Quantcast
your £$ support needed

part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Overlord movie review: underwhelmed

Overlord red light

MaryAnn’s quick take…
This Nazis-with-supernatural-weapons horror schlock drags its feet getting to its fantastical elements and then does absolutely nothing interesting with them, just wallows in dull, rote gore and grue.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): Nazis, I hate these guys
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)
women’s participation in this film
male director, male screenwriter, male protagonist
(learn more about this)

Nazis with supernatural weapons? Is this movie taking place in the alt-universe where Indiana Jones wasn’t able to prevent Hitler from getting his hands on the Ark of the Covenant? You’ll wait a long while to find out in Overlord, which drags its feet getting to its fantastical elements and then does absolutely nothing interesting with them once it arrives there. The flick may open with terrifying elegance, but by the end it has descended into a slab of WWII horror schlock crammed with dull, rote gore and grue that plays more like an unrealized concept for a video game than a movie. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to learn that this is, in fact, one giant advertisement for an upcoming game that pits you, as a US Army grunt, against Nazi soldiers who have been–

Most genre movies get bigger as they go, building to a huge finale. Overlord seems to shrink in on itself after its big opener.
tweet

Well, I won’t spoil, even if there’s precious little unexpected about what we encounter here. There’s plenty familiar even while Overlord treads water through its first half, before what bare story it has to offer actually starts, as it sets up its scenario: On the night before the D-Day invasion in June 1944, a small band of American soldiers parachutes into enemy territory behind the Normandy beaches on a mission to take out a German radio tower jamming Allied transmissions. This is essential if the invasion is to succeed. (“Overlord,” as you may know, was the codename for the entire Allied offensive to push into Europe.) The insertion sequence, all droning warplanes flying through enemy fire in the dark of night and then hellish jumps to the even more dangerous ground below, borrows a whole helluva lot — visually and structurally — from the invasion sequence in Edge of Tomorrow (which was itself, of course, inspired by D-Day), but… fine. It’s pretty thrilling anyway, even if we’ve seen it before, and I bet it looks even more terrific in IMAX. (I saw this on a regular-sized screen.)

“One woman in the movie, and lotsa guys? I can fix that!”

“One woman in the movie, and lotsa guys? I can fix that!”

But while most genre movies get bigger as they go, building to a huge finale, Overlord seems to shrink in on itself after its big opener, getting smaller in every way the longer it goes on. Clichés of the war movie abound, though there’s not even any winking recognition of this in Billy Ray (Secret in Their Eyes, The Hunger Games) and Mark L. Smith’s (The Revenant) script. It’s nice that the nominal protagonist here is a black soldier, Boyce, but nothing distinguishes him beyond that, except Jovan Adepo’s (mother! ) performance: he’s wonderful, with a warm charisma that makes us like him instantly. As an actor, he deserves better. And his character deserves a better movie. The leader of this little band, Ford (Wyatt Russell: Ingrid Goes West, 22 Jump Street), is the usual gruff sarge; I had trouble telling some of the other soldiers apart, they’re so indistinct. Naturally, the Token Girl, French villager Chloe (Mathilde Ollivier), stands apart in her token-femaleness, as does the token Nazi officer, Wafner (Pilou Asbæk: Ghost in the Shell, The Great Wall), who is little more than a uniform and a permanent snarl. The extent of characterization Overlord has to offer is Wafner sexually intimidating Chloe, which the Americans must witness so… why? So they will hate the Nazi enough? It’s incredibly lazy stuff.

“Secret Nazi medical experiments? You don’t say...”

“Secret Nazi medical experiments? You don’t say…”

Still, no one goes to a horror flick for incisive character development, right? And yet the movie faffs around for a solid hour before the action moves to the church tower where the target radio jammer is, and to the hidden Nazi lab the Americans discover underneath it, where Bad Things are happening. (Secret Nazi medical experiments? What a shock.) There’s no reason for Overlord to hold off so long revealing what it’s going to be about — what’s really going on — except that it doesn’t know what to do with its secrets once they’re revealed. The film teases hints of the macabre and the unnatural — what’s with Chloe’s aunt, hiding in her room and making weird noises? — but even those teases never gel into anything; often they don’t even make any logical sense within the story itself. (We never understand how Chloe’s aunt could have come to be in the state she’s in, for one.)

As Overlord narrows itself down to the confrontation with what is happening in that Nazi lab, the movie has left no options for itself except violent hacking and hewing of flesh. I guess that was the point of it after all. But Australian director Julius Avery (Son of a Gun), making his big-budget Hollywood debut, has nothing intriguing to offer here, just tedious blood and guts the likes of which we’ve seen before.

A shorter version of this review appeared first at The List.


Click here for my ranking of this and 2018’s other theatrical releases.


Apple News
Read this review and other select content from Flick Filosopher
on the News app from Apple.


red light 1.5 stars

Please support truly independent film criticism
as generously as you can.
support my work at PayPal support my work at Patreon support my work at Ko-Fi support my work at Liberapay More details...

Overlord (2018) | directed by Julius Avery
US/Can release: Nov 09 2018
UK/Ire release: Nov 07 2018

MPAA: rated R for strong bloody violence, disturbing images, language, and brief sexual content
BBFC: rated 18 (strong bloody violence, gory images)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • RogerBW

    “Nazis with (alien|occult|mad science|etc.) power-ups” is a very standard idea in computer games (it’s been over 25 years since Wolfenstein 3D), as well as RPGs and board games (all of which move rather faster than mainstream film), so I think it’s fair to say that most of the potential audience for this film won’t regard it as an amazing new idea. Which to me means that making it like a classic war film is a double recipe for un-interest from the potential fans.

  • Kielioss

    You’ve got a few errors in your review here, but that’s okay because people tend to not pay so much attention to a film when they don’t like it

  • Tonio Kruger

    * Rolls eyes. *

  • Tonio Kruger

    What? You say there are two women in this movie — Chloe and her aunt? Why that must mean that all the male characters are outnumbered. And if there were three, the poor guys would be overwhelmed….

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    *shrugs, contemplates a replay of some of the Wolfenstein games*

  • Kielioss

    Oh they were overwhelmed as there were another one and a half women. One was Mrs Lesner who was a snitch and the other was physically half a woman who was reanimated.

  • You’ve got a few errors in your review here, but that’s okay because people tend to not pay so much attention to a film when they don’t like it

    So I guess you missed the bit where I explain how I really really liked the opening sequence?

    – Ford’s ranking was Corporal. Bokeem Woodbine played the Sarge.

    Does this really make any difference?

    – Wafner threatens Chloe that he’ll take her little brother to the church to experiment on just like her Aunt.

    Yeah, I did miss that. But please explain how THAT makes any sense within the context of this story. Why the hell would they let the experimented-upon people leave?

  • Kielioss

    I’m sorry if I have upset you. It was never my intention to do that I should have stated that I also did enjoy your review as I found it to be very witty and made me laugh in a good way.
    I’m going to skip on answering your first two questions as I don’t want to carry on something that might end up turning into a convo that’s not even about the film. the third question though I will gladly answer as it is about the plot of the film.

    “Yeah, I did miss that. But please explain how THAT makes any sense within the context of this story. Why the hell would they let the experimented-upon people leave?”

    Spoilers Below!!!!!

    Her Aunt was a failed experiment as was stated later in the film when Wafner overdosed on the serum that the testing on live subjects were unreliable. Since she was of no use to the nazi experiment then they sent her home, but kept tabs on the house.
    I hope this explains it. Once again I really liked this review and am sorry If my first comment upset you.

Pin It on Pinterest