Every week, I scour Netflix for a movie rated at one star and put it in my queue, suffering through it for your entertainment so that you don’t have to. In the past, I’ve taken on anime cancer demons, softcore Iraq War porn and racist ventriloquism, and now it’s time to do it again.
STAN LEE’S LIGHTSPEED (2006)
Starring: The finest cast a Sci Fi Channel original film could afford, by which I mean Nicole Eggert and Lee Majors.
Here’s the thing about being a legend: Once your career hits a certain point where you’ve done something undeniably brilliant, it’s essentially bulletproof. You put a Thriller or a Rubber Soul in the bank, you can do as many Blood on the Dance Floors and Ringo Starr solo albums as you want and nobody’ll bat an eye, because on the balance, you’re still coming out ahead. It’s like having a creative parachute, and while there are plenty of people out there who have trade on past glory, very few have done it as often – or as affably – as Stan “The Man” Lee.
Lee, of course, is the guy who co-created Spider-Man, the X-Men, Iron Man, the Avengers, and pretty much comic books as we know them today, and while he did all that with the help of extremely talented collaborators, he was the one shrewd enough to have his name attached to the whole shebang. As such, he’s been the public face of Marvel Comics for almost fifty years, and among a certain demographic, that buys you a pretty long line of credit. Credit that, over the past few years, Lee has spent on bringing truly, hilariously terrible projects to life.
Such is Lightspeed, which is not just a one-star movie, but a one-star Sci Fi Channel Original, which means that it didn’t even meet the standards set by Mega Shark vs. Giant Octopus.
As near as I can tell, Lee’s only credited as Executive Producer – which we suspect amounts to someone going “hey, let us put your name in the title” and cutting him a check – but John Gray’s script manages to make up for that by cribbing virtually every plot point from something Lee wrote. As a “fun” game you can play at home, try having a shot every time you hit something that sounds suspiciously familiar in the next two paragraphs.
Scientist Edward Bartlett is working on a way to regenerate the skin of burn victims using snake DNA when, in a fit of irony that anyone who has ever read a comic book could see coming from a mile away, he is himself horribly burned. An attempt to science himself up a cure leads to him becoming a grotesque snake-man, which has the side effect of also turning him insanely evil, giving him the ability to shoot accurately with a gigantic handgun in each snake-fist, because, you know, snakes are so good at using their hands, and also makes him think it’s a good idea to walk around in cargo pants and a Jedi robe. Thus, rechristening himself as “Python,” he sets out to literally blow up “the government.”
This plan is somewhat complicated when he runs across mild-mannered counterterrorist Daniel Leight (get it? Leight?), who gets a dose of experimental radiation after Python tries to kill him in the hospital, and because this is a Stan Lee joint, he ends up with super-powers. Specifically, he gets the power to run really fast, but with the caveat that he has to keep drinking what appears to be Gatorade Frost to keep his heart from exploding. They fight, mainly over a technological MacGuffin created to help the environment that–and I know you won’t believe this–Python is planning to use for evil. The good guy wins, but not before he’s given the “hero or menace” treatment by the local press.
Did you take a shot for every plot point lifted from a comic Lee wrote in the sixties? If so, we regret to inform you that you are dead of alcohol poisoning. Our condolences.
Rounding out the cast, both literally and figuratively, are Lee Majors, who makes a completely inexplicable third-act heel turn, and Nicole Eggert (of Baywatch, Charles In Charge and at least two Corey Haim movies), who is in the film for one reason and one reason only:
As you might imagine, the end result here is a movie that is not very good, mainly because there are a lot of plot points based around Lightspeed completely ignoring the fact that he’s got super-powers. And even when he does use them, the whole moving-really-fast thing is abandoned to give him the ability to stand around while a stuntman does trampoline jumps over the bad guys. There are insane coincidences written in to plug gargantuan plot-holes, like the fact that Lightspeed gets his costume by going to a sporting goods store and just buying it, insignia and all, or the way that Python and Lightspeed totally know who each other are, but neither one bothers to do anything with this information. And then there’s the weird ending where the good guy wins by straight up setting his enemy on fire and throwing him out a window. Also, considering she’s kidnapped, punched in the face twice, and screams in terror at the sight of guys with guns, I’m pretty sure Nicole Eggert is the worst counterterrorist ever.
That said – and I’m pretty sure this is the first time I’ve ever typed this in a Worst of Netflix article – there’s actually a lot to like about this one. Jason Connery (who plays Lightspeed) is actually kind of paunchy and balding, and even when he’s meant to be moving at super-speed, it’s just sped-up footage of the guy lumbering along at a somewhat brisk jog. As bad as that is, it’s also kind of endearing.
And while there is no way in hell that any of the dialogue in the last fifteen minutes was actually written down on a piece of paper, Python’s increasingly rapid shrieking – which includes lines like “I’ve always liked blue! Such a pretty color to DIE IN!” – is hilariously amazing.
Which isn’t to say that it’s a good movie. It’s awful. But by Worst of Netflix standards, it’s not all that bad, and it’s certainly not the worst thing Stan Lee’s ever had a hand in. Heck, for the guy who created Stripperella and Ravage 2099, this one’s actually a step up.
|Chris Sims is a freelance comedy writer from South Carolina. He briefly attended USC before he dropped out to spend more time with Grand Theft Auto, and his career subsequently took the path that you might expect from someone who makes that sort of decision. He blogs at http://www.the-isb.com and creates comics at http://www.actionagecomics.com.|