To title your film with the superlative ‘Fantastic’ is playing with fire. Firstly, in this age of Marvel’s silver screen domination and DC’s valiant attempts to catch up, it would be understandable for any jaded cinema-goer to skip this one, expecting another facile, spandex-clad superhero epic; secondly, if it fails the headlines write themselves, and every movie critic worth their salt would crowbar in a reference to the irony of the film’s title. Luckily, Matt Ross’ sophomore effort Captain Fantastic, following 2012’s 28 Hotel Rooms, will have few critics drawing knives, and anyone eagerly searching for an antithesis to the recent barrage of superhero blockbusters in cinemas will be satisfied, if not delighted, when the credits roll.
The Phenom is a difficult film to pin down. While trailers and taglines suggest a sports drama in the vein of, say, A League of Their Own or For The Love of the Game, this somewhat sombre drama feels tapered down, unwilling to pander to the feelgood melodrama that can sometimes overwhelm these kind of movies. It’s the story of the improbably named Hopper Gibson (Johnny Simmons), a talented pitcher thrust into the limelight after signing for a major league club straight out of school.