Recommendation: Drawn out, overly stuffed, and kind of says nothing while not quite entertaining… it doesn’t quite live up to the promise of its premise. 5/10.
IMDB Synopsis: After years in hiding, a woman is forced to go on the run when her superhuman abilities are discovered. Years after having abandoned her family, the only place she has left to hide is home.
In a moviegoing landscape that’s dominated by Marvel, DC, Star Wars, and other superhero IP, it’s a wonderful surprise to get a small, quiet meditation on the superhero genre. Unfortunately, Fast Color doesn’t stack up against the R-rated Logan, or even the indie-darling Midnight Special. With a lack of world building, character development—or even just some hints to what the plot is really about—Fast Color swings and misses, but the effort is applauded. But there’s still a lot to glean from a viewing: An African-American heroine (from a long line of African American women with superpowers), a treatise on feminine strength and empowerment, and light social commentary on a dystopian future that isn’t too far off from today’s world.
We open to a world that’s drought-stricken, scared, and a shell of its former self. In it, we find find our protagonist Ruth (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) on the run. We’re introduced to two things quickly: Water is expensive (a world building idea that’s interesting, yet abandoned), and Ruth suffers from seizures that literally cause earthquakes. On the run from her dark past as an addict and some creepy government types led by Bill (Christopher Denham) who seek to study and exploit her. So she heads to her last resort: home. Ruth returns home to an unwelcome reunion with her mother Bo (Lorraine Toussaint) and her estranged daughter Lila (Saniyya Sidney), where she rests, rekindles her mother-daughter relationship, and we learn more about the generational abilities of Ruth’s family.
Ruth, Bo, Lila—and their female ancestors—could all effectively disintegrate and reconstitute objects. The power set is ill-defined, but there’s potential, and some of the better CG visuals in the film are when Lila turns a bowl to dust only to reassemble it. Here Ruth finds a smidge of quiet and is learning to rekindle and control her powers, or “see the colors,” as the films calls it. But not before the pursuers close in on Ruth, prompting her to flee. As Fast Color moves into the final act, it treads into familiar and predictable territory for a superhero film, only one with a far lower CGI budget.
Ruth flees, has a cathartic come-to-Jesus moment in the wilderness, regains her superpowers, and confronts the bad guys who have taken Lila. The second half of the film casually introduces ideas that feel half baked and unearned. Where was the groundwork earlier in the film? Bo exchanges her life for Ruth and Lila’s (why?). We’re introduced to the aww-shucks, small town sheriff with a heart of gold that is actually Ruth’s father (what?). And Lila uses her powers to be a klepto so she can fix a truck (she learned how to be a mechanic at 10, what?).
It’s indicative of the larger issue with Fast Color. All of the interesting ideas in the film that are introduced either aren’t fleshed out or are straight up abandoned. Dystopian drought world sounds great, but we don’t know why or what the larger implications are. Let’s hear more about Ruth’s checkered past and how it affected her powers. Why is she a mother and she hasn’t been home in 10 years? Can we learn more about this family’s generational gift that embodies female, African American empowerment? Fast Color is a welcome addition into the non-CGI heavy canon of superhero movies. More movies in this vein should be produced. Unfortunately, Fast Color is a little too busy and a little too underwhelming to be considered a must-watch.
MVP: The movie feels so dull an uninterested in character development or world building that there isn’t really an MVP. But having to choose, it would be Gugu Mbatha-Raw as our protagonist.
Director: Julia Hart
Studio: Lionsgate // Original release date: April 19, 2019