Condor, The (US - DVD R1)
Gabe thinks Stan Lee should probably take a break from the creative process...
Tony Valdez (Wilmer Valderrama) is a college dropout who turned his back on his family’s robotics corporation to become a champion skateboarder. Everything’s good though, and Tony's pretty famous. But when his parents are murdered and his legs destroyed in a brutal beating (separate incidents, right?), he falls into a spiral of self-pity. His best friend, who is obviously in love with him, uses his father’s experimental NanoBot technology to make Tony's legs work again. She also makes him a really cool skateboard. Now as the superhuman skater known as the Condor, Tony must reconcile a crime fighting conscience with his rage for vengeance (did I say vengeance, I meant disinterest). Along the way he hooks up with a super hot woman who's conspicuously interested with him, and ignores his friends affections. He also meets up with a masked villain whose voice is digitally enhanced. Hmmm.
Stan Lee has created another character that makes his handicap his strength. This character feels sorry for himself for a while, uses his abilities for personal gain, then realises that with great power comes great responsibility. This character loses his parents in the first reel, and inherits a multi-million dollar company from them. Through the help of a friend he creates mechanical armour to fight crime. In effect, Stan Lee has rewritten every comic ever made popular by himself and Marvel Comics (not to mention a few choice DC characters), and taken credit. The Condor even steals his costume from Gatchaman.
What we've got here is entertainment aimed at teenagers, that ends up undershooting by a few years, but trying to make up for it with a few minor curse words and some big boobs (kind of like The Invincible Iron Man). Condor is a sophomoric mess that is also sadly anachronistic. Extreme sport skateboarding superheroes, saggy pants, and phrases like ‘whoa, dude’ and ‘lameoid’ are so 1992.
Not surprisingly the film is very predictable, to the point that I'm sure more than half of you have already guessed the entire story arc based on the synopsis. What is surprising is that it's so poorly written beyond its obviousness. The dialogue is sub-Saturday morning. Lines like ‘You can't save everyone Tony, they have to want to be saved’, flow freely throughout, destroying any 'adult' cred a heavy-petting make-out scene may've established. There are too many well-written superhero cartoons that make due with the kids' TV codes of ethics for me to accept Condor's many shortcomings as part of the format.
The voice acting is pretty weak, especially lead Wilmer Valderrama, who I know can act. Every voice has the inflection of a cucumber, and I'd probably name names if the film had a freaking IMDb page. I'd honestly like to know if any of these people (other than Wilmer, of course) are actually of any kind of Latin descent, because they pretty much all sound like they're doing Cheech Marin impersonations to me.
The character design is generic, but not awful, and though low budget, the animation is mostly fluid. There are a few well-executed action scenes, which don't save the film from its deserved fate among the forgotten STV cartoon films of the past, but almost earn the film an average rating.
The Condor looks okay, I guess, it only suffers a few compression indignities. Being a cartoon with a bright pallet tends to help when it comes to grain and artefacts. Neutral colours have some signs of noise, but it's the occasional lack of detail that is the transfer's biggest flaw. The transfer is most likely interlaced, as interlacing effects are noticeable throughout, though not nearly as much as the disc's extra features (check out my Stan Lee screen cap at the end of the review).
The film is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but isn't very impressive. Bass is present but lacking, and surround effects are weak considering the fact that the entire film's soundtrack was artificially produced. The feature's music is obvious and quite often downright horrible. During 'softer' scenes a ballad plays that would make Michael Bolton blush, and the dated hip-hop is the kind of stuff you'd hear on a macaroni and cheese commercial in 1987. It's all low budget, and I'll cut it slack where needed, but I'm not willing to let a general lack of anything interesting fly.
To start, there are a whole bunch of trailers on the disc. Once you get past these and start the actually film, you still have to sit through Stan Lee's tiresome introduction, where he tells us a little something about the character, and how cool he is. After watching the feature, if you're still up for more Stan Lee, I recommend a trip to the extras section.
The bulk extra is a brief making-of doc. The bulk of the doc is made up of Lee talking more about the character, and sadly swearing up and down that the character is an original one (sigh, poor old man). The doc is entitled Meeting of Two Giants: Stan Lee vs. Wilma Valderemma: The Making of The Condor, which is apt, because besides the director, who looks depressed as all Hell, only Lee and Valderemma are featured. The rest of the voice cast, animators, etc., are ignored. The worst part is that Valderemma isn't really even interviewed, the doc's producers have just cut in footage of him during his vocal recording. Basically this is just a mix of Stan Lee acting batty, the director (or maybe it was the other writer, I forget now, but don't care enough to check) looking morose, and Valderemma looking like he wants to be done with his recording session.
There are a few additional extras for the kids, a section of 'interactive' character profiles, and a 'game'. The character profiles don't feature production sketches as I'd assumed, but footage of the character and a voice-over describing the character. If you don't like the voice over guy's voice, you can always click on the picture of Stan Lee in the corner of your screen, and hear him say effectively the exact same thing. The game is about as much fun as any other DVD game you've ever played, I'm guessing, and consists of pressing 'up', 'down', or 'forward' when a screen prompt tells you to. There were plenty of times I didn't push the button that my character survived anyway, and plenty of other times that I did what I was told but died anyway. You only get one life, but if you win Stan Lee will give you some skateboarding tips. Barf.
The Condor is derivative garbage, but features a few scenes of decent animated action, and may entertain eight-year-olds, assuming their parents don't have a problem with giant bouncing breasts, some minor, bloody violence, and a few mutterings of the words ‘bitch’ and ‘ass’. Those in search of a mediocre superhero series aimed at a young minority group, but written chiefly by a bunch of old white dudes will do better to watch reruns of Static Shock, which at least has some interesting characters and ties into the greater Timm/Dini DC animated universe.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Release Date: 20th March 2007
Disc Type: Single side, single layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 English, Dolby Digital 2.0 Surround Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish
Extras: Introduction by Creator Stan Lee, Meeting Of Two Giants: Stan Lee vs. Wilma Valderemma: The Making Of The Condor, Character Gallery, Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Steven E. Gordon
Cast: Wilmer Valderrama
Length: 74 minutes
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