It’s a movie about a father trying to save his son with super powers. Sounds pretty cool, right?
Yeah, I thought so, too. It’s not that this movie is complete garbage, because it isn’t. It’s just misguided. And slow. Really really slow.
In the beginning we see a boy, Alton, who has been kidnapped–or so we are lead to believe. We soon figure out that he’s been taken by his biological father (Michael Shannon), away from a Branch Davidian-type cult that’s exploiting Alton for his powers.
This is, by far, the best point in the film. We’re excited to see what’s about to happen. Somebody’s got a secret. There’s going to be a cool twist somewhere! …Don’t hold your breath.
Certain things always remain unclear. At times this feels intentional. Not using contrived means of letting us in on what’s happening–instead, revealing it to us slowly throughout the movie. But what seems artistic at first, soon makes you realize that maybe it’s just done as a means to fill up its runtime.
The acting is very impressive. Everyone is perfectly believable in their own respective roles. But unfortunately, that technique–the ambiguous exposition one–also contributes to us feeling like we don’t really know our characters very well. It’s hard to get attached. It’s even harder to care.
We’re also never really sure what Alton’s super powers consist of. He can control electricity and stuff, but what’s with his laser eyes?
There’s a lot wrong with Midnight Special. And honestly, I can live with those reasonably minor pitfalls. The main problem? This film should be way more fun than it is. It’s nowhere near as cool as the concept leads us to believe. The most interesting part is the end, which is all too brief.
The issue is this film commits way too much to the “realism” aspect of its “magic realism” label. We don’t get enough of what sets it apart from other movies with similar story lines.
We get mystery, but much of it goes unsolved. Even after the movie ends.
But like I said, this film isn’t a total wash. As slow as it is, the dialogue is engaging. And it keeps us in our seats waiting to see what happens. But then, at a particular point in the movie–I can’t remember exactly when–we realize it’s not going to resolve at all how we want it to. That’s when we feel cheated.
I’m still not quite sure why they decided to name it “Midnight Special”. It makes me think of some sort of neo-western. But it’s not. It’s about a boy with unclear super powers.