A review by Robert Long II ©2013
Starring: Dan Poole, Derek Minter, Brian Razzino, and Ariana Almajan
Produced by Douglas S. Adams
Written and Directed by Dan Poole
Genre – Superhero Action
Synopsis: Working on a microwave antenna tower for the Randall Communication company, cousins Derek (Dan Poole) and Jay (Derek Minter) Powers are involved in a freak accident that bestows superhuman abilities upon them. Derek finds he is able to throw plasma bolts, and he can do things with tremendous speed. Jay finds that he can absorb great amounts of energy and can project it as well. He has also discovered the secret of creating black holes. The cousins find that their new found powers have put them on opposite sides of the law. Derek wants to use his to better mankind, while Jay wants to work for shady scientist Tina Viccarini (Ariana Almajan) a former love interest and her evil employer (Brian Razzino). The two super beings are going to end up clashing in a battle royale.
Baltimore filmmaker Dan Poole is best known for the Spiderman fan films he produced back in the early 1990s. Being athletic, Poole did all his own stunts back in the day – many of them dangerous (if you want to get a more detailed account of his fan film adventures – get the book Homemade Hollywood – a great read). Of course there is only so far that fan films can take you – so around 2006 Poole decided to do a feature film based on a superhero of his own design. Thus “The Photon Effect” was born.
There is an abundance of superhero action on display here. The viewer gets and origin story, a good guy, a bad guy, an evil corporate mastermind, and lots and lots of stunts, explosions, and action. Among all the seriousness of the underlying story there is plenty of well-placed humor too.
What is also nice is that this story is head to toe stock superhero fodder – and this is a good thing. It is so refreshing to get a real superhero versus supervillain story without all the damn angst attached to it. We have a bright, primary colored “Flash-like” superhero fighting an evil megalomaniac and his minions. That’s the story plain and simple. The added plot of having Jay Powers going towards the darker side (though he may not fully be processing this until it’s too late) is fun, though his mood swings may happen a bit too often. The bottom line is that this story is entertaining without having to have a pouty depressing subplot about the main characters. We have too much darkness in superhero movies in recent years (I’m looking at you Batman) and this is an extremely wonderful breath of fresh air that I believe everyone can enjoy.
The cinematography is well done. There are plenty of interesting camera shots and angles that keep the movie going. The lighting is also well done and moody where needed. Mark Shap as the director of photography did an incredible job with that. The musical score by Gregory Tripi is majestic and professional and matches the action and drama on screen perfectly.
Acting: Dan Poole is an old hand at acting by this point and it shows. The other performers do a great job as well. Derek Minter gives a superb performance as the hot-headed Jay, and Brian Razzino exudes nastiness and evil as his turn as a villain. Ariana Almajan does a nice job as a scientist with no moral core, willing to bend people around her finger to get the results she wants.
Visual effects: For the most part the visual effects in this movie are firing on all cylinders. Be it that this is a superhero genre movie – that’s going to be pretty damn important. I believe Poole and Co had some college graphic design students do these shots for the film. There are only a couple that do not come off as realistic (a car that lands on its roof, and exploding computer, and a hole in a brick wall). These are minor quibbles as the majority of them are very effective.
Sets and locations: Hot dang – the production company did a bang up job with this factor. The viewer gets a lot of cool shots of the guys up on the antenna towers, science labs, back alleys from the gritty streets of Baltimore – and of course – the bad guy’s headquarters. I am always – ALWAYS – impressed when a low budget production company can rent out some warehouse space to build sets. That is what was done for “The Photon Effect” and boy does it show. We get a cool computer lab with a lot of futuristic equipment installed for nefarious purposes. Plus these sets do double duty during the 3rd act when all hell has broken loose. Kudos go to Alpha Dog Productions for this.
The extras on this disc are pretty nice. There is an in-depth commentary track with Poole, Minter and producer Adams. All three gents are on friendly terms, and make the behind the scenes discussion of the film a lot of fun. I found it interesting that Minter came out to Baltimore from the Midwest to do the movie. He also helped build some of the sets. There are also some behind-the-scenes featurettes included as well as a hilarious alternate ending. Two trailers round out the package.
So when all is said and done – this is a really enjoyable superhero romp with a lot of fun and heart at its core. Embrace this movie, buy it, enjoy it and support filmmakers like Dan Poole.
Smash or Trash rating: 8 out of 10 good guys.