Superhero movies have been huge for about a decade now, so how come I’ve never heard anyone so much as mention the existence of Condorman? Directed by Charles Jarrott, Condorman is fairly fun, and more explosion-filled than I would have expected. Let’s take a look!
Condorman is the story of Woodrow “Woody” Wilkins (Michael Crawford), a comic book artist who, for bizarre reasons best known to himself, insists on never putting anything in his comics unless he’s tried it himself first. This is why, in an attempt to legitimize his newest creation, Condorman, the film opens with our hero jumping off the Eiffel tower with a sketchy set of bird wings.
It’s hard to make out from still frames, but there are very visible wire holding him up.
Of course, this is probably a really dumb idea for a comic book artist. Case in point: his wings almost instantly break.
As fun as an hour and a half of a cartoonist trying out various shitty gadgets would be, it wouldn’t quite be a movie, so an espionage plot is introduced. Turns out the CIA needs a civilian to go on an ill-defined courier mission to Istanbul, and Woody’s CIA paper-pusher friend Harry (James Hampton) volunteers him for the job. Woody proceeds to get way too into it.
Anyhow, Woody claims to be an actual agent (codename: Condorman), and shit gets fucked up. Before you know it, Natalia (Barbara Carrera), a Russian would-be defector, insists that Woody be the agent in charge of her extraction. Instead of writing this off as ridiculous, the CIA decides to hand over complete control of the operation to Woody, whatever the cost. Woody, being the comic-obsessed weirdo that he is, insists on all kinds of expensive gadgets, like a Condormobile!
And… an Eastern European motorhome?
Impeding his progress is the evil Krokov, who, in addition to being a corrupt communist, has a creepily-one sided sexual relationship with Natalia.
Pictured: Only one person who is into this.
Also, a leather clad automobile assassin with a metal eye (Jean-Pierre Kalfon) who looks like Hank Azaria from certain angles.
But not this one, really.
Fights and explosions ensue. Will Woody, taking on the persona of Condorman, be able to save the day?
Condorman is all about nerdy wish fulfillment. Our hero finds himself in a unique position to live the life of one of the characters he writes about, the titular Condorman. He is able to literally live out his wildest fantasies.
One of his fantasies is apparently looking like a goof.
As one might expect, he’s fairly gleeful about all this. Understandably so; he’s living the dream. But while being all smiles is cute and fun when you’re just tooling around in your Condormobile, it gets a little creepy when you start straight-up murdering people.
Once he gets rolling, Woody is killing people left and right, and though this is straight out of James Bond, it’s kind of unsettling when it’s framed as someone’s dream come to life. But hey, those are hired assassins, they got what was coming to them. It’s not like any ordinary people’s lives were impacted. Oh, shit. They totally fucked up a wedding.
In the course of one of their many escapes, Woody and Natalia lead a group of assassins into a couple’s wedding, accuse the groom of bigamy, and trick him into fighting a known killer who promptly beats the shit out of him. What was going to be the happiest moment of these people’s lives will forever be shrouded by violence and doubts about the groom’s fidelity because Condorman needed an escape route.
That’s right. Laugh it up, you monster.
I guess the moral to take away from all this is that James Bond may be fun at the movies, but if you actually try to live out his fantastic life in reality, you’re going to turn into a fucked-up murderer and life ruiner. Best to keep that shit in fiction.
WHY DON’T PEOPLE LIKE IT?:
It’s not immediately apparent to me why Condorman isn’t remembered more fondly. There are some excellent performances here, as well as some fun chase scenes and enjoyable slapstick.
Briefcase dick punch!
That being said, the movie is fairly uneven. For every super-enjoyable awesome scene, there’s a dull or nonsensical one to even it out. Some of the effects are laughably bad as well. I can see how, in retrospect, this might seem like a piece of nostalgic fun from the early ’80s, despite not having struck anyone’s fancy at the time of release. It’s also a little weird that all of the tropes it plays off are spy tropes, not superhero tropes. Ah, well. Could be worse; could be Superdad.
- The guy from the opening scene of Kick-Ass bears a striking resemblance to Condorman. Homage? Maybe.
MOST REGRETTABLE MOMENT:
A key part of Woody’s plan involves disguising himself and Natalia as gypsies. Clearly Woody doesn’t know that dressing up as cultural stereotypes isn’t cool (he and Harry dress up like Saudi princes later in the film) but on this occasion, he goes above and beyond, commenting to Natalia, “I hope you don’t mind the gypsy disguise, I figured you’d look good in anything.” The implication being that most people who dress like gypsies don’t look good?
Way to add insult to stereotyping, Condorman.
Condorman isn’t perfect, but it’s a fairly fun, explosion-filled spy film pretending to be a superhero movie. If you’re looking to expand your obscure superhero movie knowledge, this should probably sneak onto your list. Be aware, though, you’ll probably have to rent it on YouTube because the DVD is currently only available through the Disney Movie Club. Enjoy!