Overlord (2018)

*. When I saw the trailer for Overlord my first thought was that it was going to be a remake of The Keep (1983). That might have been interesting. But we’re just going to have to wait.
*. Instead, Overlord is a mash-up of other titles and genres. I was most reminded of Frankenstein’s Army (2013), about a bunch of Russian soldiers in World War Two discovering a Nazi lab being used to create super-soldiers out of various spare parts. In this movie the Nazi doctors have apparently tapped into a well of the same gunk on tap in A Cure for Wellness, which can bring the dead back to life and make the living unkillable. Unlike zombies, you can even blow their brains out and it won’t stop them.
*. The story has a group of paratroopers being sent behind enemy lines into occupied France just before D-Day (hence the film’s title) to destroy a radio transmitter in a church. In the basement of said church the Nazis are engineering their “thousand-year soldiers” for the thousand-year Reich.
*. This might have worked, but the two storylines — the mission and the basement of horrors — don’t come together that well. Much of the script feels forced. Things happen just because they have to happen to have everything end up in the right place. Why, for example, do they waste so much time (when time is of the essence) beating up that captured German officer only to find out there were some 40 soldiers defending the church? What difference did that make to their plans? That is, if they had much of a plan. It didn’t seem like they did. And then having the officer escape was just something that had to happen so he could be involved in the final battle, since he’s the only villain that’s been built up.
*. The height of ridiculousness, however, comes when the little boy goes running straight out into the middle of a gun fight. Why? So that the cynical American soldier can be a hero. Did you not see that coming?
*. How important is historical accuracy in a movie like this? I think most people would say “not at all,” and I’d be inclined to agree with them. On the other hand, it is still worth noting that the American army wasn’t racially integrated until after World War Two. There were no interracial airborne units. You could shrug this off as being either Hollywood or revisionist history, but it’s the kind of thing that I think does contribute to the general dumbing down of young people, who might easily take such basic plot points as being factual. In 1917, a movie that would seem to be making a stronger claim to authenticity, similar questions were raised about the presence of Black and Sikh soldiers.
*. I did like a few little touches. Mathilde Ollivier is someone I wouldn’t mind seeing more of. And I like how the way Boyce (Jovan Odepo) cuts himself out of the parachute when he lands in the river is echoed in the creatures hanging from the amniotic sacs in the lab. Births and rebirths.
*. But overall I didn’t think Overlord was a lot of fun, and for a comic book adventure it should have been. It’s too dark and nasty, with none of the dry humour it needed. Wyatt Russell doesn’t yet have the kind of gruff charm his father had when facing similar beasties in The Thing. And while the medical/body horror gives us some unpleasant moments (as well as a surprising R rating), there’s nothing terribly original about any of it. I kept thinking of other movies here as well. The guy lifting himself off the meat hook comes from the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (or maybe something earlier). The hero and villain shooting themselves up with super serum at the end to do battle recalls Universal Soldier.
*. As I like to say, keep your expectations low and you won’t be disappointed. I don’t think this is as good as it could have been, but it’s a long way from being as bad as it might have been. I think if you’re going to make a movie this crazy though, you have to go further, in whatever direction you settle on. I didn’t get the feeling they did pick a direction, and they didn’t go far enough.

4 thoughts on “Overlord (2018)

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