Thunder Force, the new Netflix movie starring Melissa McCarthy and Octavia Spencer, opens with a promising premise: cosmic rays hit the earth and give superpowers to a select group - sociopaths. This creates a world with super villains (aka Miscreants), but not super heroes. Emily Stanton’s (Octavia Spencer) parents are killed by Miscreants when she is in middle school, and she vows to avenge their deaths by genetically engineering super heroes. Lydia Berman (Melissa McCarthy) is Emily’s childhood best friend, but after a falling out in high school, the two are estranged until adulthood and reunited at the point in which Emily has cracked the genetic code to create super heroes.
It is important to note that McCarthy’s husband, Ben Falcone, wrote, directed, and acted briefly in the film. While it is marketed at a buddy super-hero movie, and McCarthy and Spencer are publicizing it together, the movie is clearly a vehicle to highlight McCarthy, which is illustrated by the fashion.
We’ll start with looking at the outfits of the two stars in the scenes in which they are reunited:
Over the last few years, McCarthy has lost weight, and her outfits in Thunder Force are tailored very well to her shape – possibly to highlight the weight loss. Spencer does not get the same attention – granted, her shape is different than McCarthy, but her clothes are baggy, loose, and make her look weighed down. In the scene above, McCarthy has a tight t-shirt and jeans fitted to her body. Even if we give the fashion direction a very generous benefit of the doubt – maybe they were going for a lab coat look with Spencer? The pants are baggy and too big.
During Emily and Lydia’s reunion, Lydia accidentally injects herself with the super serum, giving herself super strength. We learn that Emily has already started the process to make herself invisible and was planning on injecting the super strength serum into herself.
So, the white lady steals the Black lady’s strength, rendering her invisible. M’kay. And, you can cross White Lady Redemption Story off your bingo card.
On to the next outfit. While the heroes are undergoing additional treatments to increase their superpowers, we see them training in exercise clothes.
Again, Lydia’s clothes are tailored and fit her body shape well. Emily’s are baggy and unstructured.
Lastly, let’s look at the super hero outfits:
Yet again, Lydia’s outfit is tailored and flattering. The lines accentuate her curves that convention deems attractive. Emily’s outfit has too much fabric especially in its voluminous (for a super-hero outfit) skirt. In later scenes you can also see bunching around the armpits. Super-hero outfits should match – there’s an odd difference in the colors. And they should be made to accommodate each hero’s power. Lydia has super strength, including protection against damage, so she doesn’t need a ton of armor plating. It should be thin and flexible for hand-to-hand fighting. Emily should have a little extra armor to protect her, but it should still be light and flexible for her to move soundless when invisible.
We should pause here to give a shout out to Taylor Mosby, who plays Tracy, Emily’s daughter. She’s Thunder Force’s tech genius and holds her own in scenes with Spencer, McCarthy, and Melissa Leo (ex-CIA agent turned Emily’s right-hand woman) – no easy feat. Tracy designs the super hero outfits, and if her brilliance throughout the rest of the movie carried over to the outfits accurately, they would have been executed much differently.
Along with the gem that is Taylor Mosby, we liked that the movie never says the super heroes can’t do their job because they’re fat or women. There are some funny scenes involving their chosen car – or the “Lambo” as Lydia calls it. Who wouldn't pull up to a convenience store robbery like this:
Let's face it, we would get out of this car the exact same way:
It’s a good admonishment that the world wasn’t made for us. For any trolls out there who say we should lose weight to fit in a Lambo, fuck you. We should be able to be big and beautiful, and drive a ridiculously expensive and impractical sports car at the same time.
There are some snide comments from the villains about their ages, but in context it’s easy to chock that up to the villains being douchey trolls - a common trope in McCarthy movies that we can totally support (see above paragraph, douchey trolls).
Another trope in McCarthy movies, that we are not particularly fond of, is the overlap of food and sex. Lydia’s love/sex interest in the movie is The Crab – a crustacean-armed villain hilariously played by Jason Bateman, an actor who has fully embraced his talent for embodying smarmy charmers. While the chemistry between McCarthy and Bateman is undeniable, their scenes go on too long, and their sex scene includes a healthy dose of Old Bay seasoning. It’s unfortunate that in the very rare instances that fat people are shown in sex scenes, they include food. This isn’t to say that food shouldn’t be incorporated into a healthy, consensual sexual encounter. With so few fat sex scenes on screen, however, the message just seems to be that we can’t put down food long enough to fuck.
We’ll get off of the fatphobia/sex soapbox, and hop back up on the fashion. Not only is Emily’s outfit not designed and tailored well, but there is also this egregious problem:
No one could get OCTAVIA SPENCER’S costumer a steam iron??
In summary, the film has funny moments, but we were too distracted by the obvious fashion neglect of Octavia Spencer to fully enjoy it.
d+b rating: Fuck This for a veneer of equality slapped on casual racism, odd fat tropes, and fashion sins.
Want some additional reading?
Octavia Spencer is lovely and extremely talented, and deserves better. Here are some examples of how it’s done: Octavia Spencer’s Awards Season Style
More about the d+b rating: Everything we review on the blog will either receive a "Fuck This" or "Gimme More." We'll take a look at pop culture or industry happenings with an intersectional feminist eye to settle on a rating.