Stan Lee Presents: The Condor (2007) / Animation-Action
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for violence, some sensuality, and mild language
Running Time: 75 min.
Cast (voices): Wilmer Valderrama, Kathleen Barr, Mary Elizabeth McGlynn, Michael Dobson, Maria Conchita Alonso, Scott McNeil, Cusse Mankuma, Stan Lee
Director: Steven E. Gordon
Screenplay: Marv Wolfman
Review published March 24, 2007
Wilmer Valderrama (The Darwin Awards, Summer Catch) voices Hispanic teenager Tony Valdez, a skateboarding champ who loses his parents one day in an "accident". In truth, they've been attacked by other skateboarders wearing a headpiece that controls their actions, and supercharges their bodies to give them maximum speed, agility, and strength. Unfortunately, it also usually ends with the people under control having their hearts burst from the overexertion. Tony himself happens to get assaulted by another crew of possessed skateboarders, who leave him a wreck, without much future use for his legs. With the the help of new technology, some developed by his father's company before his death, Tony has nanorobots injected into his bloodstream in order to walk again. The side effect of an extra dose is also to be able to alter his DNA, giving him, temporarily, superpowers to thwart his foes. Assuming a new identity, The Condor, Tony plans to right wrongs when he can, starting with those responsible for the death of his parents.
The Condor is the second animated feature-length film produced by Stan Lee's POW! Entertainment, and proves to be even less promising a feature than the mediocre Mosaic. The impetus of the character stems from the dearth of a significant Latino superhero. Contrary to Stan's assertions, they do exist, but none are particularly popular (unless you count Zorro as a superhero -- or Latino, for that matter). As a hook, it's fine, but while the ethnic make-up may not be something often seen in the world of superhero films, the rest of the story and characterizations are cobbled together with bits and pieces of many other superhero origins. The Condor, like the bird it's named after, is primarily a scavenger.
The screenwriting credits go to none other than Marv Wolfman, a veteran comic book writer known for creating the some of today's popular characters, such as Blade, Nova, and Bullseye (of "Daredevil" fame), and others of lesser notoriety. Unfortunately, The Condor will probably not rank among his most memorable creations, as he is about as lame as they get. Stan Lee claims he came up with the Latino concept, as well as wanting the character to be a teenager and a skateboarder. While the Latino angle is fine, the skateboarding aspect proves to be pretty weak, as the seriousness of the deaths of Tony's parents is undermined by the fact that their car is being chased by zombified teenage skateboarders. It's hard not to snicker at the multimillion dollar plan hatched by scheming madmen to start their own deadly crime wave using skateboarding henchmen.
The origin takes up over half the movie, setting up what we can only presume is character development, though in such a way that we still don't feel like we identify with the character. Even with the lengthy build-up, the characterizations are still wafer thin, mostly told through archetypes (the good girl who is mostly unnoticed, the bad girl who is, the Hawaiian with pearls of wisdom, and the rival who isn't as arrogant as he's cracked up to be. A needless subplot takes up a great deal of time involving Tony's cousin and his gambling debts. We don't get to see Tony's Condor costume until shortly before the end of the film, but once it arrives, it's hardly worth the wait. High-tech boots, a skateboard and a funny looking helmet do not exactly a superhero make. The superpowers seem more like a hodgepodge of other better heroes, never striking a unique chord of its own.
The end of the film sets up for, presumably, a continuation of the story through a sequel, but it seems that this is unlikely to occur given the limited appeal of this first entry. By the standards of superheroes, it's forgettable, and even the animation itself doesn't stand out in an already overcrowded field. Older kids will most likely think it should be for younger kids, but it's not really aiming at younger audiences. Although Tony is a teenager, there are a few deaths, some skimpy outfits dawned by requisite bad girl Valeria, and some mild expletives strewn about. It probably is appropriate for boys between the ages of 8 and 13, but there are better examples of superhero cartoons to keep them entertained these days. Unlike real condors, the ideas behind this Stan Lee concoction are far from scarce.
©2007 Vince Leo