"Molly" Fights Like A Supergirl
Thematically, it’s hard to mess one up, especially given that the motion pictures exploring what’s left after ‘the Big Bang’ is a world itself that has already been messed up beyond belief. There’s no life, no liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (or whatever prospect for happiness remains) is the thread which ties the feature’s characters together. Though there’s nothing left, we’re all still chasing something, be it food, gas, or simple survival. Unlike other genres, Apocalypse-laden films strip society bare of all it’s relied on for so long – technology, convenience, humanity, etc. – and put mankind back to the Stone Age where the fight for tomorrow might be as simple as racing against time for something as commonplace as one’s daily bread.
“Molly” does that, but where I think it fails is writer/director Thijs Meuwese’s persistent attempts to do ‘something more’ when ‘something less’ seemed to work well enough on its own.
(NOTE: the following review will contain minor spoilers necessary solely for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the type of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, I’d encourage you to skip down to the last few paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)
“In a barren landscape ravished by war, Molly, a super-powered young woman, roams the violent post-apocalyptic landscape, armed only with a bow and arrow. When a sadistic ringmaster who runs an underground fight club hears of her supernatural abilities, he sends his sociopathic marauders to capture her and make her a star attraction in his cage rights to the death.”
Having grown up in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, I had the good fortune of not only being exposed to more than my fair share of B-Movies but also falling in love with so many of them. The names of these films aren’t important – heck, some of them aren’t even available on home video these days as catalogues have morphed from videotapes to DVDs – because its always ‘the experience’ which matters more than does the storytelling logic. (FYI: many of these films made little narrative sense, but they were captured with as much spectacle as their filmmakers could muster.) It’s safe to say that most B-Movies took a central idea and then exploited it every way probable, searing images into the minds of audiences with gore, splatter, and other practical camera trickery.
In short, these were more ‘spectacle’ than ‘specifics,’ and you had to absorb it all with a few grains of salt.
“Molly” is a throwback to those earlier days of phantasmagoric storytelling. It’s “Evil Dead” without the Dead. It’s “Mad Max” without the cars. It’s “Sharknado” without so much a single pixel of CGI.
For better or for worse, Thijs Meuwese’s script (he shares directing duties with Colinda Bongers) borrows heavily from perhaps every other Apocalypse ever filmed, never quite defining the why and how the end came of civilization but instead reducing it to two establishing shots at the outset: a lovely day in the sun transitions sharply to the same scene, only now those once making merry have been reduced to bodies. Into the frame runs Molly (played by the impressive Julia Batelaan): she’s being chased by a pair of marauders, and their lives and hers will never be the same after this brief confrontation.
Still, I found it hard to reconcile “Molly” throughout Meuwese’s attempts to do more with the material than your average ‘End Times’ feature. A band of scientists enhanced Molly with these never-quite-explained powers, and we’re provided fundamentally no explanation for what they were trying to do or if they accomplished what they set out to; this has the cumulative effect of reducing our heroine’s seemingly magical abilities to the flick’s McGuffin. When you give a character what amounts to essentially superhuman power, why let her use them so sparingly? Granted, everyone alive seems to know of Molly’s reputation, so it’s clear she’s used them before; yet the audience is never told just why or where that myth comes from, and this cheapens the tale.
If you want to be a superhero picture, then be a superhero picture. If you want to be an Apocalypse film, then be an Apocalypse film. Why combine the two, especially when the pieces don’t quite go together in a way that makes this story any more palatable? This unevenness is never reconciled to my satisfaction, leaving unnecessary plot holes in an already porous landscape.
Mind you: “Molly” is not going to be for everyone. Despite what you might think or read elsewhere, this is pure B-Movie territory, and – as such – it comes with all of the good, bad, and ugly of B-Movie making. While I’ll admit to being a huge, unabashed fan of B-Movies, there were parts of this film I struggled with, mostly its utter lack of world-building efficiencies. How did we get here? Where do Molly’s abilities come from? And why are her powers so unevenly used, especially when she needs them most? The final scenes give promise of a follow-up, but I suspect casual viewers will have forgotten all about this film if and when that second installment ever arrives … well, everyone accept those who worship at the alter of B-Movies, that is.
The beauty of the classic B-Movie is that they take a premise – a supernaturally-gifted young woman fighting for survival against the Apocalypse – and stick with it, logic be damned. At times, “Molly” may not make much sense, and some laughably choreographed fight sequences might have you questioning your sanity. Still, as our superwoman perseveres, so does her motion picture, and that alone might make all of this just heroic enough for a single viewing.
In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Artsploitation Films provided me with a Blu-ray of “Molly” for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.