'All Superheroes Must Die' begins with a dark, nearly silent cold open where Charge (Jason Trost) – one of the titular superheroes that simply must die – awakens on a desolate road; the cheap, green spandex of his largely non-descript costume partially torn to shreds, forcing the audience to discover the mysterious circumstances surrounding Charge's current predicament as slowly as he does.
Naturally, it doesn't take long for the wheels of the film's plot to begin turning, but as soon as they do, a question emerges: Is this meant to be taken seriously, or are we being drawn into a violent parody where costumed crime-fighters curse liberally, have little regard for the lives of innocent civilians and are later revealed to carpool from their suburban homes in a late-'90s Saturn sedan?
It certainly wouldn't be the first time one of the most potent box-office weapons of recent memory was given a lampooning, but it might be the first time such a film did so without advertising it upfront. Considering Trost, the writer, director, editor and star of 'All Superheroes Must Die' is also the co-writer and co-director of 'The FP' the recent post-apocalyptic riff on 'The Warriors,' by way of the 'Dance, Dance, Revolution' arcade game, it certainly wouldn't be too much to suggest that this so-called deconstruction of the superhero genre was actually meant to be seen as some sort of spoof.
Ultimately, though, whether it's seen as a grim and gritty low-budget superhero flick, or an almost imperceptibly clever send-up, doesn't matter; 'All Superheroes Must Die' fails to deliver either possibility in any convincing fashion.
Aside from the immediately obvious problems stemming from the general look and feel of the film, its main fault is that, as the plot becomes clear, we are left with a sneaking suspicion Trost has somehow inadvertently edited out the first two thirds of his movie, and left us with only the final act. To that end, four superheroes, comprised of the aforementioned Charge, his former sidekick Cutthroat (Lucas Till), The Wall (Lee Valmassy) and Shadow (Sophie Merkley) wake powerless (yes, the heroes apparently had powers before this whole thing started) in an abandoned town, and are forced to engage in a series of increasingly dangerous encounters by the villain, Rickshaw (James Remar).
The uninspired story reveals little as to why Rickshaw (an Arcade-like villain, especially for those familiar with 'Avengers Arena') is targeting these four, specifically – though it's easy to assume they've defeated him on a number of occasions and this is his revenge – but, more importantly, there's never any explanation as to why the villain has chosen to name himself after a small two-wheeled vehicle that originated in Japan and uses a running man to gain momentum.
What's worse, in failing to recognize how cramped the narrative is from the get go, Trost is forced to pad the characters' backstory by cutting to an indeterminate time in their collective past to establish some sort of larger connection between the four characters. These flashbacks, which are shot in black and white, and mostly consist of close-ups between Charge and Shadow in their civilian identities, are clearly intended to add weight to and further flesh out these mostly one-note characters – but all they really do is further disjoint the pacing of an already lethargic film.
When it's not cutting away from the action, 'All Superheroes Must Die' moves from one set up to the next, quickly culling the already small cast in record time, while attempting to establish an emotional connection between those in the group, the civilians they don't seem at all interested in saving and their tormenter, who appears almost exclusively via a series of televisions conveniently placed throughout the town.
If the combination of poor plotting and characterization, stilted dialogue, and uninspired actions sequences weren't enough, 'All Superheroes Must Die' also features some distractingly bad homemade costumes that, while they elevate the view that this might actually be better as a spoof, obliterate any ability for the audience to suspend its disbelief and engage with these characters on any level. With a reported budget of only $20,000 dollars, it's certainly impressive for the cast to have had costumes at all, but when the mask worn by The Wall looks like a hunk of chocolate molded around his face, the costume problem becomes larger than whether or not the heroes look like four cosplayers who got lost on their way to SDCC.
Comic book fans will undoubtedly be drawn to this title, but be warned: you do so at your own risk. 'All Superheroes Must Die' has little in common with comics or their movie counterparts, having more of a connection with the kind of uninspired, low budget horror flicks riding the coattails of more popular and well-made titles. And that's what this film feels like: an attempt to shoehorn an idea that's been done a dozen times into a new genre. Some reviews have said this film might've actually worked on a larger scale, but what's more important, and most glaringly absent from this film isn't more money, special effects, or recognizable faces; it is having a cast of characters that is worth caring about. In the end, like all superheroes, these are characters leading double lives, and neither one of them is very interesting.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Unlike the release of 'The FP,' this Image Entertainment release of 'All Superheroes Must Die' is about as barebones as you can get. Completely devoid of supplements and stored in an average keepcase, there's as little to get excited about in the presentation as there is in the film itself.
The 1080p AVC-encoded transfer provides a few nice moments of clarity and detail, but overall, the image never amounts to much, since the majority of the visual problems stem from the manner and style in which the film was shot, rather than how it was transferred. Here, close-ups hold the most detail and texture, and the film attempts to put as many of these shots in as possible, e.g., the black and white flashbacks, but they do little to diminish how poor the image looks in wider shots or when the camera is asked to move quickly.
Most noticeable, is the way the film (which takes place over a single night) never manages the darkness in such a way could be an advantage to the film. Here was the filmmakers' best opportunity to hide the various limitations of the production, and instead, the scenes shot in low light only seem to exacerbate the problem. The film begins with an overly dark, grainy image that would be bad enough on its own, but then it has some aliasing issues to contend with as well. Moreover, contrast in these segments is quite low; blacks tend to bleed all over the image, causing colors to look drained and weak, creating a disappointingly flat image.
Once the action moves inside, however, the image seems to get a noticeable lift in contrast quality if not entirely in the fine detail and texture department. Here is where the image boasts the most depth and clarity, but also exhibits the most video-like qualities in the film.
Overall, this is an uneven looking transfer that seems entirely capable one moment and woefully under equipped the next. For every scene that is filled with a clear, detailed image, there are three more completely devoid of it.
Although it boasts a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track, 'All Superheroes Must Die' is one of the most anemic sounding films in recent memory. Certainly, there are the budgetary constraints to take into consideration, but the problem is larger than what isn't coming from the speakers. Sure, the dearth of ambient or environmental noise, musical score and sound effects makes for a lackluster superhero movie, but there are also some core technical issues at play that drag the mix down even further. Dialogue is difficult to hear at low levels, but at the same time, the balance between the actor's voices and the limited sound effects is way off – which either limits the exposure of additional sound elements or creates distortion in the dialogue, depending on how high the listener is willing to turn the volume.
Surround sound and LFE elements are nominal at best, rendering action sequences, or the many explosions in the film into lackluster pops and crackles, at best. For whatever reason, the center channel seems to be the only speaker capable of picking anything up, which leaves the front and rear channel speakers doing nothing for the majority of the film.
There's a tagline on the cover of the Blu-ray that reads: "Some Games Have No Winners." That's oddly reminiscent of the tagline for the much-maligned 'Aliens vs. Predator' – or 'AVP,' if you like – which read: "Whoever wins… we lose." I'm sure the creative wizards who came up with these taglines never assumed (or even cared) how easily both statements could be seen as pertaining to the audience – that is, in both cases, the viewer clearly winds up as the loser. Considering 'All Superheroes Must Die' started off under the title 'Vs.,' then the comparison seems even more apt. For the most part the movie suffers due to the filmmakers having too much ambition, but not enough creative material to see their vision come to proper fruition. On occasion, ambition and clear intention can go a long way in making a film like this more appealing. Unfortunately, with its muddled objective, hackneyed storyline and overall poor quality, this movie just isn't worth anyone's time. Skip it.