Lightningface is this wonderful little kinetic ball of energy and absurdity that had me grinning the whole way through. It’s visually marvelous and despite simulating a played out genre, it never felt stale or derivative of anything that’s come before it. It’s a superhero (or perhaps super villain?) origin story elevated into high art beyond anything Marvel or DC has ever and will ever put out, and it explores the main character’s motivations and psyche more in just over 19 minutes than most comic book movies do in their entire full-length runtimes and their numerous sequels and reboots. It’s contemplative and entertaining, but the film’s glaring weakness is its predictability. Without giving anything away, the ending is obvious and admittedly somewhat unsatisfying.
“…it explores the main character’s motivations and psyche more in just over 19 minutes than most comic book movies do in their entire full-length runtimes.”
The premise for Lightningface is a simple one. Oscar Isaac plays Basil Stitt, an ordinary man who gets struck by lightning. After the lightning strike leaves his face somewhat scarred, he descends into madness and cuts himself out of his mundane life. The fun of this short is seeing Oscar Isaac act out a manic social suicide. He is a little to hasty to accept his fate and instead of feeling sorry for him it’s almost hilarious watching him go to such extremes in order to cut others out of his life due to his minor deformities and embellished sense of purpose and destiny. I’ve loved Oscar Isaac in pretty much everything I’ve ever seen him in, especially 2014’s Ex Machina, and here he’s topnotch with his characters eccentricities and warped sense of tragedy. There is a scene where Basil leaves a voice message on his girlfriend’s phone informing her that they are breaking up and that he knows she cheated on him, but reasons that it doesn’t matter and he forgives her. The scene is an incredibly humorous one showing him taking unnecessarily drastic measures to alienate himself from his old life just because of a minor facial deformity. His hallucination involving a teddy bear is strange and downright mesmerizing; I wish this exchange could have been a bit longer, but it’s definitely the film’s highlight.
“With an easily digestible runtime and an engaging performance by the very talented Oscar Isaac, Lightningface gets a high recommendation from me.”
Lightningface is a gorgeous film that’s a feast for the eyes. It’s a fever dream that reaches an expected ending, and I wish it had deviated away from the obvious. I wanted to be wrong about the film’s climax. I wanted to believe that the film was headed towards a completely different conclusion but it double-downed on a formulaic idea. The payoff is satisfying enough, and the execution elicited some genuine laughs, but still Lightningface is a play on the concept of origin stories, and personally, I’m sick of origin stories. With an easily digestible runtime and an engaging performance by the very talented Oscar Isaac, Lightningface gets a high recommendation from me. I’d love to see what Director Brian Petsos could do with the superhero genre with a full-length runtime, and hopefully, that’s something we’ll get to see someday. As it stands, this short is an amazing little film that stylistically satirizes a genre that’s on the verge of creative bankruptcy.
Lightningface (2017) Written and Directed by: Brian Petsos. Starring: Oscar Isaac, Tim Rock, Erika Rankin, Kristin Wiig, Julie Petsos.
9 out of 10