Over the last few years, superhero films have transformed from niche novelties to a box office powerhouse genre all to themselves. Comic book publishers have become movie studios and hurl boatloads of cash into adapting property after property. Batman, Superman, The X-Men, and Iron Man are all now major cinematic franchises. The landscape of superhero cinema has completely shifted so that it has become rare to find one made on a shoestring budget.
Luckily, Netflix’s Watch Instantly service is offering you the chance to see not only a low-budget Chilean superhero flick, but also one that is damn good to boot. We hope you’ll consider check out Mirageman.
Who Made It: Mirageman was directed by Ernesto Diaz Espinoza. Espinoza is a guy who just flat out gets genre films. He loves them with an earnest, unbridled passion and there is no niche within which he can’t work…and excel. He tackled superheroes with Mirageman, fantasy warriors with Kiltro, and ’70s era spies with Mandrill. Mirageman netted Ernesto an Audience Award for Best Film during 2007’s Fantastic Fest here in Austin.
Who’s In It: The star of the film is a martial arts wizard named Marko Zaror. Zaror earns his distinction as a wizard with every mystifyingly acrobatic kick and flip. His punches land with such blistering speed that you may find yourself rewinding certain scenes and playing them back in slow motion just to identify the exact moment of connection. Marko began his career serving as a stunt double for none other than The Rock in The Rundown. Zaror has collaborated with director Ernesto Diaz Espinoza on each of the three aforementioned genre films (Mirageman, Kiltro, and Mandrill); starring and serving as fight choreographer.
What’s It About: Mirageman is the story of a pair of brothers whose parents are brutally murdered right before their eyes. Years later, the older brother, a skilled martial artist, is working as a bouncer in a nightclub while the younger brother, having never fully recovered from the shock, is institutionalized and nearly catatonic. The older brother (Zaror) fed up with the crime in his city, the criminality that took his parents, decides to do something about it. He patrols the streets at night looking for ways to help when he stumbles across, and foils, an attempted rape. The woman turns out to be a news reporter and spreads the word about this amazing hero. Soon, Mirageman (as he has come to call himself) is battling criminal elements all over the city.
Why You Should Watch It:
Imagine if when Batman began, he did so with absolutely no money. Mirageman is the story of a man who has all of the drive, and all of the physical talents, necessary to take a stand against villainy with absolutely no financial resources to fall back on. It perfectly parallels the limitations faced by Diaz Espinoza as he made this film. But what Mirageman lacks in financial backing, it makes up for in stellar fight sequences and a tremendous amount of heart.
Mirageman, for all his proficiency in hand-to-hand combat, has no idea how to be a superhero. He can hold his own against even the strongest human adversary but consistently loses battles with simple logistics. Case in point, the first time he changes into his costume to tangle with a group of muggers, he returns to find his street clothes stolen and must ride home dressed as his superhero alter ego. But this is not a character that is meant to be mocked as a buffoon, and we embrace his mistakes because of the real reason he risks his life night after night battling crime. His hospitalized brother begins to show marked improvement while observing the exploits of Mirageman on the news. It is so sweet and uplifting to watch the boy cheer on his hero, unbeknownst to him to be his own brother, and it is here that the movie solidifies its powerful emotional core.
Again despite its low budget, and again thanks to Marko Zaror, Mirageman has some unbelievable fight sequences. As you watch him take baddies apart, you’ll have to keep reminding yourself that the punches that land are staged. Zaror strikes with such speed and brutal impact that you’ll be raucously cheering the knockout of every single foe. Look for his signature move: the double flip spin kick. I tell you to look for it because if you dare to blink, you may miss it.