I was in the mood for some light fare, and what could be lighter than a direct-to-video cartoon superhero movie? Part of the Stan Lee Presents trio of films put out in 2007 — of which I’ve previously reviewed Mosaic — The Condor is the story of a young man who would like nothing better than to spend his days skateboarding. Tony Valdez (voiced by Wilmer Valderrama) is a carefree spirit for whom the problems of the world just hold no interest, despite the best efforts of his parents and his friend Sammi (Kathleen Barr). Of course, a superhero movie won’t let a carefree spirit be, and so it’s not long until his parents’ business partner does some evil deeds that lead to Tony learning the value of doing good.
He’s a British businessman with a goatee. That’s practically the evil trifecta right there.
If Mosaic bears thematic similarities to Spider-Man, The Condor is loosely reminiscent of Iron Man. This Tony’s no genius inventor, but he has the benefit of being best friends with one, and so when Tony needs some help, it’s Sammi who devices a pair of bionic leg braces and a cybernetic skateboard that allow him to move with superhuman speed and agility. A skateboarding superhero might fall on the sillier side of the spectrum, but the action sequences do a reasonable job of selling it. The animation quality is fairly good. Nothing remarkable, but it would easily pass next to typical 1990s animation, such as one might find in X-Men or Spider-Man. I should note, however, that this isn’t quite a cartoon for little kids; there’s nothing too objectionable here, but there are a couple risque scenes that move it to the higher end of PG. It’s more for young teenagers than the under-10 crowd, is all.
Story-wise, this isn’t exactly going to win awards for originality. You’re going to be able to follow and predict the plot if you’ve ever read a comic book… or watched a superhero movie… or seen the pilot episode of a superhero TV show… or looked up “superhero” in the dictionary. You know who the bad guys are even before they’re revealed. You know how Tony’s going to get involved. You know what twists are going to come up. I will say that I was pleasantly surprised by how it resolved a plot thread with Tony’s cousin, but this was ultimately a minor element in any case (and even that has a few holes in it).
But while the story may not be all that remarkable, it wasn’t bad either. It was just fluff. I went in not expecting much, and so there wasn’t much to be disappointed in. Though I will say that seeing legendary comic book writer Marv Wolfman’s name show up in the credits did get my hopes up. This is one of the few instances were the name of a writer had my interest more than the director; no offense to Steven E. Gordon, but it’s not like he wrote some of the most influential stories in comics. But sadly, this story is definitely a “follower” rather than a “leader”. Still, as such, it’s entertaining for its short 75 minute run time. It seems to me that a reasonable question to ask is whether I could see this character and concept working as a comic book or an animated series. And the answer is yes, I can. It’s not a home run by itself, and it also has to be judged by itself (as there is, after all, no such series coming forth at present), but as an attempt at creating a new character in this recent vintage it’s at least a reasonable try.