“No moral theatre” Midnight Special review


By Rob Stoakes

There is a TV show that is well known across the pond in ‘murkha and not very well known here called Mystery Science Theatre 3000, where comedians watch terrible public domain films. It’s sort of like wrestling; most of it sounds rubbish but is actually great. Anyway, it was during the watching of Midnight Special where I thought of one of their more famous quotes; “We hope you’ve enjoyed no moral theatre, ladies and gentlemen!”

So, the plot of Midnight Special is that this child with no personality really needs to get to this place (we’re never told exactly where) and something will happen, and if he doesn’t then… umm… well, the film forgets to say. And it never gets around to saying how the boy knows he needs to get where he needs to get to, or why the FBI want to stop him, or why this Christian cult want to stop him, or why the people who help him and his family get him to this place want to help him.

It is utterly impossible to care about what is happening on screen at any point in this film. Like a flame-grilled barbecue with plastic food, this film badly needs some stakes. It’s the same problem as The Lady in the Van; the mere presence of a mystery is not incentive enough to have it solved, especially not a mystery that involves people who have little to no chemistry or personality. It actually starts out ok, with two men treating the same situation very differently so we as an audience can tell who’s nice and who’s nasty, but then afterward they just act the exact same as everyone else, which is just unhelpfully vague.

The plot is also a structural mess. While avoiding spoilers, there’s an extended period towards the end of the film where the boy is taken by some people and everyone thinks that all is lost. Within ten minutes, he’s back on the road like nothing happened. There’s also the fact that the entire reason the plot starts is that the boy is reported as being kidnapped. It is never said by who or why. This only compounds the lack of interest, and it seems that the actors are as disinterested. I literally mean it when I say that everyone is as full of life as a photograph of a painting of a breeze block, without exception.


Jaeden Lieberher and Kirsten Dunst. Photo by Warner Bros.

Not that they’re given anything interesting to say. I’ve only finished watching it an hour ago and I literally cannot remember a single line of dialogue or even the characters’ names. By comparison, I saw Hardcore Henry this morning, barely awake and probably still in my pajamas, and that had a far smarter script with wittier dialogue and memorable characters, and most of that stars Russians speaking Russian with such thick accents that not even the Russians understand them.

I’m not even close to covering the technical aspects of the film, but that is how bad this plot is. A shame, then, because the direction and cinematography is very good. A visually stunning film with large sweeping vistas and good special effects, especially towards the end. The soundtrack is a little more ho-hum but otherwise the film is a technical treat to the eyes.

But it doesn’t matter how nicely you paint your house if it’s not structurally sound, and this particular house is made out of chewing gum and paper. Midnight Special is more boring than a drill made out of hairy pigs, and it wouldn’t help if the film was so beautiful that the audience started humping the screen. The worst part by far is that, by the end of the film, nothing is learnt by the characters or the audience. It just sort of ends. No moral theatre indeed, ladies and gentlemen!

Category Score
Story/Plot :star:
Acting/Vocal Performance :star:
Special Effects/Cinematography :star: :star: :star: :star:
Soundtrack :star: :star:
Costume/Design :star: :star:
Script/Dialogue :star:
RATING :star: 1/2

3 thoughts on ““No moral theatre” Midnight Special review

  1. I just scanned your review but it is more believable than the nonsense mainstream reviews for this film which applaud it. This film was rubbish! However it could be sucker bait for stressed families. They remember E.T., the plot was virtually the same as E.T. i.e. alien, this time the boy, has to get to a mother ship to be wisked home. It seems to be saying that its ok to have a stressed family with a dysfunctional kid, that is the norm. One of the main characters said “I like worrying about you”. Its sucker bait, its reinforcing the idea that worry and stress is the norm for families but somehow if you meet E.T. at the end your transcended and understand some deep mystery of the universe or something. Complete nonsense. I found it tedious and almost laughable.

  2. I’ve just got around to watching this and regret this Saturday night ever happened! I put this up there with Jupiter Ascending – it’s total garbage!

    • Hi Ethan,

      Many thanks for your comments, what a shame you didn’t enjoy Midnight Special! I’ll be sure to pass on your thoughts to Rob, the author of this review!

      I hope you continue to enjoy reading Movie Metropolis. Adam.

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