Even with a number of things going for it, Invincible feels too familiar. It’s a movie that’s been done to death, with the underdog sports star finally getting his chance to make something of himself. Despite the energy and charisma of Mark Wahlberg, Invincible is little more than an average sports movie.
It’s not that Vince Papale’s story doesn’t deserve to be a feature film. And it’s not as if Invincible is terrible. In fact, there’s a decent movie here, but after seeing this same story in both fiction and non-fiction so many times, is there any need for it?
If you are going to go ahead and give the underdog sports movie a chance, then at least do something with it. Miracle was an excellent example, bringing the film to life with incredible action on the ice that brought forth the emotion and style of the game. It also helped it stand out.
With Invincible, first time director Ericson Core doesn’t try to separate his film from the pack. The football scenes are overloaded with slow motion that becomes overdone and grating. The camera angles are nothing NFL Films hasn’t done before in the past, and some of the edits do a poor job of establishing time. The games outside of the pro stuff, including one in a park between friends, must be the most violent games ever played.
The characters are also clichés, with the coach’s wife doing little other than standing idly by while her husband works under increasing stress. There are the jealous players, the doubters, and the inspiring father. Oh, and don’t forget the hot girlfriend played by Elizabeth Banks.
Mark Wahlberg looks like a natural for this role. There’s no lack of enthusiasm, and his performance is all around excellent. It’s not enough to make the film a recommendation, although fans will have something to look forward to. Also, die-hard Eagles fans know and love this story, so it’s an easy sell to them as well. Regardless, this is another “me too” effort of the type that Disney simply loves to death lately.
Much of Invincible is filmed in a rather garish orange, warm hue. It skews flesh tones incorrectly, and makes the film ugly to look at. The transfer preserves this, which makes it difficult to judge, although the softness is obvious. Things pick up in the second half as Papale makes it onto the team. The colors take on a natural tone, the transfer sharpens up, black levels increase, and the detail becomes spectacular. All of the flaws in the first half can easily be forgiven when you see how spectacular the game footage is, but alas, it doesn’t completely compensate.
Disney offers up a high fidelity uncompressed mix for this football story, and uses it well. The presentation excels in subtlety and aggressiveness. Bar scenes are loaded with activity in all channels, and a sequence of destruction inside an empty house is spectacular for its echo. Into the stadium, the crowd literally fills the room and the hits deliver exceptional (if somewhat lacking) bass. There’s some minor demo material here, although the director’s choice means sound cuts out for dramatic effect during slow motion scenes.
Two commentaries begin the extras. The best of the lot features Papale himself, producer Mark Ciardi, and writer Brad Gann. The second, with director Core and his editor, is technical, without any insight into the events that led to the film’s creation. Two featurettes follow. Recreating the Vet is a seven minute piece on how the Eagle’s former stadium was recreated, and the second is a decent 26-minute making-of entitled Becoming Invincible.