The Hyperions (2022) poster

The Hyperions (2022)


USA. 2022.


Director/Screenplay/Animation – Jon McDonald, Producers – Justin Bell, Jon Michael Kondrath & Jon McDonald, Photography – R. Jason Ball, Music – Oumi Kapila, Visual Effects – Breakaway Post (Supervisor – Brian Nugent), Production Design – Christian Snell. Production Company – American Millimetre Pictures/Rekon Productions.


Penelope Mitchell (Vista Mandulbaum), Cary Elwes (Professor Ruckus Mandulbaum), Elaine Tan (Maya), Alphonso McAuley (Ansel), Keli Price (Ares), Tanner Buchanan (Apollo), Indigo Carey (Young Vista), Troy Metcalf (Oily Pinketter), Sal Lopez (Delano), Andrew Patrick Ralston (Captain Woodcock), Christian Fagins (Young Ares)


It is 1979. Vista, a former member of the team of superheroes known as The Hyperions, and her fellow former teammate Ansel, break in to The Hyperion museum in order to steal back their two Hyperion badges that are on display there. Back in the early 1960s as children, they were adopted by Professor Ruckus Mandulbaum, who had invented the badges, which grant superpowers to the wearer. Several years later, after many successful missions and the professor marketing their story as an animated tv series, he announced their retirement. This was due to Vista seeking her independence. He is currently recruiting replacements. When Vista finds that the badges on display are firmly locked into the display cabinet, she decides to take everyone in the museum hostage in order to demand that the professor come and return their badges to them.

The Superhero Film has dominated the box-office throughout the 2010s and 2020s. Amid this, there are very few superheroes that are not based on prior established comic-book properties and only a smattering that are not based on properties from the big two – Marvel and DC. You can count on one hand the number of superheroes that are original to the screen – the only successful ones among these that comes to mind is Darkman (1990) and tv’s Heroes (2006-10). Slightly more successful are original screen superhero parodies or deconstructions such as The Incredibles (2004), Defendor (2009), Super (2010) and Brightburn (2019). My feeling is that Marvel and DC have so explored almost every possibility that a superhero offers that when someone comes up with an original screen superhero, it is almost always seen as a lesser knockoff of something else.

The Hyperions is one of these rare ventures into original screen superheroics. It is certainly an odd take, one that sets everything in a Retro 1970s setting in terms of design, some costuming and in particular the use of technology and replication of the entertainment of the era – very similar to the one that appeared in The Incredibles. The film is neither quite a superhero parody, nor quite one that is a stylistic homage to bygone eras as The Shadow (1994), The Phantom (1996) and Justice League: The New Frontier (2008) were. It is also the oddity of a superhero heist/hostage drama film, which must surely be a first.

Professor Ruckus Mandulbaum (Cary Elwes) and Vista Mandulbaum (Penelope Mitchell) in The Hyperions (2022)
Professor Ruckus Mandulbaum (Cary Elwes) and Vista Mandulbaum (Penelope Mitchell)

The set-up of superheroic children rebelling against a mentor figure who has adopted them is strongly reminiscent of the contemporaneous tv series The Umbrella Academy (2019- ). The film uses this to slightly different ends – the professor figure here is more well-meaning. However, there is the same theme that runs through both of superheroic children feeling parental neglect and going to extreme lengths to win approval.

The film has the reasonably well-known name of Cary Elwes present in a leading role, as well as the rising face of Penelope Mitchell. It doesn’t look cheap but that is often due to a clever sleight of hand. It is only noticeable, for instance, as you get into the film that its superheroics occur off-screen – ie. it has a plot about former heroes breaking into a facility to get their badges of power back. Even then some of the superheroics are designed to avoid providing any big effects sequences – Vista’s only power is telepathy, while Maya simply teleports from one place to another in a flourish of animated bubbles.

The Hyperions was the second feature-film for director/writer Jon McDonald who had previously made the non-genre comedy Muddy Corman (2016).

Trailer here

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