price, Sterling Gates
Stars: Kyle Whalen, Collin Place, Lindsay Sawyer, Josh Bonzie, Jason Leyva, Alexandra Harris
Cinematographer: Samuel Calvin
Editor: Kyle William Roberts
Synopsis: Denny Burke is finally about to graduate high school. Senior year has been one bad thing after another: a broken leg, a broken heart, and – worst of all – a broken home. With four of his closest friends, Denny goes on one last rock-climbing trip to prove he’s ready to start his adult life… On their trip the five teens receive a genetic boost beyond anything they’d ever imagined. Denny’s soon faced with the first big decision of his adult life: does he give up these powers and stay a normal teenager, or does he keep them…and graduate from the human race?
As far as family movies go, The Posthuman Project has a lot going for it; two sets of brothers who are at odds with one another and seem to be polar opposites, end up gaining powers and an understanding of each other. Here long missing father, Kevin Burke (Will Schwab) has powers that his younger brother (the villain) wants for himself (played by Jason Leyva). The only way he thinks he can get his own Zero Energy is to give it to Kevin’s eldest son, Denny (Kyle Whalon). As often happens in origin stories, not only does Denny get activated powers (healing), but his brother Archie (Collin Place) goes from buff weakling to super strong man. Former girlfriend (Alexandra Harris) gains the power to levitate, best friend (Josh Bonzie) gets to teleport, and slacker friend Gwen (Lindsay Sawyer) can sling fireballs. While family is one of the key elements of the story (the mom only shows up at the very end and has no speaking lines), and shows that teenagers are dealing with difficulties not normally discussed in the teen flick, the opening sequence of the hero taking a bullet to the head doesn’t make for all-ages fare. At best this is a tweener-flick, but certainly it is not on par with the The Breakfast Club, which this movie boasts as being like.
Going into this movie, I was really hoping that the flick lived up to its hype; the trailer looked great, the press imagery fired on all cylinders, and the premise looked strong. It’s too bad this movie went from exciting to cringeworthy in the first 15 minutes. After spending a fair amount of time reflecting on why the movie didn’t work for me, I narrowed it down to three major areas; the writing, the editing, and the effects work.
While the acting is on par with what one expects from a low budget flick, some of the performances seem really forced and out of place. Most of this comes from the dialogue that the actors have to dish out. There are times when the comedy works great, but the emotional moments get really awkward at times. A bit more direction would help the overall performances in this movie.
The premise for the Posthuman Project is fine, but when one starts thinking of the logic and exchanges between characters everything falls apart. Dialogue should seem natural between characters, but when a character who is slightly shaken up over nearly burning her step-father to death proclaims “hold me Denny,” it shows a failing in the story – show, not tell. The scene could have played out naturally without the proclamation. The argument between Denny and Lisa over why they broke up doesn’t feel natural, and later the timeline of events seems wrong. The moment when viewers hear Denny say he and his father were rock climbing when suddenly there was a giant explosion is laughable. Granted that last bit could have been easily rectified by the big bad saying he planted a bomb to test his brother’s powers, but even that wouldn’t make sense because he knew from a young age that his older brother had the Zero Energy.
Comic writer Sterling Gates is credited as one of the writers of this movie, and The Posthuman Project reads very much like a comic book series, which is a big plus. Unfortunately, it seems like the worst tropes from comics are the ones that made it to the screen, without the best tropes from comics supporting them.
Even if the missteps in storytelling weren’t caught during the writing stage, or during rehearsal, or during shooting, a good editor could strip out the unnecessary bits and make the story much stronger. At 127 minutes, director, producer, editor, and effects artist Kyle William Roberts could have spent a bit more time killing his darlings. I don’t know how much footage fell to the cutting room floor, or what else is available to help restructure the story, but this movie could move from a loose two-hours to a tight 75-minute feature with the right editing, thus making this movie much more enjoyable for the viewer. (correction: the movie is 93 minutes long, but the statement that it could be cut down to a tight 75 minutes stands)
When it comes it effects work, I’m particularly sensitive to elements that are done correctly and those that completely fall apart. In The Posthuman Project, there are some really good effects but those are overshadowed by some particularly awful compositing, greenscreen work, and the overuse of lens flares. It’s good to see someone follow a tutorial on Videocopilot.net, but like many who write tutorials or instructional elements for future effects artists, the hope is that they take the knowledge and not just copy it, but transform it – make it something bigger and better than before. A bit more time studying how to pull a good key would also help make the effects shots move the story forward instead of becoming a big distraction. When it comes to the lens flares, it seems Roberts is channeling J.J. Abrams and using the effect correctly, and other times, it feels like he slapped a Red Giant Film Looks filter over the entire shot, blowing everything out.
BOTTOM LINE: SKIP IT
At the end of the day, the one thing that makes this movie worth watching is seeing the passion in Roberts’ work. If Roberts does go on to make other movies, The Posthuman Porject is a great stepping stone to future projects. If nothing else, The Posthuman Project shows what could be done with a micro budget and the right talent behind the scenes and in front of the camera.
Actors Kyle Whalen, Josh Bonzie, Lindsay Sawyer, and Jason Leyva
Don’t watch this for spectacular effects
Editing needs to be tighter
If you like indie comics and you like indie movies, then The Posthuman Project has many of the things you will want to see. I have seen indie superhero movies that have been done much better, and sadly I have seen indie superhero movies that are much worse. The Posthuman Project sits somewhere toward the lower middle. I can’t recommend the movie, but I also can’t stop you from checking it out for yourself.
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