The superhero genre has arguably become one of the largest in the movie industry over the last decade or so. Nowadays there are several blockbusters made for the genre every single year. 2020 has been a little different though due to the pandemic as most of the blockbusters have been delayed due to limited theater availability. As a huge fan of the genre this has been kind of disappointing. As I have been looking for a new superhero movie to check out, I was intrigued when I first saw Archenemy. The whole idea of a man who claims he was once a superhero who lost his abilities sounded really interesting. Archenemy is an interesting superhero story that has some good ideas, but the movie lacks focus at times leading to a disjointed movie.
Archenemy tells the tale of Max Fist. Max believes that he is a superhero from another dimension. In a fight against his nemesis Max is transported to another dimension where he has lost all of his abilities. No one believes Max’s story as they see him as just another crazy homeless person. Hamster, a young man who wants his break as a journalist, learns of his story and decides to write stories about him. At first he is skeptical of the story, but as he gets to know Max and learns more of his story he starts to believe it. That faith is tested when the local drug gang puts their sights on Hamster and his sister Indigo. Can Max Fist regain his superhero abilities or will it turn out that he truly was just a man suffering from mental illness?
I honestly had some mixed feelings after watching Archenemy. There were things that I really liked and others that I wasn’t a fan of.
Lets begin with the fact that Archenemy is not your typical superhero story. There are a few factors that lead to this. One contributing factor is that it is obvious that the movie was made on a smaller budget. I have no idea what the film’s budget was, but it is clear that it was made for considerably less money than your typical DC or Marvel movie. Because of this the movie doesn’t really feature any superhero abilities. When Max talks about his past life in the other dimension and his abilities the movie shifts to a comic/animated style. Some of this was probably a stylistic choice, but I think it was just as much a budgetary decision to cut down significantly on the cost.
Instead the movie focuses a lot more on the idea of whether Max was actually a superhero or if he is just suffering from delusions about his past. I honestly thought this was the movie’s greatest strength. Even if this partially done to lower the budget, I thought it was a good artistic choice for the movie. The movie does a really good job straddling the line between the two options where you don’t know for sure which way the movie is going. For those who are curious the movie does eventually give a definitive answer, but I obviously won’t tell you to avoid spoilers. I think this gives the movie a really interesting approach to a superhero movie as it is about a man who thinks he is a superhero who lost all of his abilities and his purpose in the world.
As the movie doesn’t really feature any actual superhero abilities, it instead is more like your typical drama mixed with action sequences. I would say that a majority of the film’s runtime is spent on the drama aspects. A lot of time is spent on Max retelling his tale and trying to reclaim his former glory. The movie also features another plot point which I will talk about later. The end of the movie features a pretty long action sequence/gunfight though. I wouldn’t say that it is close to the best gunfight that I have ever seen, but it is not bad either. Fans of these type of action movies should enjoy it.
Superhero fans that are expecting your typical DC or Marvel movie are probably not going to get what they are expecting from Archenemy. Between not having the budget of a blockbuster or recognizable characters to base the movie on, Archenemy had to get creative with the story it wanted to tell. I think the movie does a good job in this area. In recent years there have been a number of different superhero movies released that have tried to take the genre in new and interesting areas. Archenemy does a good job fitting in this group of movies when it wants to.
The main problem is that Archenemy doesn’t seem to always know what it wants to be. Instead of mostly focusing on the is he or isn’t he a superhero story, the movie decides to add in other plot points that don’t really add a whole lot to the experience. This is where I get to the one part of the story that I have mostly ignored up to this point. While Hamster and Max are trying to regain his former abilities, Hamster’s sister Indigo has this whole subplot about working for the local drug gang. This plot basically boils down to your typical story of her dealing drugs in order to give her brother a better life. This story is not horrible, but it feels generic. This storyline converges with the main plot later in the movie, but it still kind of feels like a waste of time. I honestly think the movie would have been better off ditching it entirely so it could spend more time on the superhero plot.
With a runtime of only an hour and a half, Archenemy doesn’t seem particularly long. It wouldn’t be except that the movie doesn’t do a great job prioritizing the various plot points. Up to the point where the two stories converge, I would say that the runtime is basically evenly split between the two stories. This was a bad use of time in my opinion. The drug storyline should have been a much more minor storyline or it should have been cut entirely. Instead that time should have been given to the other storyline which isn’t expanded on as much as it should have been. In fact parts of that storyline are kind of rushed where they could have been delved into further. Archenemy’s greatest weakness is that it feels like it wanted to be two movies at the same time, and it should have just focused on one of the stories.
I think that does a good job summarizing my thoughts on Archenemy. The movie actually does a very good job in some areas, and falters in others. The whole idea of a superhero that has lost their superpowers and you don’t know whether they are actually a superhero is a good premise. In many ways the movie does a good job with it as well. The movie gives a definitive answer, but does a good job keeping it up in the air until the very end. Due to its lower budget it had to tell a different story than your typical superhero story. It succeeds in this task most of the time. The main problem is that the movie doesn’t seem to really know what it wants to be. Instead of just focusing on that storyline it had to add another plotline that doesn’t really add anything outside of taking time from the other more interesting story.
My recommendation depends on a couple of factors. First if you are looking for your typical superhero story, you won’t find it in Archenemy. To enjoy the movie you really need to embrace the premise as the movie is more of a low-key superhero story that feels more like a drama mixed with an action movie. While the movie is brought down by the sideplot, I think the main storyline is interesting enough that the movie should be enjoyable for those who think the premise sounds interesting.
We would like to thank RJLE Films for the screener which was used to write this review.
Archenemy releases on Blu-ray Digital, DVD, and VOD on December 11th, 2020.
Recommended For: Those who are looking for an interesting twist on your typical superhero movie.
Appears On the Following List Posts: None at the moment
Movie Completionist is our never-ending movie review journal where the ultimate goal is to watch, write about, and curate as many movies (both new and old) as humanly possible. For more information on this post series and a list of shows already covered, see this post.