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Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel

IndieDVD // PG-13 // January 30, 2018
List Price: $19.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]

Review by Francis Rizzo III | posted May 2, 2018 | E-mail the Author
In 10 Words or Less
Good intentions plus celeb cameos don't make a good movie
Note: Images in this review are for illustrative purposes only, and do not reflect the quality of the disc.
Reviewer's Bias*
Loves: How Did This Get Made?
Likes: superhero films
Dislikes: dreamers who deny reality
Hates: Bad acting

The Movie
As someone who is friends with a number of people in and around the film industry, I am well aware of the effort it takes to make an independent film. It's legitimately hard work, and above the money it takes, there's an incredible investment of time involved, not just on your part as the filmmaker, but for everyone you manage to get to work with you. As such, there is nothing worse than to watch an independent film and see that the script--the very basis and foundation of the movie--isn't good enough to justify all that effort. Unfortunately, Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel is just such a film.

Made 10 years after the original film (which, in all transparency, I had neither seen nor heard of), Revenge of the Sequel catches viewers up on the origin of Surge (Vincent J. Roth) and his nemesis Metal Master (John Venturini), via a lengthy animated opening credit sequence. Having recently been released from prison following the events of the first film, Metall Master is trying to re-acclimate, but his conservative Jewish parents (played by Gil Gerard and Linda Blair, in two of many celebrity cameos) are keeping their distance and life is hard for a gay ex-con supervillain. Surge wants to help, but Metal Master isn't too welcoming to his foe's aid. Instead, Metal Master falls under the sway of the evil Augur (Eric Roberts) and it's up to Surge to stop him again and foil Augur's plans.

There's a convoluted backstory involving a supernatural entity named Omen (played in limited screen-time by Star Trek icon Nichelle Nichols), but for the most part, the superhero stuff is just a portion of the overall film, as a good portion focuses on Metal Master's troubled home life and a budding romance between Surge and Todd, a fan whose life he saved. Obviously, these elements are part of fleshing out the characters' sexual orientations and the film's message of equality, but if they were removed, the plot would hardly be affected. However, the movie would be cut down by about a third.

If that happened, perhaps the time could be filed by even more celebrity cameos, which range from mildly amusing to brutally painful. While some, like Gerard, Nichols and Blair or Bruce Vilanch, Vegas female impersonator Frank Marino and Wonder Woman voice actor Shannon Farnon, all have actually parts to play--and are rather good at doing so--many are used to fill an excessive amount of man-on-the-street TV interview segments, in which everyday citizens--most of whom are, for some peculiar reason, at a comic-book convention--react to the superhero action in the rest of the movie. If you enjoy old sci-fi and fantasy TV series and movies, you'll likely recognize a lot of the faces you'll see here, some of which are actually cleverly cast (though some might say too clever, as most won't pick up on the references.) And celebs they couldn't get to be a part of the plot instead just comment on the character in a credit reel featuring--among many, many others--Marina Sirtis, Walter Koenig, Murray Langston and Kato Kaelin.

Though there are a lot of recognizable names and faces in the film, there are two that rise above the rest, for both good and bad. As Augur, Roberts is everything you would ever want from a supervillain, full of charm and confidence, while Star Trek's Robert Picardo is similarly great, playing his role with a silliness that is completely self-aware and, as a result, great fun. When the two share the screen, the film feels like an entirely different movie, and that's mainly because they offer a contrast to the acting that's been presented to that point. Their seemingly effortless ability makes the performances around them--and particularly those opposite them--feel amateurish in comparison, and they weren't that great to begin with.

The whole thing is wrapped in a framing device in which the main story of the film takes place in a comic book being read by a customer at a comic shop, under the suggestion of the shop's obnoxious owner. As a result, they appear sporadically throughout the film, commenting on the plot. The customer hardly seems pleased with the tale, and at one point asks to jump to the action, which is hardly the kind of observation you want to provide an audience who is probably feeling the same way. Despite a winking sense of camp and a welcome attempt to serve an underrepresented audience, Revenge of the Sequel is an example of the downside of fan films, focusing on all the wrong aspects of a movie, rather than the one thing that makes indie filmmaking work: a story worth telling.

The Disc
Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel arrives on one burned Blu-ray disc, which is packed in a standard keepcase. The static menu offers the option to watch the film, select scenes and check out the extras. There are no audio options, but subtitles are available in English and Spanish

The Quality
It's hard to provide a good analysis of the transfer here, because it's difficult to separate what problems are due to the transition to disc and what was a problem with the production. The opening animation is clean and crisp, with well-saturated color, but the live-action footage is all over the map, from cinematic, yet somewhat dull to blurry and lo-fi. Night scenes struggle with definition and softness, and the level of fine detail is decent, but not very high. There are also moments marred by compression artifacts, but it's not a consistent issue, which makes it seem like it was an issue with the shooting. The less than pristine presentation has a bright side, as the special effects aren't overly exposed by the clarity of the image.

The audio is presented via a Dolby Digital 2.0 track, which is solid from a presentation standpoint, as any shortcomings (and there are a few) seem to be inherent in the production, like the oddly quiet audio of clips of Nichols from the first film. Revenge of the Sequel features several rather catchy songs on its soundtrack, and they are delivered with proper power and priority, while dialogue is well reproduced. Sound effects and atmospheric effects are present, but not heavy in the mix.

The Extras
A 19:52 behind-the-scenes featurette features Roth addressing the audience before getting into the motivations for the sequel, the celebrity cameos, the locations and the increased focus on gay issues in the second film, while the director talks about how he got involved, how the characters were fleshed out and the cast and crew who died during or after production. We also hear from DP Mario DeAngelis on his fanboy reaction to the celebs.

Five deleted or extended scenes (running a combined 7:58) are available to check out, including more of the film's residence Elvis impersonator and discussion of Surge's powers, emblem and car. One scene is more of a behind-the-scenes look at the filming, as the director is heard, guiding Roth through his lines.

A sneak peek at a third entry in the Surge series features behind-the-scenes footage of Nichols' shooting her green screen footage and more of those celebrity comments.

Also included are three episodes (14:41) from the first season of the Surge of Power web series Big City Chronicles, which presents celebrity interviews (from conventions like the Hollywood Autograph Show), media clips and some movie-related bits and pieces. In these three entries, there's an introduction to the Big City Chronicles concept, an interview with Lost in Space's June Lockhart and reactions from people who saw the film. Awkward and low-fi, they might be entertaining to fans who see something of themselves in Roth's comic-con spirit. However, for someone who has had the "pleasure" to see many costumed guys awkwardly interviewing celebs for their lightly-viewed YouTube channel, they just stir up bad memories.

There's also a 2:32 trailer that's way too long, leans heavily on the film's celebrity cameos and attempts to sell the movie mainly as a gay superhero story.

The Bottom Line
A gay superhero movie is certainly an admirable concept, but it should have been a good gay superhero movie. Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel is obviously intentionally campy, but at the same time it just isn't very well made, which makes it hard to enjoy the more ridiculous elements, and the presence of a handful of legitimately good actors makes the rest of the cast seem worse by comparison. The presentation on this Blu-ray is OK (a result of the production's shortcomings, more than anything else) but there are some behind-the-scenes extras if you like the film, so if you do end up checking out this disc, it's more than just the film. I wouldn't recommend doing that though. It's just not worth your time (or the time the people making it spent.)

Francis Rizzo III is a native Long Islander, where he works in academia. In his spare time, he enjoys watching hockey, writing and spending time with his wife, daughter and puppy.

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*The Reviewer's Bias section is an attempt to help readers use the review to its best effect. By knowing where the reviewer's biases lie on the film's subject matter, one can read the review with the right mindset.

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