The French animated film The Prodigies pulls together a lot of familiar tropes from superhero movies without adding anything new or compelling to the genre.
Based on a bestselling novel by Bernard Lenteric first published in 1981, the story begins with Jimbo, a gifted teenager whose parents wind up dead. Jimbo is sent off to an institution, but he is rescued by Charles Killian, who knows Jimbo has special abilities. Fast-forward about 10 years and Jimbo is working at Killian’s research institute, a sort of Xavier’s School for Gifted Youngsters, which has been set up to find people who share Jimbo’s ability to read minds and control objects.
They discover five teenagers all at once, all of them lonely and misunderstood, who are brought to New York to compete in a game show for brainiacs. After they are attacked by thugs in a park late one night, and one of them is raped, the kids decide to take vengeance on the world in a fashion so over the top it will embarrass even diehard comic-book readers.
First-time director Antoine Charreyron treats the movie more like a video game than a film, which isn’t that surprising since the only directing titles he has to his credit is a long string of games ( Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines, Wheelman, Wet).
Logic and character development are ignored almost entirely, with Charreyron never bothering to make clear who these prodigies are, why they care enough about each other to band together and, most importantly, why we should care about any of them. Like characters in a video game, your investment in them is merely assumed.
The swooping camera work that will be familiar to gamers – plunging from tall buildings down to ground level, swirling and whizzing from one angle to another – quickly becomes just a tic Charreyron can’t resist, no matter how dizzying or unnecessary it might be.
Throw in too many Matrix-style slo-mo action sequences and what you’re left with is a movie too caught up in visual style to bother with the fundamentals of good storytelling.
- Directed by Antoine Charreyron
- Written by Alexandre de La Patellière and Mathieu Delaporte
- Starring Jeffrey Evan Thomas, Lauren Ashley Carter, Patrick Vo, Laurent Demianoff, Moon Dailly, Alex Martin, Jacob Rosenbaum
- Classification: 18A
- 1.5 stars