Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes (2004) / Comedy-Action

MPAA Rated: Not rated, but I'd rate it PG-13 for innuendo and language
Running Time: 98 min.

Cast: Vincent J. Roth, Tom Tangen, Robert Hurt, John T. Venturini, Jeremy Bourgeois, Lou Ferrigno, Nichelle Nichols, Alan Mills, Noel Neill, Bobby Trendy
Director: Mike Donahue
Screenplay: Vincent J. Roth

Seeming more like a fan video than an actual full-fledged movie, Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes is well intentioned, but made by people that love movies far more than they have the skills to make them.  It is, at its core, a superhero movie, with one hook:  most of the characters in it, including the main hero, are gay.  Well, let me back up a sec – sexuality isn’t really mentioned so much as implied.  If you don’t read into the fact that this is a gay film with gay interests, this is a surprisingly routine superhero story delivered with a shoestring budget and amateurish acting.  In short, it is not even close to being a good movie, despite the likeability of it.
Vincent J Roth, the producer/writer/costumed designer of the film, also casts himself as the main star, playing Gavin Lucas, an attorney by day, comic aficionado all other times. Despite the constant ribbing by his coworkers and friends, he often wonders what it might be like to become a superhero with superpowers.  After a freak accident occurs in the local laboratory, Gavin is exposed to something that gives him unique abilities, including the gifts of sensing danger, although his powers take a dip whenever he hears dance music (why he doesn’t install earplugs or noise-canceling headphones in his mask is a mystery).  He decides to live out his dream of becoming a costumed superhero, donning a fancy costume and the superhero moniker of “Surge”.  Unfortunately, another person with few scruples is also exposed to the same genetics-altering material, making him able to control metal (X-Men’s Magneto-style) except he plans to use his newfound abilities for his own selfish reasons.
The vibe given to the movie by Roth and first-time director Mike Donahue is certainly campy, although it does lack the genuine insight and acute pith to crack sharp and drive home the humor points in any substantial way.  It does manage to be cute, mostly because we realize early on that Surge is a film made by people that have absolutely no clue whet they are doing, coming across like a fancy version of someone’s elaborately conceived home video, meant to be enjoyed by the makers and their friends more so than for mass consumption by the public at large. 
While many of the characters are ostensibly gay, this is not really a gay film in a thematic sense, never really pushing forth any agendas or reasons to look any deeper than the surface for underlying meanings.  There is, however, a plethora of double entendres, sight gags, and homoerotic images that try, in a not so subtle fashion, to have fun with the gayness of the characters (they love pickles and hot dogs, for instance), but these are fairly juvenile in nature.  SNL’s TV Funhouse characters, “The Ambiguously Gay Duo” pretty much touch all of the bases that Surge of Power covers in far less time, and does so with more laughs and clever ideas.
For all of its amateurishness, poor production values, ineptitude, and lack of creativity, Surge of Power is almost impossible to hate.  Roth comes across as a genuinely nice guy, and it looks like almost everyone in the cast and crew are having fun making an actual movie together.  Roth himself mentions several times in the “Behind the Scenes” portion of the DVD that the special effects and minor celebrity cameo appearances made him feel like he was “actually making a real movie”, which goes to show that even he knows better than to think he has made a legit film. 

Surge of Power is a rare movie in that it is such an endearingly awful form of entertainment that you end up almost liking it because it is so earnest.  It is also so unpretentious and well meaning, you can almost overlook the shoddy nature of it all to have fun right along with Roth in his loving bargain-bin tribute to the comic book superheroes he surely grew up reading and loving his entire life. 

Qwipster's rating:

©2006 Vince Leo