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Case Number 27149: Small Claims Court

Buy Sparks at Amazon


RLJ Entertainment // 2013 // 98 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge David Johnson // March 27th, 2014

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All Rise...

Judge David Johnson's origin story is boring.

The Charge

The origin of Ian Sparks.

The Case

Based on the graphic novel by Christopher Folino, Sparks is a noir superhero story where the heroes don't really have superpowers. So, yeah, it's one of those "meta" narratives, toying with idea of "supers" and what it means to put on a costume and prance across rooftops fighting crime (they actually refer to costumed do-gooders as "supers" here, too).

In the world of "Sparks" there are a handful of actually powered supers, beings who got their mojo from a radioactive meteor, and that's where Ian Sparks (Chase Williamson) finds his story taking root. He forges an identity—Sparks—and teams up with Lady Heavenly to rid the city of all manner of thugs. Along the way, his crusade draws the attention of a killer and as their cat-and-mouse game takes off, Sparks discovers the hard way that you can't really trust anyone, especially dudes in masks.

Interesting movie. Obviously, the production wasn't awash in megabucks for a budget, but the execution of the design is still quite impressive. It's a dark, sleek look—noir up the tailpipe, and slightly surreal. The end result is a unique look and feel, which goes a long way into making Sparks the moderate success that it is.

Minus the style, I'm not sure how much I'd dig on it though, to be honest. The plot, while subversive and all, doesn't really break any new molds in the meta-hero universe of moviemaking. And Sparks himself is a milquetoast protagonist, immediately forgettable.

The central mystery does have a few nice twists and turns and the bad guys are colorful and suitably evil. But the film ultimately floats on its design and direction, both of which are noteworthy. Is that enough to merit your hard-earned dollars and precious time? If you're a fan of this type of film, then I'd say yes.

The DVD: a nice standard def 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer, Dolby 5.1 audio, a commentary by co-directors Todd Burrows and Christopher Folino, a making-of featurette, and outtakes.

There's enough here to differentiate Sparks from similar fare and the filmmakers' vision deserves a definite look-see. For casual comic book movie lovers or anyone else that might fall outside of that gross oversimplification, tread carefully; this isn't the BAM! KAPOW! THWOCK! brand of superhero moviemaking.

The Verdict

Not guilty.

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Scales of Justice

Judgment: 80

Perp Profile

Studio: RLJ Entertainment
Video Formats:
• 1.78:1 Anamorphic
Audio Formats:
• Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
• None
Running Time: 98 Minutes
Release Year: 2013
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
• Action
• Superheroes
• Thriller

Distinguishing Marks

• Commentary
• Featurette
• Outtakes


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