Interview: Adam Eqypt Mortimer discusses his latest film ‘Archenemy’

Once again, our amazing colleague Matthew Schuchman brings great questions to one of the coolest filmmakers in the biz. Adam Eqypt Mortimer brought us Daniel Isn’t Real last year and now we’re jumping into the superhero genre in only a way Mortimer can. With brooding visual similarities and a fresh script, Archenemy (read my review here) is hella cool. Yes, I said it. Matt gets some awesome info from Adam. Wait until you find out who was originally in talks to play Max Fist! Joe Manganiello ultimately landed the role and is balls to wall amazing. The rest of this kick-ass cast combined with a screenplay that keeps you guessing will undoubtedly win you over. Can Archenemy save audiences during one of the weidrest movie viewing years in history? Find out for yourself. The film is now in Theaters, On Digital and On Demand. Check out Matt’s interview with writer/director  Adam Eqypt Mortimer below.

Did you always intend to show Max’s origin as animations?

That’s an interesting question. When I was first writing it I knew that that was always part of the story; that we were gonna see his stories that he’s telling about Chromium. But I wasn’t super certain how I was going to do it. I knew that I wanted there to be a big contrast between the present-tense story, and what we were seeing from the past. So it was kind of a confluence of– I understood how we were going to be shooting the present, but how different can we make the past? One of the issues I struggled with when I was writing the script was the scene where Max is falling out of a giant building and flying through the sky and punching his enemy and all this crazy stuff. If that was hyper realized or looks exactly the same as the rest of the movie, then it would only ever appear as truth. So ultimately, I thought I could do animation. Daniel Noah from SpectreVision and I talked a lot about what it should be and I really came around to animation in thinking about things like, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Pink Floyd’s The Wall. Watership Down, too. In ways that those film’s innovations can be very expressive and interact with reality and all of those kinds of things. Then it started to feel like the right move, as long as it didn’t feel like comic book pages or motion comics. It’s not supposed to be referencing comics, it’s supposed to be referencing more. The feeling of this sort of superhero world and how that might present itself in Max’s deranged mind. 

Well, I do also appreciate that the film doesn’t try to force-feed me everything through pointed exposition.

You know, there’s whole scenes of Max and his new friend Hamster walking down the street and Max is telling him all of this stuff about how he had the crystal fist, and the cosmic source, and all this stuff. But,I tended to think of all that, not like an exposition, because it’s not really there to set the stage to advance the story. I thought of it more like music, or decoration, or poetry. You can let all of this madness and all these strange world constructions flow over you and take it however you want. I said to Joe [Mangainello] when we started the process of building the character, “I don’t even care that much if I can understand what you say.” Joe and I are both metalheads and I told him to think about the way he talks as being like the guitar player from Slayer, Kerry King. Like, it’s sloppy and insane, loud and fast, and it’s really not about precise musical construction; it’s about getting some kind of point across through all this other stuff. So that was how I thought about things both in terms of how Max talks and about how he sees things. 

Joe was really amazing in the film, and I feel like no one else could have really been Max Fist. Was he always the first choice?

I’m glad it was him; I think he was amazing. There was a moment though when I was talking to Nicolas Cage about it. We had lunch and talked about it and he was interested in it. He seemed great for it also, because he is somebody who had once almost played Superman, but he had also been in Leaving Las Vegas and one of my ideas in this movie was always; it’s Superman in Leaving Las Vegas— but we couldn’t do it. It didn’t work out with him and so then I got Joe and like you say, Joe is absolutely the perfect person; and a long time ago, also, was up for the part of playing Superman. He was going to be Superman and it didn’t work out and, but you can just see how he is Superman. But it’s not just him as a physical actor. He has so much confidence that he can deconstruct himself into a tragic mess of a man and pull that off too, which is what’s wonderful about it. 

Why does Max care about Hamster so much? Is it just because Hamster is willing to listen to him?

I don’t know, I mean that that’s one of the emotional mysteries of the movie. When you meet Max, he’s somebody who doesn’t care about anybody. He lives this emotional life that he can’t get out of his own head. That’s the journey, and I hope it’s a believable one. I think you get this idea of him talking about how important it was to be a superhero. Then you increasingly see that imagery in terms of people’s love for him, they build statues to him. You start to go like, “wait a minute…” What does it mean to have been a hero and I think by defining things in this tiny relationship between him and hamster, there is a whole different way to look at why you would be a hero. 

