“Midnight (Not so) Special” – Spoiler free Midnight Special movie review

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Okay, we admit it – it’s a terrible pun, but there’s no way back now. In our defense, we had another one prepared for the best case scenario, which you won’t see because the movie was a let down. Maybe we should blame Jeff Nichols, a director that has two pretty satisfying movies under his belt – Mud and Take Shelter; or maybe it is the lack of memorable characters, sloppy acting even, what’s putting a spoke in Midnight Special’s wheels. It’s time for us to dissect this failed opportunity and find out what’s the real reason that stopped Jeff Nichols from finally getting into Hollywood’s Olympus every movie maker dreams about.

We’re all familiar with this kind of specimens – J.J. Abrams’ Super 8, in some way The Fourth Kind with Milla Jovovich in the front row, even Steven Spielberg’s E.T. could somehow fit in this bizarre gang. All of these movies, including “the one and only” Midnight Special, have something in common. And I’m not talking about their fascination with paranormal activities or green people from outer worlds – they are all about the ending. The rest of the movie is there just to build up for what’s going to happen during the grand finale. This is mostly the case for all the films we know and love, but for movies like Midnight Special – it’s like butter for bread; lens flares for every super hero movie; final strokes for all artists out there, depicting whether or not their final piece will be cherished and known for days to come or it’s going to be an utter disaster… You can guess for which camp Midnight Special is going for.

And even if the ending of Midnight Special was not exceptionally satisfying as it should have been, it wasn’t a train wreck either. You could have seen it all coming, especially being familiar with Jeff Nichols’ films. Not to mention that these kind of movies all have pretty much the same ending, only difference being is how they portray it and what 2-3-note dramatic melody they choose for that.

Despite the movie’s undelivered, predictable ending, it’s surprising, but Midnight Special had a strong opening. First of its 15-20 minutes showed something promising. Solid start for what could have been a really great sci-fi drama movie that we would have remembered even after it will be taken out from cinemas. Maybe even excited about extended Blu-Ray release with director’s commentary… Well, we don’t believe that’s happening any more.

Having a really good cast of well-known actors, such as Adam Driver, you probably know from the new Star Wars movie as baddie Kylo Ren; Sam Shepard that also been part of Nichols’ Mud; Kirsten Dunst, Joel Edgerton and Michael Shannon, whose names speak for themselves. Stunning acting could have carried this movie out of its misery, but this wasn’t the case. Maybe the acting was okay, but it’s a subjective thing (except for the boy – we will not comment on that one), to say the least. However, what was bothering us the most, it’s the characters of Midnight Special. Only a few you will remember after the movie finishes – Lucas (Joel Edgerton), a former state trooper that’s been helping to bring the “kidnapped”, unknown-powers-having-boy of Roy’s (Michael Shannon) to the place where movie’s finale takes place; and magnificent Calvin Mayer (Sam Shepard), who could have stayed on screen for a little bit longer and not only as an cult leader. They both had pretty stone cold dead serious type of characters, yet they still managed to do a great job in showing some other emotions than that.

“But what about the others?” you may ask. Other personages would be okay, if not their dull and emotionless (or too emotional) personalities, let’s put it this way. Let’s take Roy (Michael Shannon) for starters – he’s a dad who “kidnapped” his own son and throughout the entire movie he shows very few emotions. At least he’s good at being serious for straight two hours, what, as a matter of fact, was honestly too long, even if that’s the standard these days… Oh, yes – Kirsten Dunst. She plays overly emotional mother who lost her son. Believe it or not, but in Midnight Special she’s even more emotional than in all first three Spider-Man movies combined. That’s hardly possible, we know, but it’s true. Maybe it’s the effect of full moon, who knows… It was Midnight after all.

We live in times, where a perfectly fitting song and breathtaking montage combined (*finger pointing at all those ‘false promise’ trailers*) – can make miracles and make any movie look good. This is exactly what happened with Midnight Special. It had potential and a powerful opening sequence, let alone strong cast… This could have been a case of bad writing, not the fault of directing. But as this film was directed and written by the same person, there’s only one person to give the blame. It appears that Jeff NicholsMidnight Special is not that special after all.

Written by: Chris Starks

Chris Starks is a professional screenwriter of nearly two decades and Editor-in-Chief for MachinimaSBOC. As a keen comic collector, film and TV fanatic, enthusiastic about theatre and a proud Spartan you can find him at most London-based conventions hovering around various stalls hunting down bargains and having a larf.

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