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"The Hyperions" Review

 The latest Daily Wire movie pickup which received its premiere for free on YouTube is Jon McDonald's The Hyperions, an oddball indie flick about superheros and family not drawn directly from any existing comics or books, but very reminiscent of several other titles.

 Opening in 1965 we're introduced to young Vista Mandulbaum (Indigo Carey), a tween in a subway car wearing a superhero costume being observed by a starstruck crowd. She's wearing a gauntlet on her arm and when a light surrounding a circular H badge glows, she makes a man in the crowd take out his wallet and drop it in a woman's bag. When the car stops, three security men come in and separate the crowd from her and in comes the awesomely-named Professor Ruckus Mandulbaum (Cary Elwes), her father for a talk about why she's running away.

 We jump ahead 15 years to find an adult Vista (Penelope Mitchell) and Ansel (Alphonso McAuley) visiting the Hyperions exhibit at a museum right before closing time. They change into superhero costumes and proceed to hold several hostages when they realize the target of their actions, the Hyperion badges are locked into the display and only the Professor's fingerprint can release them. 

Via flashbacks we're filled in as to their backstories: As original founding members of The Hyperions, they were recruited (or is it adopted) by the Professor to be recipients of the badges which combine with their DNA to give them specific superpowers. Vista's was the ability to read and control minds; Ansel's was super strength; and their third member, Maya (Elaine Tan), had the ability to teleport. (If you're catching heavy whiffs of the X-Men's Professor X and Nightcrawler there, you're breathing.) But as they got older, they were eased off the team in favor of new members except for Maya who was retained to train the new lineups as we see in an undercooked side plot involving a recruit so clueless that he forgets to use his power to turn his skin into metal (hello Colossus) and gets shot as a result.

 As the story progresses, the motivations of Vista and Ansel become clearer. He misses being a superhero and she's working on behalf of an unknown man forcing her to pull this heist. Their "father" presented them as a family for TV shows and marketing, but was emotionally aloof and cruelly indifferent to their feelings. Will this family be able to get through this ordeal and learn to love and understand each other?

 The Hyperions is an odd film which feels like something you'd see as a short on YouTube musing "What if Wes Anderson made a period comic book movie on a shoestring budget?" McDonald not only wrote, directed and produced, but also handmade the props and did the animation for several sequences. In the intro to the screening, Daily Wire co-founder Jeremy Boreing was effusive about what a visionary auteur he felt McDonald was and while he certainly has a singular vision, the fact the aesthetic immediately evokes Anderson's fussy staged style sort of belies the assertion of originality. 

The first 15-20 minutes are a bit of a lift to get in tune with as the viewer is tested to stay involved with the action until the why to the what begins to get explained with echoes of The Umbrella Academy's broken family scenario. Brief hints of the desire of fame for being a superhero are alluded to, especially as other former Hyperions appear on the periphery. Vista's journey between her being exiled from the team to the heist isn't really fleshed out and the resolution is simplistic. 

Elwe's performance is the highlight as his Professor Ruckus (free rap artist name!) is plummy and eccentric, but not cartoonish as he talks with an animatronic bald eagle in a space suit with a telephone in its chest. Mitchell is also good, as is Tan, but the dropoff in thespianism from the rest of the cast is distracting. 

Independently produced before Hot Fad Plague 2020-2022 shut down the world, The Hyperions has languished in distribution limbo for a few years, initially picked up by Saban Pictures, then acquired by The Daily Wire for their nascent film slate following last year's pickup Run Hide Fight and their first original production, Shut In, which debuted the same way last month, streaming once on YouTube before going behind the paywall of the conservative site. 

 While their moves to bring films without an aggressive Leftist bias to audiences tired of being scolded and lectured by their supposed entertainment, I think using them as a lure to get people to subscribe is mistaken. I listen to a couple of their podcasts, but I don't have time to consume all their offerings to justify the subscription fee and three movies that I don't even know I could watch on my home theater isn't going to make me pony up. 

They should still make movies, but release them theatrically or at least make them available for streaming rental and purchase. While their previous films were good, they weren't subscription sellers either. While The Hyperions didn't do much for me, it's still deserving of an opportunity to be discovered by others without signing up for a political news site even if you agree with the ideological position of the site.

Score: 4/10. Skip it.  


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