The pulpy Overlord defies expectations
Haljit Basuljevic – Contributor
“Overlord,” released last week did not invite much hype, but defied the expectations of it.
The audience is dropped in the midst of Allied soldiers scrambling on a plane leading up to D-Day in Europe in World War II. Their mission is to destroy a German radio position perched atop an old church, to prevent the interception of air supplies by enemy troops. Pulsating fear envelops them as they watch neighboring aircrafts crash down in flames. It is truly an intense and dazzling moment, one that sets itself as a classic opening scene.
Boyce, our protagonist, plunges into and emerges from the ocean, ripping through wet, suffocating parachute fabric like an enraged baby breaking out of the womb. A symbol, if you will.
This is symbolic, because the always moral Boyce is forced to confront the contradictory yet terrifyingly justifiable reactions his teammates have towards war, whether it’s the wisecracking tough guy, Tibbet, or the duty-or-die Corporal Ford.
As one of the soldier’s muses about publishing his experience when he gets home, he steps onto a landmine and all his dreams dissolve into the flesh scented smoke. If there is any commentary, it is that war instills a logic of its own.
Except that the film foregoes any case for nuance in its latter half. This was a little surprising, but not really, because the first half of the movie is pretty damned good.
For a movie that follows a standard formula, there are some beautiful shots here, such as spectral green foliage looming in the background, nods to classic B-movies, and one of the ugliest jump-scares of late that provide a pleasant touch to its label as a war/horror film.
After the soldiers take hostage of a French native named Chloe in order to sneak inside a Nazi-infested village, we later learn that disfigured civilians are injected with a serum. Experimented within Frankenstein’s’ antechambers, Nazi doctors breed invincible, sickly-skinned monsters called the 1,000-year soldiers.
Whereas the first half of the movie excelled due to its thrilling edge and its sparse use of effective horror, a free-reigning script that did not restrict itself to merely reaching plot points, the second half dwindled into a fun-loving gorefest that reached video-game levels.
Heads are popped into pink puddles, bodies are incinerated at will, Chloe even arms herself like a badass, and everyone is having a good time.
In a comic-book moment, the Nazi Wafner transforms into a two-faced, boss-level zombie with the same pulpy introduction of any superhero villain.
A snobby side of the audience may really want the grave sincerity the film evoked in the beginning, maybe to just stretch the characters out of their predefined roles. Looking back though, the film could have benefitted from its absurdity outlasting through the end instead of wrapping everything up in happy-go lucky bow tie where the only redeemable thing was that “Bridging the Gap” by Nas played while the credits rolled.
“Overlord,” is an exhilarating trip, one for the arthouse heads who later fall asleep, and one for the lovers of quickly paced, intense B-movies in all their nonsense and imagination.
Photo Credit: Haljit Basuljevic