Imagine a world where seemingly ordinary, everyday people living among us were granted the gift of super powers. If you’re thinking that I’m referring to NBC’s hit show “Heroes” you wouldn’t be too far off the mark, as this is essentially the primary concept on which that series is based. Even though the premise sounds an awful lot like that show, what I’m actually referring to is the recently released sci-fi drama, “Push” starring Chris Evans, Dakota Fanning, and Djimon Hounsou.
“Push” focuses on just a few of the many super-powered beings that populate our world, as they battle an evil government organization known as “Division”. When a young telepath named Kira (Camilla Belle), whose ability classifies her as a Pusher, escapes from a Division compound with a very valuable secret in her possession, Division must unleash its most powerful assets, led by an even more powerful Pusher known as Carver (Djimon Hounsou), to bring her back. To save herself Kira must rely on Cassie (Dakota Fanning), a 14-year old Watcher (one who sees the future or a possible future), and Nick (Chris Evans), a telekinetic Pusher.
When watching “Push” one quickly begins to realize that if they are a fan of the TV show “Heroes”, they need to do their best not to think too much about the similarities between the two entities. I understand that finding an original idea in television and film is becoming much harder to accomplish; however, when an idea for a film appears to be an almost blatant carbon copy it gets to be a little bit frustrating. That being said, while “Push” closely resembles “Heroes” in many respects, I did do my level best to attempt to ignore those similarities and just judge the movie on its own merits. I will admit I do have to deduct some points for the obviousness of how unoriginal this idea for a film truly was.
Screenwriter David Bourla (“Larceny”) does start things off by earning the film some credit by approaching these super-powered beings in a way I hadn’t expected. Bourla chose to actually have the characters be accustomed to their powers, and in some cases thoroughly enjoy having them at their disposal. I had anticipated that there would be some characters that despised their lot in life and would view their powers as a curse more than anything else; while that does occur in one or two instances, for the most part every one of these individuals appear perfectly content with their abilities. This is one aspect of the story that was more of an original thought for a movie such as this. In truth, it is the approach that I wish “Heroes” would have chosen to go with for the majority of their characters, rather than having so many of them loathing their circumstances. Anyways, I digress.
Aside from that initial approach to super-powered beings, the remainder of the screenplay trudges along at a menial pace, plagued by several bouts of cliché-ridden or simply bland dialogue, until it is time for another requisite action sequence to show off one or more of the characters super powers. While the dramatic areas of the film leave something to be desired, at least the action scenes were entertaining, allowing the audience moments of excitement to break up the monotonous proceedings.
One other major gripe regarding the story of this film is that the second half falls prey to several major plot holes and logic errors that cause the movie to completely crumble under its own weight. Not to mention the final moments of the movie leave several plot threads dangling, obviously in hopes of a sequel; however, the film isn’t strong enough to support another installment. Truth be told, the writer, and for that matter the director, producer, or anyone else involved in the production of this film, should have realized that the prospect of a follow-up was an ill-conceived notion. Therefore, the story should have been much more resolved at the film’s closing with only minor plot points left open for the possible (unlikely) sequel.
Director Paul McGuigan (“Lucky Number Slevin”) imbues the film with a gritty, realistic tone, and his choice of lessening the flashiness of the visual effects employed for the various powers was a wise decision that strengthened the overall feel of the movie. I also enjoyed the vast amount of detail on display in a majority of shots in the movie, but I did find it distracting that the director chose to apparently switch cameras at random. This choice resulted in some scenes, or moments within a scene, to be covered in a very thick layer of visible grain that is absent the rest of the time. The random moments of heavy grain over the image and occasional flashes of bright white or washed out scenes made me wonder if Paul McGuigan was trying to make this movie more artistic than it could ever hope to be. Whatever the intention for those odd choices, the result was a mixed bag of visuals that left me bewildered in the end.
Starring in this wannabe superhero flick is Chris Evans, who is no stranger to special effects intensive movies after his work on the two “Fantastic Four” films. As an actor Chris was able to show off a little more of his acting prowess in this film than he was in the aforementioned. However, having seen several movies where Chris’ characters are more sarcastic in nature, I found myself wishing for a little more levity from his character than what was on display. Alongside Chris is the talented Dakota Fanning (“Man on Fire”). Dakota has impressed me with her acting talent for quite some time, and for someone so young she knows how to draw the audience in, but in this film her role just wasn’t enjoyable. At times I actually found Dakota’s character somewhat irritating, and wished that she would have received far less screen time.
Joining Chris and Dakota as a super-powered fugitive is actress Camilla Belle (“10,000 B.C.”) who plays her role in a manner that is so bereft of emotion that one could almost conclude that she had absolutely no desire to be in the film. I find it extremely annoying when an actor or an actress agrees to a role and then proceeds to play the part without any shred of conviction. Why sign onto a movie if you don’t actually care to put forth an appropriate amount of effort? Rounding out the primary cast of characters is the underrated Djimon Hounsou (“Blood Diamond”). Unfortunately, Djimon’s role in this film as the lead antagonist won’t be garnering him any more attention for his work, but his role in the movie is a highlight as he brings such a powerfully commanding presence to any character he portrays.
“Push” is a movie conceived as a painfully obvious attempt to cash in on a trend, such as the continued success of comic book movies or the popularity of “Heroes”; however, due to its lack of originality and coherence in the last half of the film, it falls well short of its much more capable contemporaries.
“Push” is rated PG-13 for violence and language.