Secret Headquarters (2022) poster

Secret Headquarters (2022)


USA. 2022.


Directors – Henry Joost & Ariel Schulman, Screenplay – Henry Joost, Josh Koenigsberg, Ariel Schulman & Christopher Yost, Story – Christopher Yost, Producers – Jerry Bruckheimer & Chad Oman, Photography – Larry Fong, Music – Lorne Balfe, Visual Effects Supervisor – Blair Clark, Visual Effects – Mr. X (Supervisor – Jerome Escobar), Opsis (Supervisor – Justin Jones), Pixel Pirates (Supervisor – Michael Justin Shermis) & Worldwide FX – Sofia, Bulgaria (Supervisor – Alexander Valev), Special Effects Supervisor – Peter Chesney Sr., Production Design – Martin Whist. Production Company – Paramount/Jerry Bruckheimer Productions.


Walker Scorbell (Charlie Kincaid), Owen Wilson (Jack Kincaid), Michael Peña (Ansel Argon), Jesse Williams (Sean Irons), Momona Tamada (Maya Monroe), Keith L. Williams (Berger), Abby James Witherspoon (Lizzie), Kezii Curtis (Big Mac), Charles Melton (Hawaii), Jesse Mueller (Lily Kincaid), Dayna Beilenson (Ms Squint), Mick Daily (Officer O’Reilly), Ninja N. Devoe (Officer Grant)


Jack Kincaid is out camping with his wife and son Charlie when they see something come down out of the sky. Jack rushes to the scene, as also does the soldier Sean Irons, and finds an alien object. Out of this emerges an orb that selects Jack. Ten years later, Charlie is a teenager and a huge fan of the superhero The Guard. He goes to his father’s cabin for his birthday weekend only for Jack to be called away on business to Charlie’s disappointment. Charlie invites his friends over to the cabin. They accidentally discover an elevator leading down to a secret underground lair filled with exotic gadgetry and make the realisation that Jack is The Guard. The four amuse themselves playing around with the gadgetry. However, this serves to alert weapons manufacturer Ansel Argon who is determined to obtain The Guard’s tech. Argon despatches a group of mercenaries headed by Irons, who is bitter that that the orb conferred powers on Jack instead of himself. As the mercenaries invade the headquarters, the kids are forced to rely on the gadgetry to defend themselves and stop the orb falling into the wrong hands./p>

Directors Henry Joost and Ariel Schulman first appeared with the Found footage film Catfish (2010). They then went to work with Blumhouse making Paranormal Activity 3 (2011) and Paranormal Activity 4 (2012). Building on the success of these, they subsequently made the social media thriller Nerve (2016), the Blumhouse horror Viral (2016) and the quite good superpowers film Project Power (2020), as well as produced the tv mini-series The Watcher (2022).

Secret Headquarters comes from high-profile Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer, known for films like Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Top Gun (1986), Bad Boys (1995), Armageddon (1998), Pearl Harbor (2001) and the Pirates of the Caribbean films, among a good many others. Bruckheimer’s films, especially his collaborations with Michael Bay, has become synonymous with loud, noisy big screen action. Joost and Schulman co-write with Christopher L. Yost, who had previously scripted assorted Marvel animation, the live-action Thor: The Dark World (2013), Max Steel (2016), Thor Ragnarok (2017) and created the live-action Cowboy Bebop (2021) tv series.

There is a cute idea at the heart of Secret Headquarters – kid discovers that his father is a superhero, kid and his friends have fun playing around with the hi-tech gadgets they find in secret underground headquarters and then have to save the day when a villain invades the lair. I could have seen this doing great things if were made in the 1980s or even as recently as the 2000s. However, in 2022, the Superhero Film is a genre so overloaded by Marvel and DC entries, parodies, comedies and films about non-powered superheroes that all that Secret Headquarters is is a mild novelty item that raises a vague shrug of interest and then disappears amid everything else in the field.

Kids in a superhero lair Walker Scorbell, Momona Tamada, Keith L. Williams and Abby James Witherspoon
Kids in a superhero lair – (l to r) Walker Scorbell, Momona Tamada, Keith L. Williams and Abby James Witherspoon

The bulk of Secret Headquarters is not even a superhero film – we never even get to see Owen Wilson in costume until well past the halfway point. Instead, it is more a film about kids having fun and hijinks with a series of gadgets. These include everything from force shields, to jet backpacks and a hi-tech equivalent of the Scooby Doo van. The most fun to be had is with a hoop that allows anything put through it to emerge out of another hoop wherever it is – from people’s heads to allowing some novelty cheating on exams.

It all emerges as something incredibly generic – the recent P.G. Psycho Goreman (2020) was a film with a not dissimilar theme that had a great deal more witty fun with its premise. All we get is a slightly more hi-tech version of Spy Kids (2001) but without the level of wit and humour. This is trapped down more at the level of a kid caper like Rim of the World (2017).

Michael Peña makes for an okay villain is a nothing much part. The latter third of the film becomes the kids defending the lair against invasion by Peña’s heavies. It is here that the Jerry Bruckheimer element comes to the fore and the light-hearted fun becomes overrun by slams, bangs and power punches. Up against the rest of the MCU at al, it feels like a case of having seen it all before. There’s a general competence to the proceedings but not much substance.

Trailer here

Director: ,
Actors: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
Themes: , , , , , , ,