“Lightspeed” is from the comic book genius who gave us characters like Spiderman, The Fantastic Four, and X-Men: Stan Lee. As a rule I like movies that follow the comic book tradition. There is something comforting about being able to believe that there are, at least in our fantasies, still heroes in world. We certainly don’t find many of them today, where people seem more intent on tearing each other apart than in trying to build each other up.
While the Spiderman and X-Men movies have proven to be both financially lucrative as well as popular with the fans, other comic book movies like The Incredible Hulk and Fantastic Four fall flat on both counts. I would like to say that Lee’s newest film “Lightspeed” fell into the former category, but the truth is that it doesn’t even make the cut of the latter. This can’t even be called a B film. I’m afraid it barely makes it into the C category. That’s not to say that everything about this movie is bad because it truly isn’t. But there is too much about it that just isn’t good.
As is true with a lot of comic standards, the hero and the villain start off as friends. One is a scientist named Edward and the other (Daniel) is a member of a covert government operation. The scientist is working on a serum made from snake venom that can help cure burn victims; in particular his wife who was badly burned in a car fire. I’m not quite sure how they movie makes the leap between snake venom and skin repair, but it does. This explains part of the problem with the film in that too much of the background is left undiscovered and unanswered. At any rate, as often happens with government funded projects, the money is pulled on Edward just as he is about to make his break-through. Knowing that he will now never be able to help his wife, he loses it and decides to trash his lab so that the government can’t glean any useful information from his work. In doing so he is caught up in the tradition “lab accident.” He starts a fire that he cannot escape. Using his experimental drug, he injects himself with the remaining serum, which alters his DNA severely. It turns him into an insane super criminal aptly named Python (like some of the snakes used in his lab). His friend Daniel – – the government agent – – believes that Edward was killed in the fire and has no idea that his new deadly rival Python is actually is one time friend.
The story continues to follow standard comic book lines with Python insanely attempting to kill anyone and everyone that he blames for the loss of his wife; including the entire U.S. government. Together with his ex-wife’s brother, they build an army of commandos and set about stealing key pieces of government equipment that will ultimately help them to destroy Washington D.C. Daniel, along with his covert government group called the ghost squad, is always hot on the trail of the terrorist group. One night they actually corner Python and his gang in a government building; taking out may of Python’s ranks. However, Python gets the drop on Daniel and manages to blow up the building with most of the ghost squad inside. Daniel survives but is severely hurt and sent to the same hospital where Python’s brother-in-law is being held after his own capture during the raid. Python comes to save his brother-in-law and finds Daniel being bombarded with low amounts of radiation in an attempt to speed up his healing process. Seeing an opportunity to finally get the best of his former friend, Python turns up the radiation. As you might suspect, however, this does not end up killing Daniel. Instead, it turns him into the superhero Lightspeed. He can move faster than anything else on the planet. However, the use of his speed severely burns out his energy and he must ingest a chemical to recoup his strength. He, of course, wants to use his new super-powers to stop Python from creating more havoc. In the meantime, Python has figured out how to get to Daniel by kidnapping his girlfriend; thus assuring the inevitable final show down.
This movie could have been so much better than it is. The plot, although similar in theme to most other comic book movies, has enough of a different twist to make it unique. However, the screenplay written by Steve Latshaw and John Gray, just doesn’t deliver on Lee’s story. The script is disjointed, jumping back and forth between the present and the past in a willy-nilly fashion that is not only unnecessary, but also down right distracting. The only character in the film that the writers do any justice to is Python. They manage to build a pretty good villain and illustrate what happens when madness destroys all vestiges of humanity. Lightspeed, on the other hand, appears to be thrown together from pieces of The Flash, The Hulk, and a half dozen other superheroes. It is not only ineffective, it is insulting to true comic book aficionados. Also left underdeveloped is the leader of the ghost squad and Daniel’s girlfriend. It seems inconceivable that the leader of such an elitist group would do nothing but stand around and watch as all of his men are slaughtered. He does nothing to help or even to try to save his crew. And although, Beth is somewhat more developed in that she is identified as a part of the ghost squad and proven to be a kick-ass heroine, there is no real connection drawn between her and Daniel. How did they get together? Do they really love one another? What makes her Daniel’s Achilles heel? In short, the script is simply incomplete.
Daniel Goddard as Python is credible enough; more so as the villainous Python than as his altar-ego scientist, Edward. He does evil well but is not convincing at all as a scientist wanting to prevent mankind’s suffering. Jason Connery is ill cast as agent Daniel Leight. I simply could not see him in the role of a hero. He doesn’t look the part, doesn’t act the part, and cannot sell the part in any way. As much as I know everyone will hate this, I actually like Nicole Eggert as an actress. I think she has often been underrated. However, her role as Beth – – Daniel’s supposed love – – gave her absolutely nothing to work with. But I will give her props for trying to eek something out of this character. Lessor actresses would have just given up altogether. Still, the biggest disappointment in the film is Lee Majors as the head of the ghost squad. This has nothing to do with Majors’s capabilities as an actor. He simply has absolutely nothing in the way of a script to help him build this character. Subsequently, I barely even noticed when he just disappeared.
Props must be given here for the makeup of Python. It is chillingly on the mark and helps to add the necessary amount of horror to this character. Additionally, there are a couple of gory scenes in the film that are more realistic because of the makeup and special effects. However, the effects used to illustrate Lightspeed’s speed were much less impressive. Overall, it is obvious that this film was made on an extremely low budget. They spent their money well on the Python makeup but could have done better in a lot of other places.
I give this film only one and one-half stars out of five and that is primarily for Goddard’s portrayal of Python and that character’s makeup. Sorry guys, this one is a bomb; no pun intended.
“Lightspeed” is a Sci-Fi Picture in conjunction with Anchor Bay Productions. It was shown on Sci-Fi Channel in 2006 and was recently (2007) releasted to DVD. It is 88 minutes in length and although unrated, would like be rated PG-13 for violence.