I attempt to write these reviews and articles with a traditional timelessness, but as of this writing the follow-up to the Jason Trost-helmed All Superheroes Must Die (2011), All Superheroes Must Die 2: The Last Superhero (2016?) is available for free on YouTube. The first one, along with his How to Save Us (2014) are at this time also both available through streaming services. I’m not sure how long Last Superhero will stay on YouTube, but the more curious question is why it’s there at all.
The first All Superheroes Must Die surprised me, and I wish I had known about it at its release to champion it from the beginning. I can’t put Last Superhero in the same category, but it’s certainly no Book of Shadows: Blair Witch 2 (2002)—yeah, you’re probably mad I reminded you of the existence of that one, and I don’t blame you. So uploading Last Superhero to YouTube appears to be more of a distribution strategy than a surrender to the efforts of finding a distributor. Hey, my point is it’s not on YouTube ’cause it’s bad—there, that’s all I’m trying to say.
The film opens with a cue-card warning us that “The following is what led to the Greenview Massacre,” Greenview being the locale for what is now a series set in this universe. The entire film is a pseudo-documentary, not about the story in the first film, though there are references to it, but more about what the opening words warned us of.
The Illusive Man is the first of many people to be interviewed as the titles begin to roll. He’s been watching John Ford, AKA Charge (Jason Trost), one of two survivors of a group of superheroes called The Four, who battled Rickshaw (James Remar) and others in the first film. Among the interviews are stills of superheroes in combat and all aglow with their powers, and other stills of what appears to be a bulletin board collage of photos, news clippings, notes and black and white comic book panels.
This takes places under the title sequence, and for moving the story along under the titles, we thank you.
In the interviews, a girl, Ally Andrews (Dylan Quigg), is introduced in the past tense, and our hero Charge is not viewed as the hero he should be, based on the first movie—so some shit has gone down. In fact, he might be responsible for her death.
Journalist, Vicky O’Neil (Tallay Wickham), and her cameraman, Jeff Sanders (Sean Whalen), are on a documentarian mission to find John Ford, formerly known as Charge. John Ford, however, finds them. For the documentary, and thereby our benefit, we get the story about how he and his four friends became superheroes. A meteor lands and the four then-normal humans investigate, discovering a masked man in the crater. John touches him, they all four black out, and when they awake all but John have superpowers, which doesn’t stop John from becoming a superhero. We knew this already, but never actually saw it in the first film.
We follow Vicky and her cameraman as they interview John’s best friend Ted Harrington (Colin Bates), Alley’s best friend, May Murphy (Lib Campbell), a police detective, Jones (Art Hsu), also looking for John, Ally’s psychologist, Dr. James Henry (Ryan Gibson), an academic post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) expert, Professor M. Sachs (Maya Ormsby), and dozens of survivors and witnesses of the Greenview Massacre. The Illusive Man is interviewed again and we get footage of the Masked Man. All of this leads up to the last fifteen minutes of a superhero fight that nicely balances out the documentary style of the bulk of the film.
The last fifteen minutes are what I’ve been waiting for for twenty years now: a low-budget filmmaker using workable, credible CGI. It’s a niche that has yet to be exploited successfully. I guess the cost of CG never went down. I’ve always wondered why, after Jurassic Park (1993) there weren’t more low-budget dinosaur movies with some light but believable CG, but even now we get crap like Cowboys Vs Dinosaurs (2015), which creates no suspension of disbelief. The last fifteen minutes of Last Superhero though, accomplishes just that. I just wish the whole movie was as good and fun as the last fifteen minutes.
Throughout the film, we catch glimpses of black and white comic-book-style panels along with photographs, notes and more, helping to tell the story, mostly of the original team, the Four. Upon my second viewing, I started thinking they put the whole comic book in there eventually, and it was never really explained. However, it wasn’t distracting. The images were blended in with the other imagery. I only bring it up because I kind of liked it. And I think making the physical comic book part of the movie would have been a better idea, somewhat like they did in the amazing, why-isn’t-anyone-talking-about-this, Turbo Kid (2015).
I think also in our world now, filmmakers and other artists succeed better by branching out into other mediums. Look at John Carpenter on tour playing his soundtracks, keeping his name in—granted, a small—spotlight. He couldn’t’ve done that twenty years ago and didn’t need to. The world and the market were different.
Trost’s efforts and his realistic approach—not necessarily his choices of genre—are reminiscent of other low-budget independent filmmakers who go it alone. Think George Romero after Night of the Living Dead (1968), with Season of the Witch (1972), The Crazies (1973), and Martin (1977). Think Don Dohler with Alien Factor (1978), Fiend (1989), Nightbeast (1982) and more. I do wish, however, that Trost would explore more traditional genres. He successfully creates unique visions, but how would he prevail using his experience for a simple vampire or alien tale? Or perhaps he should utilize the effects from the last fifteen minutes of Last Superhero to continue the series, but with those effects throughout.
Trost is good, but he’s not perfect. He’s no one-hit wonder genius. He’s no Vincent Gallo with Buffalo ’66 (1998). But this may be a good thing. Trost has staying power. As with most of his work, here he uses a lot of basic low-budget filmmaking tricks disguised perfectly among good characterization, a driven plot, and great cinematography. Last Superhero contains even more nice touches throughout, including a kitchen set that looks used and not like a house up for sale, the ambitious and total destruction of Greenview, and stills of superheroes in combat that are hang-on-your-wall beautiful.
On the flip side, while every actor in the first film pulled their weight and brought it home, in this film, with twenty-plus characters being interviewed, Trost seemed to be challenged by the use of so many actors and it shows a little bit. Also, it’s only seventy-four minutes — that’s too short for me — and the plot is too convoluted, with threads I didn’t care about, nor could explain. Unfortunately, all the disguised modulated voices sound the same and there are just too many masked red herrings to be effective.
I truly hope Trost keeps going. He inspires the buying of comic books, putting stuff on walls, the collecting of his DVDs and if I saw it online, at least twenty bucks to a donation campaign. I just have one request. Next time he makes an interview-style film I hope that he gets that one interviewee to finish that gosh-darned taco in his hand. Please! I’m still waiting for that man to finish the taco. I watched that movie twice—the continuity was perfect—but he never finished that taco. How long does it take for someone to eat a taco? Eat it already! Please!