I know the Trost Bros.’ 2011 film, The FP,gets some flak, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t kind of love it. And I maintain that anyone who doesn’t love it, probably just didn’t get it. Yet, as evidenced by my review of The FP, I did have some reservations about the picture, and I still wonder if the immense fun it offered was enough to counterbalance the third act’s many problems and generally make it a worthwhile picture overall. So when I heard that Jason Trost was returning with a solo feature about superheroes (a topic of great interest to me), I had hoped to see a totally respectable, fully fleshed-out, follow-up feature that at once served as a great picture unto itself and perhaps, as a more stylistically-evolved picture, even shed some light on Jason and Brandon Trost’s aims with The FP. Unfortunately, I find myself every bit as conflictingly enthusiastic and unsettled by the experience of All Superheroes Must Day as I have been by The FP.
Jason Trost wrote, directed, and edited All Superheroes Must Die, and produced the film alongside Lucas Till of X-Men: First Class. Additionally, Trost plays Charge, the lead role in the picture, with Till cast as his former sidekick Cutthroat. In short, Trost is all over this thing. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, of course, but we understand from the get-go that the film may well suffer from an excessive singularity of vision in a medium defined by the multiplicity of artists it takes to complete a production. Without any special features on the Image Entertainment Blu-ray and DVD releases– be it a commentary track, behind-the-scenes featurette, or otherwise– to verify or disprove such an assumption, of course, it’s hard to say if this was in fact the case with All Superheroes Must Die. However, I couldn’t help but feel that a few more cooks in the kitchen may not have spoiled the broth in this instance.
That said, the performances throughout are solid, with James Remar as the villainous Rickshaw standing out among the bunch, and the small-town setting certainly brings a unique aesthetic to the picture, especially when compared to more mainstream superhero films. However, the narrative just didn’t quite deliver for me. The film begins with four superheroes waking up in a small town to find themselves sans powers and at the mercy of a foe they had thought defeated (Remar’s Rickshaw). Rickshaw sends them around the town to complete various “rounds” of a sadistic game he has devised wherein innocent lives are at stake. They subsequently move from one round to another until the end, and therein lies the limitation of the picture. The rounds quickly become repetitive, although there are only five of them, I think. And what’s more, the non-Rickshaw villains they encounter along the way are wholly uninspired, with nary an ounce of the hilarious charm afforded The FP’s L Dubba E.
More importantly, within the framework of Rickshaw’s game, the characters are tied down to but a handful of possible decisions each round, and since we’d never met them before they were thrown into this situation, our investment in the decisions they make is incredibly limited, and at times nonexistent. As such, it almost doesn’t even matter what they do. Trost does give us, in flashback, a look at the group’s origins and the eventual falling out among them that prefaced the events of the narrative proper, and I really wanted to see more of that. Not only would presenting us with more of the group’s earlier superhero exploits have generated added viewer investment as they struggled through Rickshaw’s endgame plot, but I also felt it was probably the better story. At the very least, their origin meant more to me in the overall scope of the picture given that I had, from the outset, such little investment in the central storyline Trost chose to pursue instead. In short, I surmise that had this been a follow-up to a more character-oriented origin story, this would have been a far stronger picture.
Still, All Superheroes Must Die is an extremely ambitious picture, and enormously impressive in scope given its reported $20,000 budget! So for that, I can’t help but admire it just as I do The FP, even for all its faults. With that in mind, I will continue to follow Trost’s career and eagerly look forward to seeing what he can do when at last given a sizeable budget. More to the point, perhaps, I’ll admit that I’m eager to see whether The FP and All Superheroes Must Die represent the outermost boundaries of his artistic vision, or if the far-reaching ambition with which I associate him is the reality of Jason Trost, not merely a filmgoer’s fantasy on my part.