Story: Max (Joe Manganiello) is a homeless man with severe alcoholism, but he used to be a hero, at least that’s what he tells everyone. He claims to be from another world, one where he possessed superhuman powers and used them to battle Cleo, his archenemy. The threat of an apocalypse was constant, as Cleo tried to use a doomsday device to trigger an extinction and when he intervened, he was sent through some kind of rift in the space time continuum. While many have heard his stories, no one believes him and most assume his claims are due to the alcohol or mental illness, or both. But Hamster (Skylan Brooks) takes an interest in Max and since he has aspirations to become a journalist, he follows Max around and interviews him about his stories. But is Max just a drunk with delusions of greatness or is his wild tale actually true?
Entertainment Value: Given how assembly line the superhero genre has become, I was hoping Archenemy would buck that trend and to an extent it does, offering some fresh vibes for the comic book cinematic experience. Of course, the movie can’t compete in terms of budget, but as low end as Marvel’s special effects have become, this movie is able to hold its own and to me, Archenemy’s visual aesthetic and overall vibe are fantastic. The narrative is interesting and has a slow burn texture, allowing room to develop characters and world build, while never hitting pacing issues and also keeping the audience engaged throughout. That’s no simple task, but Archenemy manages thanks to the visuals, solid plot, and a great cast that makes the most of the material. I’ll talk about the cast more later, but I appreciated that the characters felt like comic book denizens and the cast runs with that, adding even more of that comic book feel, as opposed to a generic action picture. I also liked the animated segments, but I do wish the movie had the budget to explore the set pieces in live action. Archenemy has its issues, but I found it to be a more than solid superhero effort, recommended.
I loved the casting choices in Archenemy, because as I stated before, most of the performers are game for the comic book feel of the material and that enhances the entire movie. Joe Manganiello is not usually one of my top picks for a lead, but he is quite good here and balances the drama and humor well, in a very solid overall effort. He makes a competent grizzled tough guy, embracing the downward spiral his character has found himself in, while keeping an edge of humor and he keeps the character as someone you can root for, even when he falls short. And of course, he looks like a superhero and that doesn’t hurt, but Manganiello brings a lot more than muscles to the table here. Glenn Howerton is wild as usual and was a perfect choice for his role, but I think Paul Scheer steals the show, in a small, but outlandish and memorable part. The cast also includes Skylan Brooks, Jessica Allain, Joseph D. Reitman, and Roy Lee Jones.