Surprise review today, all. I know I said there would be a new Shamedown, but then I found out the Daily Wire would be doing a one-off premiere of their new film, The Hyperions on YouTube, and in spite of getting major Asylum vibes from the various clips and trailers floating around, I was curious. Who wouldn’t be, seeing as it stars Cary Elwes in what appears to be a wheelchair-less Charles Xavier role? I’m so there.
So yeah, we’ll do March’s Shamedown next weekend. Now to move onward, and yes, there will be a few spoilers…
On the surface, The Hyperions seems like a superhero movie on the line of X-Men, but instead of focusing on a school of misfits, the film is about a family of exceptional people who are hand-selected by Professor Ruckus Mandulbaum to be superheroes. They don’t come into it with pre-existing superpowers; Ruckus gives each selectee a badge that changes their DNA and gives them special abilities. No badge, no power. Ruckus also adopts everyone, so they live at his mansion and call him “Dad.” If anyone abuses their powers, Ruckus has a neutralizing device called a “cork.”
The other thing that makes Ruckus’s coterie different is that he retires his superheroes after a few years and selects new ones. They’re all set for life, but they have to turn in their badges and mind their manners.
That brings us to the main plot of the movie. The Hyperions are a huge cultural phenomenon on the line of the Ghostbusters. Ruckus has a TV series and is always off doing interviews. There’s a cartoon show, a comic strip, and loads of merchandising. Among the many tropes and trademarks is Ruckus saying, “Calling all Hyperions” like it’s Charlie’s Angels.
Oh yeah, and there’s the Hyperion Family Museum, where former Hyperions’ badges are on display. Two of Ruckus’s former superheroes, Vista (Penelope Mitchell) and Ansel (Alphonso McAuley) break into the museum to steal their badges and get their power back. Well, that’s what Vista’s about, anyway. Poor Ansel’s there for moral support. The two of them take a few hostages, including a security guard, but it’s such an atypical robbery that most of the prisoners wind up playing the Hyperion board game.
Meanwhile, the current crop of Hyperions are on the way to sort things out. Maya (Elaine Tan), who can teleport, has been busy training the newest guy, Apollo (Tanner Buchanan), who’s so green he forgets to use his superpowers when coming up against bad guys. While he’s recovering from a gunshot wound in a French hospital, Maya’s off to the museum. So is Ruckus, but he’s not very happy about any of it. It’s bad publicity.
There’s more to the story than a simple hostage situation. Vista resents Ruckus because she feels as if she’s been cast off, but when she was a Hyperion she kept trying to run away anyway, and as an adult she wanted to marry someone Ruckus didn’t like. Now she’s backed into a tight spot because her daughter’s life is at stake. She’s not the only one with a bone to pick, either. All of the fallout from Ruckus’s actions will descend on the Family Museum and not everyone will walk out alive.
Unlike Shut In, Daily Wire didn’t build The Hyperions from scratch. Director Jon McDonald wrote the screenplay, built many of the props, and animated a lot of the sequences in various mediums, but no studio would touch it. Movies without distributors are apparently as common a tale as only five percent of scripts being greenlit in Hollywood. The acquisition was a win-win, as it not only gave the film a home but diversified DW‘s content.
It’s not hard to guess why the film was left out in the cold. It’s a superhero movie without full-time superheroes; instead, there are very few special effects and a surprisingly human story. There’s nothing really disturbing, which makes it easily palatable for family viewing.
Hyperions reads like Wes Anderson, Douglas Adams, and Walt Disney had a three-way head-on collision. Plenty of whites, oranges, browns, assorted fabric textures, and in true Wes Anderson style, loads of tableaux vivants and expository asides. The Hyperions TV show literally looks like a Disney showcase with lots of starbursts and romantic Sword In the Stone-type fonts, except that Tinker Bell is nowhere to be found.
What’s also extremely unusual is the overall message of the film. It’s about struggling with fame, with being left behind, and about valuing each other. It’s about keeping power in its proper place and recognizing the balance between freedom and unity.
It’s all very unexpected, which is why audiences during the preview didn’t seem to know what to make of it, if the live chat was any indication. Comments ranged from “This is cool,” to “They should title this, ‘What the Heck Am I Watching?'” to “Vote For Pedro.”
Me, I enjoyed The Hyperions. It’s a fun movie with a good heart. I liked that it believably worked its low budget limitations into the story; it’s better to think realistically instead of shooting too high. Cary Elwes is almost maddeningly coy as Ruckus. His character likes being the whole show, and that’s where his journey begins. His family pleads with him to listen to them instead of thinking for them, and not forget what’s really important.
I think the reason The Hyperions made sense to me is that I know firsthand what it’s like to be phased out, although unlike Vista, I had no interest in leaving. I’m not going to go into the particulars, but the whole business was extremely ugly and in no way stemming from anything I did. It’s something I’m still working through even though it happened almost twenty years ago. I’ll digress, though.
The only thing I would say about the film is that it lacks cohesion because of its mixed mediums. It was good that McDonald chose to give lots of backstory, but we never know if we’re going to see line drawings, or comic strips, or stop-motion. The what-the-heck factor dilutes the impact, and there isn’t enough of a story to balance everything out.
Oh, and we could have done very well without the Disney stuff. It just got in the way, especially at the end, when a lot of things are in a shambles. It’s oddly ironic to hear a choir warbling over the scene. Or ironically odd, depending on how one looks at it.
I’m glad the Daily Wire is making The Hyperions available to see, albeit to members only. Their content is impressive so far, they clearly understand entertainment (see an interview with producer Dallas Sonnier and DW CEO Jeremy Boering here), and The Hyperions is pretty unique. As long as one checks expectations at the door, it can be an unexpectedly satisfying film.
Another post is on the way tomorrow, and it’s going to be a little different than the usual stuff. Thanks for reading, all, and hope to see you then…
The Hyperions is available to stream on the Daily Wire site (members only).
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