Director: David Barras
Writers: David Barras & Scott MacKay
Starring: Toby Manley, Mark McKirdy and Jennifer Ewing
Electric Man is an independent Scottish flim by writer/director David Barras that deals with the pursuit of the rarest comic, ever. Rarer than Action Comics #1, it’s Electric Man #1, and people are willing to kill for it. That’s the premise, and sadly, that’s the most intriguing thing about this movie because from the first scene on, it flounders on its execution of that premise.
At first, I was convinced Deadhead Comics, where much of the action takes place, was a fake store; a rented space, poorly dressed to look like a comic shop. But I wanted to be sure, and much to my surprise, I was wrong. It’s a real store! In the movie, business sucks, and small wonder, as this is one of the dreariest comic shops I’ve ever seen. So immediately, comics are cast in a poor light. More of that, to come.
The Deadhead guys almost immediately attend a “Comic Con,” which like their store, is a depressing dump. No way was I going to believe that the tiny banner hanging from a fence in front of a small building was the “23rd Annual Glasgow Comic Convention.” Glasgow is not only Scotland’s biggest city, but one of the largest in the U.K., and with a population of almost three million people, I’d think that a long running comic con would be in a much larger venue. The comic con depicted here looks like something you’d find in a church basement. Now, since I was wrong about Deadhead Comics, I double-checked to make sure Scotland’s biggest city has a comic con that takes place in a venue more spacious than a two-car garage. Turns out, the Glasgow Comic Con is held at the Center for Contemporary Arts, and that’s a larger venue, though curiously not overwhelmingly so. Weird. So even though Scotland’s produced people like Mark Millar, Grant Morrison, Frank Quietly, Alan Grant and John Wagner, it seems like comics aren’t that big there.
Back to the con. There’s a kid stealing comic books left and right at the con, and nobody’s caught him. Again, this is happening in a space the size of many basements.
On a positive note, the animated intro was well done, and told the origin of Electric Man, much in the way Spider-Man 2 recapped that character’s origin. And there were a couple of kind of fun lines near the beginning, but they were immediately forgotten and trounced by the overacting, everywhere, by everyone. And the hackneyed “mystery music” that permeates became annoying at the 20-minute mark. Toby Manley in the lead role as “Jazz,” is somewhat of a saving grace. He’s the best of the lot, and he has a certain charm, so good for him, as he’s the only one involved in this effort who stands a sliver of a chance of continuing as an actor. He’ll need more training and experience, though.
So, after about 35 minutes, just after a torturous and Sam Spade/Bogart film noir riff (how unbelievably derivative and dated), followed by the played-out trope of the dismissive girlfriend/parent/friend/authority figure (in this case, a GF), lecturing Jazz about how comic books are childish and a waste of time (despite comic-culture ruling at the box office and SDCC, etc), and with an hour left, I decided to stop watching.
Except I didn’t. Wanting to be as fair as possible, and hoping to find something redeemable, I kept watching. Only to witness a major gaffe. Comic shop owner Jazz had to do a web search to find out who purchased Electric Man #1, and after some ridiculously phony surfing on the MacBook Pro (what is his right hand doing constantly darting towards the eject key, and hovering over it?), he got his answer, as it was a significant news item in the UK.
Ok, I’ll give that a lot of comic shop owners might be clueless about who owns Action Comics #1, but minutes later, Jazz tells the daughter of the former owner of Electric Man that he knew her father, yet was unaware that he’d previously purchased this Ã¼ber rare issue “” even though it was a big deal in Scotland.
I watched some more. Again, I really wanted to try to like this movie, or some of it, in the hopes of being as positive as possible to Barras. Cue Jazz’s friend getting hit (more like lightly tapped) on his head with a frying pan, and passing out. Ugh.
Followed by Jazz’s new love interest shitting on comics, just like his former GF did. Message thus far: Chicks hate comics. Might’ve been true once upon a time, but not any more. Not by a long-shot. Jazz’s defense about the power of comics is lame and completely superficial, demonstrating laziness from Barras, it almost feels like parody, except that would require cleverness. Jazz is then hit with the “never had a girlfriend” slam, which he counters by saying yes he has, though only one. But by his own admission, she was a pig.
This is a good-looking guy, with a quick wit, who owns his own business selling a product that’s gained tremendous respect in recent years (again, see the The Dark Knight, Iron Man, and the Avengers films), with scores of girls into geek culture (Cosplayers, anyone?), yet he’s an unlayable schmuck. Again: Fuck. Off.
So, now at 50 minutes in, I stopped, this time for good.
Except I didn’t quite stop. I skimmed through it, stopping to see yet another character tell Jazz that comic collectors can’t get attractive women.
At this point, I was no longer angry with Barras. I just felt sorry for him. In creating this movie, ostensibly about a love of comics, and comic shops, he too fell victim to the self-loathing geek; perpetuating the notion that comic guys are unappealing to everyone except the most desperate of women. Even The Big Bang Theory has broken that notion. And the fact that this sitcom is closer to that reality than Electric Man, says a lot about just how inept this movie is.
So then and there, I decided I wasn’t going to sit through another 40 minutes of this. I didn’t care about the characters, or what would happen to them. I didn’t care how the plot resolved. And I couldn’t imagine it improving, or surprising me in any way. Its defenders may chastise me, countering that it got better near the end. It would have to have taken a 180Â° departure in every single way possible, for that to occur. And given the ineptitude thus far, I couldn’t see that happening.
Now all that said, there is an interesting premise, here. Even an outrageous one. A world of comic book espionage. A world where people are willing to kill for the rarest of rare comic books. (A similar notion, without the killing, was explored in Seth’s quirky Wimbledon Green comic several years back). So this movie could work with a new script, a new cast, and a professional crew, from pre-production, to post (this movie is poorly edited).
My advice to David Barras is to rewrite the script, tighten it up, try to make it smarter (ask for help), and then take this footage and re-edit as a sizzle reel, with the intent of selling this movie to a studio, in exchange for some coin and a Producer credit.
Until then, I suggest audiences stay away from Electric Man.