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Review: 'Fast Color' is a slick superhero movie

Posted Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at 11:33 AM Central
Last updated Tuesday, July 16, 2019 at 11:34 AM Central

by John Couture

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that superhero films are big business. Nope, all you have to do is to take a look at the box office chart on any given day and you will notice a pretty reliable trend. Comic book movies have absolutely dominated Hollywood lately.

Given their innate ability to print money, it was only a matter of time before creatives started to expand the scope of the genre. Now, the mythos of the fantastical is no longer limited to the stories told by DC and Marvel. If you've got a story about someone with magical powers, step right up Hollywood is all ears.

Enter Fast Color. It certainly doesn't bill itself as a superhero movie, but that's exactly what it is. It is the latest entry in an ever-expanding universe of comic book cinema verité where the green screens are being replaced by real locations and the spandex is being ditched in favor of, you know, real clothes. Whether it's Chronicle, or Unbreakable, or Brightburn, the newly minted genre is tackling the scope of what does a real superhero look like from many different angles.

In Fast Color, Gugu Mbatha-Raw plays a woman who is hunted by mysterious forces because of her supernatural ability to break and repair physical objects. With nowhere else to turn, she returns to her family farm where she must come to grips with her power while attempting to mend her relationship with her mother and daughter.



Fast Color is set in a dystopian near-future where there is a lingering drought and the cost of water has skyrocketed exponentially. While the story is meant to ape the post-apocalyptic feel of, say, the Mad Max films, there's something rooted in Fast Color that makes it seem like this future is very real and not too far off in the future. This realism underscores the fundamental differences between this movie and the bombastic summer blockbusters being churned out by the big boys in Hollywood.

The story feels very small and personal because at its roots it is. Sure, there are the mysterious government agents and potentially life-altering superpowers, but at its core Fast Color is a multi-generational film about relationships and how they impact everything from the mundane to the fantastical. It's about two separate mother and daughter relationships and how they influence everything. What the comic books gloss over, Fast Color spends half of its 100-minute running time bathing in the sort of family dynamics that matter. Meanwhile, Superman and Batman sum it up by burying their hatchet when they realize that their moms had the same name.

The film finds its magnetic resonance quite literally with its leading lady, Gugu Mbatha-Raw. How has it only been five years since Gugu blasted onto my radar with her superb performance in Belle. It's true that she has had a long career before that film both on the big screen and TV, but Belle was the first time that she was given the opportunity to shine in the spotlight and there's no going back. She is a luminous star and her performance in Fast Color only cements the argument.

Playing both a rebellious daughter and a reluctant mother is no easy task and yet Gugu is able to deftly tip-toe between the two emotionally draining performances. Whenever she is on-screen, you are filled with the wonder of her power that really drives home the disjointed story. At the end of the day, you are less concerned about her powers and more concerned about familiar relationships and isn't that sort of the point?

As the father of a young daughter myself, it has been frustrating at times to find a superhero story on the big screen that she can relate to. Yes, Wonder Woman has helped to ease that burden a bit, but it's refreshing to give her another perspective of a strong female-empowerment film to help her to build her own identity. In particular, I would imagine that this would be doubly difficult for young female people of color who are inundated with mostly caucasian heroes around them. To that end, Fast Color not only gives us a rather compelling story in the comic book cinema verité genre, but also a new role model for young women everywhere, regardless of skin tone.

Much like life itself, Fast Color is not perfect, but it doesn't need to be. In fact, I would argue that its imperfections give the film a certain street cred that some of the bigger-budget comic book movies lack. Life is full of imperfect moments and it's only fitting that they also pop up on the big screen. Fast Color is truly a unique film that I had not seen before and would certainly recommend it for anyone looking for a new take on the superhero archetype or just some old-fashioned female empowerment.

Fast Color is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.