I'm a big fan of Nichols' previous work, so I had high expectations for this movie and I have to say that I was very disappointed.
Teproc, I agree with you about Dunst's character. What does she add to the narrative? And I would actually add Edgerton's character to this point. What does he add to the narrative? What do either of these characters actually DO that changes the course of the story? If this was a character study, I might agree that "having both parents helps retain the mystery of why he has those powers by keeping him more 'normal'" or "Dunst realises way before Shannon what is going to happen and she explains it to him" could justify the runtime Dunst is given, but this a plot driven chase film, trying to sustain forward momentum. To me, on a very basic level, Dunst and Edgerton should be adding something to drive the plot forward. I would go as far to say that Shannon, Dunst, and Edgerton could, instead of being three partially explored characters, be combined into one full character and a scriptwriter would have no major narrative issues to solve and the movie may even be better for it.
My biggest problem with the movie is the way it progressively destroys any and all stakes that the movie has set up the further we get into the movie.
- The movie opens with this lovely tension between Edgerton and Shannon. Edgerton is conflicted. Shannon is devote. This could provide a nice dynamic. Nope, Edgerton sees Alton's magic powers and neutralizes this conflict.
- Alton can't go into the sunlight. This puts some interesting constraints on our most important character and gives him a weakness. And now he's getting sick from using his powers. What do we do? Just go out into the sun. Two birds with one stone. Both points of vulnerability are gone. No more weakness. Except...
- The government and that cult! They're after Alton. If he get's captured, that's the worst thing that could happen! So that happens. And I think, "Great! This movie's about to get real." Except what happens? The government takes out the cult guys, so they're no longer a threat. But that's okay, Adam Driver's on the job. Y'know, the guy that the movie has established as our hero's smartest enemy. Mono y mono. This is gonna be good... And it is good. That's a cool scene. But then I realize that the movie just neutralized our hero's two biggest threats. And what did they DO to overcome those threats? Alton used magic powers and Shannon, Edgerton, and Dunst just went to a parking lot and felt sad. Then we're back to status quo. The only thing that has changed is that the stakes just dropped considerably. The trajectory of the plot is exactly the same.
At this point I've lost interest. The movie has been all but resolved and all major opposing forces have been dealt with... Except the government! There's a roadblock! How are they gonna-- oh... they just drove through it. Then they're driving remarkably well on destroyed tires. Actually, this is a nice metaphor for the whole movie. Roadblock after roadblock directly driven through with incredible ease until the narrative is driving on flat tires. The flat tires are the stakes in this metaphor.
Please tell me where I'm wrong or misguided. Where were the stakes for those of you that enjoyed this movie? I don't like being so negative about a movie with so much obvious talent and potential. I don't think it was that bad of a movie. I was just very disappointed.