For me, “Sparks” was an easy sell. I’m someone who loves serials, and classic pulp heroes that used their fists and fell for dames while fighting crime. Though “Sparks” is obviously an indie production, it garners the spirit of classic pulp heroes through and through. From a murder mystery, hard boiled cops, masked heroes, and the like, “Sparks” is an entertaining throwback to pulp heroes that, while flawed, is still worth a watch. If only for the great cast. Directors Todd Burrows and Christopher Folino leave no stone unturned in their ode to classic forties comic books, even featuring characters that smoke like it’s going out of style.
Chase Williamson gives a very strong performance as Ian Sparks, a young boy who lost his parents to a car wreck that occurred during a high speed getaway by some criminals. During the crash, a top secret chemical named “Red G” doused Ian, allowing him to live, and gave him remarkable powers of regeneration and near immortality. Ian breaks out as an orphan to become a superhero, fighting crime and the like, all the while falling for his female partner, Lady Heavenly. Ashley Bell of “The Last Exorcism” fame, really embodies the role of Lady Heavenly, all the while providing a very empathetic and charming portrayal as a heroine torn between her duties and her love for Sparks.
Things become especially difficult when the evil serial killer Matanza begins striking down local citizens and creates a rift between the pair of lovers. Director Burrow and Folino really manage to make the most of their low budget, opting for a lot of green screen and CGI. While normally that would hinder a film, it only adds to the charm of “Sparks,” allowing a novel serial aesthetic that adds to the entertainment value. Much in the way “Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow” and “Sin City” were elevated by their computer effects. “Sparks” is played with a straight face, allowing hero Sparks to rise up as an avenger and fall in a horrific way that makes him a martyr.
When he becomes a laughing stock and is ultimately outed as Sparks, he sets out to clear his name, while also figuring out the odd web of lies and conspiracy involving Matanza. The narrative falters in that respect since the mystery and most of the twists are not only convoluted but difficult to follow. I had a tough time figuring out most of what was happening, until the finale. It feels like writer Folino knew the audience required some clarity, thus a better emphasis on the larger mystery in the final scenes. Otherwise, “Sparks” really is worth a watch, especially since it garners a great supporting performance from Clancy Brown, who is always fantastic, playing Sparks’ mentor who also garners a mysterious link to his past. “Sparks” is a very original and unique indie and spin on the superhero film, and I highly suggest it for fans of figures like “The Spirit,” and “Green Hornet.”