A Clever, Genre-Hopping Picture
Gritty Spanish drama Unknown Origins has no right to be as enjoyable and engaging as it is. On paper, the idea of blending superheroes, mystery, gritty crime and comedy feels like a mash-up destined to fail. And yet it doesn’t.
In fact Unknown Origins’ eclectic blend of ideas work so harmoniously together that it forms one of the more unusual and memorable takes on superheroes seen in quite some time.
Like any good origin story, we begin with a tragic past. From here, this forms the backbone for what ensues as a host of grisly murders imitate the origins of different famous superheroes. From hearts being ripped out to literal human flames, Unknown Origins is not shy about its violence and gore.
With the case beyond him, hardened police inspector Cosme hands the proverbial torch over to nerdy, comic-book loving Jorge. He teams up with David who’s less than enthused at the new team-up. Only, as they start investigating crime scenes and uncovering the truth, his disdain soon turns to admiration and respect.
All of this builds up to a dramatic and wonderfully whimsical third act that plays on all those big comic book tropes. You’ve got your epic orchestral score, the maniacal villain with a hostage and even some hand to hand combat.
The result is something that organically changes and evolves Unknown Origins across a spectrum of different genres. You’ve got your crude and darkly comical moments, lots of investigative beats and then, eventually, it settles into a more rhythmic superhero jam.
What’s particularly welcome with this film is just how much respect has been given to comic books. There’a a scene early on where David scoffs at the very notion of comic book lovers. Only, when he finds out what sort of clientele these places attract, he soon changes his tune.
While I appreciate Marvel’s cinematic universe has done a lot to dispel the old attitudes toward this, it’s still great to see another genre tackle this head-on.
That’s to say nothing of the characters at the heart of this one, who all do a great job with their performances. And that’s partly why this film works as well as it does. The characters are all likable, have some well-written arcs and really grow into their roles across the 90 minute run-time.
Unknown Origins is one of the finer examples of breathing new life into an aging formula. It’s one that takes the best elements from a variety of different genres and blends them together to create a new superhero worth following. If there’s one Netflix Original you watch tonight – make sure it’s this one.