Condor, TheReviewed By David Cornelius
Posted 03/27/07 21:20:11
Sometimes, Stan Lee has a point. Want young readers to connect with your characters? Make your characters angsty youths. It’s worked for the guy for decades.But other times, Stan the Man, why, he tries too darn hard. Like in “The Condor,” the latest release in the “Stan Lee Presents” line of direct-to-video animated adventures. Our hero is a skateboarding champion, because the kids today sure love the extreme sports. And in Stan’s head, the kids won’t dig this crazy scene unless every single character spends the first third of the film spouting nothing but skateboard slang. Teens babble on about “shredding” and “ripping” and “grinding on some rails,” and I feel bad for Marv Wolfman, the legendary comic book author whose job it was to take Lee’s story, make a workable script from it, and then, at Stan’s insistence, go back and add in a bunch of “with-it” slang he found listed somewhere online, because kids won’t relate unless you use words borrowed from a Mountain Dew commercial.
(Then again, maybe it was Wolfman’s own choice to clumsily add in all that extreme sports patter in a hopeless effort to be relevant. Who knows? Who cares?)
“The Condor” is the result of Lee’s decision to finally create a Latino superhero. (It’s unclear if this is part of an atonement for only creating white characters back in the heyday of Marvel Comics, or if Lee is merely trying to tap into a growing market force.) And so we get Tony Valdez (voiced by Wilmer Valderrama), skateboarding champion. His family regrets Tony’s decision to drop out of college in order to skate; they wanted him to continue with the family business, a major robotics corporation.
Someone in the company has hired a masked villain to set up shop testing a mind-control headband on hapless victims, oh, and could those drones please kill Tony’s parents? There’s also some stuff about DNA regeneration (?) and nanotechnology, just enough technobabble to be of use once Tony is injured in a nasty attack, leaving him unable to walk (or skate!). He’s fitted with a set of cyber-legs, which, along with a flying skateboard (!), turns him into The Condor!
At a mere 75 minutes (apparently the mandatory length for a Stan Lee DTV effort these days), the movie spends too much time on its uninteresting origin tale and too little elsewhere. The first hour is bloated with Lee’s old standbys: dead parental figure sends hero on a quest for vengeance; hero has to learn to put ego aside; etc. There’s a subplot wasted on guessing the identity of the masked baddie, a twist that will be a surprise to maybe two of you. It’s superhero-by-the-numbers. And when the story finally kicks in, the script is forced to rush through the finale in order to beat the running time.“The Condor” isn’t too horrible a comic book movie - the animation is slick, the action is serviceable - but it’s mostly just so dull that the good parts never matter. The hero is a third-tier, who-cares? filler character, the kind whose adventures would quickly find their way into the quarter-an-issue box at your local comic book store. Instead we get him on DVD, where he can quickly be forgotten in the bargain bin, while Stan the Man moves on to, I dunno, a teenage snowboarder with robot arms. Excelsior!
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