I admit that I was totally psyched when I first caught the trailer of Overlord, produced by J.J. Abrams and directed by ace indie director Julius Avery. The trailer had everything I liked in a horror movie – it was graphic, it was dark and it promised to deliver the body count in volumes. Little did I know that I was in for a disappointment, and a major one at that.
Synopsis: During World War II, a company of soldiers is sent on a mission to take down a church tower in a small town in France. It was believed to be a critical area in the Germans’ communication network. However, even before the company could land the platoon, their plane takes heavy fire and only a handful of soldiers survive. Hell bent on completing their mission, battle tested Corporal Ford (Wyatt Russell) leads his remaining troop Private Boyce (Jovan Adepo), Tibett (John Magaro), Chase (Iain De Caestecker), Dawson (Jacob Anderson), and Rosenberg (Dominic Applewhite) in a suicide mission to take down the tower, and along with it a secret facility that the Germans have been protecting for a good reason.
I don’t know what I was expecting from Overlord but it definitely was not the movie that I signed up for. The trailer’s heavy metal background music, the snappy editing and the edgy cinematography set the scene for a fast paced action thriller but what the movie summed up to be was a compassionate soldier who discovers a shocking conspiracy and gets his ragtag crew to follow along.
To say that the main character Boyce was the worst kind of soldier would be an understatement. It is true that even in war, soldiers must maintain a certain level of humanity. However, Boyce more than once compromised their mission and the lives of his fellow soldiers by not following instructions from his superior officer. He is impulsive and inexperienced. Yet at the end of the day, his troop went along with his idea, even though it was not clear whether he was on the same page as his group (bombing the tower or simply saving the boy). His heart was in the right place, but they were in the middle of a war and I think that his sense of heroism was misplaced to say the least. The same goes for Chloe (Mathilde Oliver). She was too brash and impulsive to merit any empathy. No wonder she clicked with Boyce.
On the flipside, I very much liked the character of Ford because he was a real soldier’s solider. He was a great leader considering their very dire circumstances and he was what the crew needed to survive. I also liked secondary characters Tibett and Rosenberg. For guys who had to take on majority of the heat, they did pretty well, I guess.
The setting for the French town at night seemed like a low budget movie set, with only a few houses scattered around and very very scarce props to make for a convincing underground facility. There were very few details to make for a convincing town under seige. Everything was too sparse to merit any real threat.
There were also too few scenes to truly emphasize the terrifying abilities of the monsters that lurked beneath the tower to pose any real sense of horror. There were too few scenes to show how the monsters preyed on their enemies or the graphic nature of their attacks to make audience fear the soldiers’ fate once they storm the tower. It seemed like a big joke, quite honestly.
While I would typically laud the use of practical effects in the face of a CGI dominated industry, the practical effects, especially the ones used for main villain Captain Asbek (Pilou Asbæk) looked more like a halloween mask than anything that would truly merit any goosebumps.
The worst part is that Overlord did not really offer anything new when it comes to the WWII genre. This storyline has been explored several times already with much more successful results. The movie did not take any risks or push the envelope to deliver something new. It would have been better if they went the campy route and really went evil dead on the Nazi theme. It would have generated the excitement it promised in the trailer.
Unfortunately, Overlord was a massive disappointment from start to finish. I even nodded off a couple of times throughout its relatively short run and I don’t think this is something that a movie in this genre was aiming for. It was corny, predictable and frustrating. It was overhyped and underwhelming. That’s the kindest description for it, I guess. I may be in the minority for this movie but I completely stand by it.