I don’t know if it is just me– and this is kind of getting away from the point– but I started focusing on smaller things. There’s the henchman Finn, and he carries this book in his hand but I couldn’t see what the book was. Was it something like, “The Big Book of Zen?”

It’s called; Nihilism for Beginners. There is a frame or two where you can see it. And I’m glad that you are looking for details like that because I put a lot into thinking about the world and all of the characters. Even when they are just in a scene or two, they’re really building part of that universe. The idea with him is, he’s a guy who’s just started to think philosophically about the world and he’s like, “God I’m just a hired hitman goon, but the world is so much more complex.” There’s a scene where he’s interrogating Indigo about this other guy who died but you can see that there’s this incredible sort of sorrow or grief about what he is doing. That was all Joseph Reitman; super great actor. I will always want to do things where there’s tons of fucking violence and bleakness and it’s crazy, but there’s also the theme of empathy and who can have empathy and what does that feel like. There was a little patch of that in that character. 

It’s clear that–and especially from talking to you now– that you had a specific point of where you wanted this to end, but were there thoughts about deciding whether the ending would flip the other way, maybe?

I think it was more a question of how it would play out, or what the timing of it was. The question for me really was, “It’s going to be a story about a betrayal of some kind and a mistruth of some kind.” So where exactly does that play out? Does that play out in terms of everything he said is invented? Or is it that he’s telling the story differently than he should? It’s important to have a narrative twist or a narrative, revelation, but the emotional revelation around it is really the key.

Most movies do kind of give up the kitty a little too early. I love the fact that, as an audience member, just as you may start to believe Max, he’s doing a bump of coke on the stairwell before going in to punch a bunch of guys. 

There’s nothing that gives you superpowers better than amphetamines and that’s one thing I want people to take away from this [joking laughter]. If you’re gonna run into people who are shooting at you with uzis; you take meth. It’s gonna be bad, but it’ll be better that way. 

Has the casting process gotten easier for you, now that your stock is on the rise?

No doubt, Archenemy was so much easier to get done, than Daniel Isn’t Real. With this movie, I had all these people able to see my last movie. Glenn Howerton, Paul Scheer, and Joe; all saw my previous film, and they think, “I love that movie, I would work with this director.” That’s how I was able to get them in it and that’s the wonderful, wonderful aspect of starting to build up a body of work that you can point to. When I was making my first movie, nobody gave a fuck that I wanted to make a movie. None of my set ideals are real, it was like very few people gave a fuck to help stretch my vision. Now they’ve got my back and it’s sort of grown like that in a way. It’s wonderful because the most important thing to me is to be able to attract brilliant people to work with me and particularly get actors who are really good and can really do all of it. So to be able to point to other examples of what I’ve done is a blessing.

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RLJE Films will release the action/thriller ARCHENEMY In Theaters, On Digital and On Demand December 11, 2020. 

Review: ‘Surge Of Power: Revenge Of The Sequel’

Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel

Theatrical Release (Select Theaters): February 23, 2018

Run Time: 1 hour 30 minutes

Reviewed By: Adam

Guest review from Reel Reviews Over Brews

Time has passed since Surge’s first big screen adventure. Surge has settled in as Big City’s superhero. His nemesis, the Metal Master, is out of jail again, trying to reconcile with his estranged parents (played by Linda Blair and Gil Gerard). Are they more concerned about their son being gay than being a supervillain? Metal Master is tempted to continue a life of crime by Augur (Eric Roberts), old arch enemy of Omen, the sage superhero from the first movie (played by Robert Picardo and Nichelle Nichols). Augur sends Metal Master on a mission to Las Vegas for a strange crystal with unique properties key to Augur’s diabolical scheme. Surge tracks Metal Master to Las Vegas and is out of his element in a strange town. Surge is soon aided by local college students, Wendy, Marvin and Todd, deploying their own talents to help Surge uncover Metal Master’s activities, which also puts Surge in awkward situations. Cut off from his support in Big City and in need of more help, Surge activates the artificial intelligence in his high-tech car, the Surgemobile (portrayed first by Bruce Vilanch, six-time Emmy Award winner, comedian and writer, and later another artificial intelligence personality played by Shannon Farnon, Wonder Woman from the Super Friends!). Their search leads them to famous Las Vegas headliner, Frank Marino, whose penchant for fine jewelry allows Frank to recognize the crystals – precious Celinedioium! Frank guides Surge and his new friends. Surge faces off with Metal Master on the Hoover Dam, imperiling California, Nevada and Arizona. Metal Master escapes, leaving Surge with catastrophe to avert.

A short repast allows Surge some downtime while Todd shows him around Las Vegas. Their quiet time is interrupted by further news on the Metal Master. Augur and Metal Master realize Surge and his friends frustrated their plan. An infuriated Augur confronts Surge, causing Omen to step into the fray, sending Surge and the Surgemobile elsewhere while he/she grapples with his/her nemesis. Meanwhile, Metal Master faces an even greater challenge – his disapproving parents.

Unbeknownst to Surge, Augur is part of a supervillain community, The Council, each member of which is as powerful as Omen, and stirred to emerge from the shadows after many years of peace with Omen and her cronies. Find out what happens next with cinema’s first out gay superhero when an array of legendary superheroes and villains clash, with more zany antics in this all-ages, light-hearted, star-studded sequel!

I was having this discussion with Scott recently about how movies now a days are trying way too hard to be really artsy and there isn’t as many mindless action/comedy movies anymore. Well, Surge brings that back! Don’t get me wrong, that isn’t a burn on Surge at all. It made it more enjoyable. Not going to lie… after I watched the trailer for Surge, I was a little worried it was going to be really lame and corny. It did have it’s corny moments, but that didn’t stop this one from being a fun watch. You could tell director, Vince Roth was going for the Adam West Batman vibe to this movie. In my eyes, it was a terrific idea! Loved the throwback look. My hands down favorite part of this movie were all of the cameos! So many former actors that played super heroes “came out” for Surge. It was fantastic. This is what the made the movie so fun to watch. Who will show up next!? If you’re a fan of super hero movies, Surge is certainly worth the watch. Be careful though because you may just “get the urge, to surge!”

After watching Surge of Power: Revenge of the Sequel, we were able to have a little Q&A with Director and lead actor, Vince Roth. *WARNING – SPOILERS!*

Q: What gave you the idea of Surge?

A: I grew up watching the “Super Friends” cartoon, which is where I developed my penchant for the superhero genre. In my adult years, I made a lot of costumes of other people’s characters, which has now become its own thing called “cosplay.” Then in my professional life, as a corporate attorney for a high-tech company, the marketing department created a superhero character for one of its marketing campaigns called “Commander X.” I made, at that time, what was my piece de resistance of costumes and the company liked it so much, that when trade shows came around, they would transfer me out of the legal department and into the marketing department and send me off to be the living embodiment of Commander X. It was at a trade show that I decided I should do something with a character of my own. Surge had been in my head for many years, and the movie was a vehicle for me to bring Surge to life.

Q: Will Surge be making any Comic Con appearances?

A: Surge typically shows up at San Diego Comic Con and Salt Lake Comic Convention. In fact, many of the celebrity interviews and many of the celebrities who came on board from the sequel are as a result of Salt Lake Comic Convention. We’re just now finishing the theatrical run, and I’m still pretty busy with distribution for the sequel at the moment, but when time permits, I’ll see what cons we can have Surge show up.

Q: Were you able to get any superhero tips from the one and only Stan Lee?

A: I barely met Stan Lee only once, but was not able to discuss Surge of Power or anything for that matter, he was so busy. But, if he is not prevented by MARVEL from doing cameos in other movies, we’ll invite him to join us.

Q: How did you get so many big names to make cameo appearances?

A: We had 20 cameos in the first movie, and our 3 featured celebrities from the first movie all came back for the sequel – Nichelle Nichols (Star Trek’s Uhura), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk) and the late Noel Neill (Lois Lane from Adventures of Superman). This gave a lot of credibility to the sequel. We’ve developed a shtick with having celebrities show up, kind of like the also campy Batman TV show from the 60s. So, it’s a staple in our world of Big City to have celebrities. In the sequel, we take it even farther, by having celebrities cast in dramatic roles, not just cameos, throughout the movie.

Q: Were you going for an Adam West Batman type look with the quality?

A: Yes, I knew that if I was going to introduce a new superhero, especially an indie movie, I would need to differentiate our world. There hadn’t yet been an openly gay superhero on the big screen, so that became my mission and decided to use comedy as a platform, because humor has been an effective vehicle for gay characters to be accepted by mainstream audiences. Look at the success of “Will and Grace” for example, which,
incidentally, was brought back after 10 years, so why can’t Surge return after a lengthy
hiatus. Camp is a common trope in gay entertainment, and a natural superhero parallel is the campy Adam West Batman TV show. Both Surge of Power movies have a similar campy flavor as the 60s Batman. We’re not shy about it. There’s even a line Bruce Vilanch
delivers that homages Batman when he tells Surge, “that cape is a throwback to the 60s.”
The inspiration from Batman is noticeable, and I think we added our own flare in our
contributions to the superhero genre.

Q: Why did it take so many years for a Surge sequel?

A: Homophobia is why it took so long. There were some people who really did not want this movie to be made, which made it all that much more important for me to get it done. Pixar’s “The Incredibles” was released in 2004 and its sequel is due out later this year, 2018, which is 14 years, so I think we’re still within range for superhero movies, haha. The first movie, “Surge of Power: The Stuff of Heroes,” started screening in 2004 and was released in 2006. I was busy promoting the first movie at cons for a few years before I was talked into embarking on the sequel, but homophobia and life interruptions caused us to put the sequel on hold for several years. This actually turned out to be a blessing, because it allowed us to improve on scenes not yet shot, expand the script to add new scenes, and, of course, we went gangbusters on celebrities, putting them in roles throughout the movie from start to finish, and we enlisted a lot more focus group feedback to give the audience what it wanted. So, the delays allowed us to arrive at a better end result and audiences are enjoying it.

Q: We saw the post credit teaser scene… is there another Surge in the works?

A: We actually have already shot scenes with Nichelle Nichols as Omen for the third movie, “Surge of Power: Call of the Champions,” and for our web series, “Big City Chronicles.” There is a little sneak peek of Nichelle on set for “Call of the Champions” that is on the Blu-Ray and DVD as a Special Feature that runs for almost 5 minutes. So, Nichelle will appear as Omen throughout all Surge of Power projects. We also have already shot a handful of cameos for “Call of the Champions.” Now, how many years it takes me to actually make the whole movie, remains to be seen, but, folks can keep an eye on our activities and our progress by watching “Big City Chronicles” episodes, which is a variety show consisting of celebrity interviews, behind-the-scenes looks at all the movies, sneak peeks and new mini adventures of Surge. Keep an eye out at www.surgeofpower.org

Reel ROB Rating: 5.25 out of 10 stars

Post Credits Scene: Yes

We want to thank our friends at Reel News Daily for allowing us to do this guest review!

New trailer for ‘Batkid Begins’ – the story of one kid’s wish to be a superhero that united the world

batkid_2

In select theaters June 26!
http://www.batkidbegins.com/
https://www.facebook.com/batkidbegins/

It’s November 15, 2013.Twenty-five thousand people descend on San Francisco. Online, two billion others join in. This massive crowd erupts with a collective display of public emotion rarely seen. With a Beatlemania-like intensity, people take to the streets and screens. They are all united to fulfill the wish of 5-year-old Miles Scott, who is recovering from Leukemia. It is his dream to become Batkid and save Gotham City. Untitled BatKid Documentary chronicles the making of the overnight international phenomenon that is BatKid.

The film reveals what happens when an event goes unintentionally viral. Will the San Francisco Make-A-Wish Foundation fulfill its mission to help Miles reclaim his childhood after battling disease for more than half his short life? Or will the event itself spiral out of control; consume the organization, scare Miles and shut down an entire city?

Audiences will come along as Patricia Wilson, executive director of the San Francisco Make-A-Wish chapter, and her team – in true superhero spirit – tackle the monster they created.

Before BatKid, the largest crowd Patricia had organized was 300. She posts an RSVP on her website. Immediately 7,000 sign up. Soon the number is growing at 1,000 people a day, overwhelming Patricia’s team. Will the young boy’s dream
get lost in a nightmare?

This film shows what can happen when people come together in the spirit of “Yes! And….”

Everyone Patricia and company approach say “Yes!” And even take the request a step further.

Featring exclusive illuminating interviews with all the main players including executives at Twitter and Apple, the film reveals surprising truths about what happens when a nerve is touched in our digital society.

The film looks at the “why” of this phenomenon. Why did the intense outpouring of spontaneous support for a five-year-old reverberate around the world? In the end, the film leaves audiences to decide; did Miles need the world for inspiration? Or did the world need Miles?