Let me start off by first proclaiming that I loved The Hyperions.
A retro-styled superhero flick with a campily beating heart, The Hyperions is the latest indie flick to come from up-and-coming indie distributor The Daily Wire. The Hyperions knows exactly what it is from moment one and it never lets go of that, an imperfect yet sublimely inspired that weaves together past and present, family and fantasy all into a motion picture that made me smile from beginning to end.
The Hyperions stars Cary Elwes as Professor Ruckus Mandulbaum, a quirky ole' chap who is a sort of creator meets father figure to The Hyperions - America's only superhero family that includes telepath Vista (Penelope Mitchell), Alphonso McAuley's behemoth of strength Ansel, and Elaine Tan's Maya, a teleporter. All three obtained their superpowers from Professor Mandulbaum's hand-made Titan badges. Everything goes fine until the Professor and Vista have a sort of falling out that leads to The Hyperions being replaced. Vista, easily the film's true heartbeat, acts out of desperation and rebellion and a showdown between her and Professor Mandulbaum follows.
On the surface, The Hyperions may seem like yet another indie director's attempts to exploit the superhero genre armed with only an idea and no actual cash to pull it off.
The Hyperions weaves together an inspired tapestry of superhero quirk that is both retro in style yet universally relevant. Anyone who has ever watched the 1960's Batman serials will experience more than a little nostalgia here while the film's humor capitalizes on Elwes's Brit roots and fierce cinematic sense of adventure. There's a quirky vibe here that feels like Wes Anderson meets Waititi, however, what really helps The Hyperions succeed is that writer/director Jon McDonald infuses it all with a surprising abundance of heart that is so often desperately missing from the bigger budgeted superhero flicks. 2D animation flows freely in The Hyperions, yet it somehow never seems like a gimmick. In fact, it often feels like part of the life blood of the film.
Kudos must be given for Christian Snell's imaginative and immersive production design along with William J. O'Donnell's art direction and Oumi Kapila's original music. The film features impressively appropriate musical selections throughout that add to its emotional resonance.
While Elwes is top-notch as always, the film's true heart and soul lies in the presence of Penelope Mitchell. Mitchell masterfully manages to balance the film's camp and quirk with an emotional core driving home the film's themes of forgiveness and reconciliation. There's a mighty emotional honesty to this superhero flick that honestly turns it into something pretty special.
Of course, for those more familiar with DC Comics or the MCU there's no denying that The Hyperions may feel more like an Austin Powers flick or maybe even the criminally underrated Howard the Duck (I also love this flick). So be it. The Hyperions most certainly isn't for everyone. I'd rewatch The Hyperions a zillion times before I'd eyeroll my way through another view if Avengers 27.
McDonald infuses The Hyperions with style meets substance, sentimentality meets nostalgia yet also remains faithful to the necessary action that so often electrifies even the lowest budgeted superhero flicks. The Hyperions is a superhero flick, though it's also much more as it embodies messages about family, belonging, and the necessity of one another. There are other superhero flicks that have tried to tackle these themes amidst their inflated budgets and massive special effects - for the most part, they have failed (I'm looking at you, Eternals).
I loved The Hyperions. I loved its style. I loved its substance. I loved its heart. I loved its nostalgia. I loved the way that McDonald knew exactly what he was making and I loved the way he got this tremendous ensemble cast to go along for the ride. I loved it when Elwes got overly campy and I loved it when Mitchell darn near made me shed a tear. I loved Alphonso McAuley and Elaine Tan and everyone else who figured out that sometimes the greatest superheroes are those with the greatest hearts.
Okay. Okay. I'll stop. The Hyperions isn't actually a perfect motion picture, however, that imperfection may very well make it a more effective motion picture. I tapped into The Hyperions vibe early on and it never let me go. With heart, humor, and heroics in abundance, The Hyperions is the superhero flick you didn't know you needed to see.
Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic