Movie review by
Jeffrey M. Anderson, Common Sense Media
Archenemy Movie Poster Image
Lots of violence, language in atypical superhero tale.
  • NR
  • 2020
  • 90 minutes

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie has too many secrets to keep for it to be strong on messages, but, at its center, it's about a friend helping another friend overcome his despondency to find his purpose again (even if that purpose isn't entirely noble).

Positive Role Models

Main hero Max Fist is driven by rage and violence and, while powerful, is not really a positive role model. But a new hero emerges, and, based on this character's behavior, it's a promising beginning (especially given that the character is non-White and not male).


Animated interludes with extremely strong blood and gore (severed arm, etc.). Strong, brutal fight sequences with punching, kicking, killing, etc. Neck-breaking. Guns and shooting; many killed. Blood spurts, bloody wounds, huge pools of blood. Man brutally stabs a woman in the stomach. Man briefly throttles a woman. Woman smashes man with chair. Characters jump through window, fall and smash to ground below. Car runs over character; character smashes windshield, rips spoiler off, bashes car with it. Character shoots self in head playing Russian roulette. Firebombing delivery truck. Scenes of anger, rage, tension.


Brief flashback shows a couple holding hands. Man shown wearing nothing but tight red briefs and boots. Brief shirtless man.


Strong, frequent language includes "f--k," "s--t," "motherf----r," "bulls--t," "a--hole," "bitch," "ass," "hell," "goddamn." Middle-finger gestures.


Mentions of iPhone, Twinkies.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Main character downs lots of whiskey, gets staggering drunk, vomits more than once. He drinks several cans of beer after waking up. He also buys and snorts cocaine and meth as a way of "enhancing" his "powers." Villains are drug dealers. One minor character snorts cocaine and offers various other drugs. Drug-related dialogue.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Archenemy is an "alternative" superhero movie about a man (Joe Manganiello) who may or may not be a superhero from beyond time and space. Violence is a big issue, with lots of fighting, killing, blood, gore, guns, and shooting. Animated sequences feature particularly strong gore, a woman is stabbed and briefly throttled, a man shoots himself in the head playing Russian roulette, and more. A main character drinks excessively (mostly whiskey, but also beer), gets staggering drunk, and vomits; he also snorts cocaine and/or methamphetamine. Other characters also snort cocaine, several villains are drug dealers, and there's drug-related dialogue. Strong language includes frequent use of "f--k," "s--t," and more. Sex isn't much of an issue: A couple holds hands, and a man is shown in tight, red briefs. Overall, the movie's story is a bit thin, but it's very entertaining moment by moment.

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What's the story?

In ARCHENEMY, Max Fist (Joe Manganiello) is a hard-drinking, unhoused man who claims to have been a superhero in a world called Chromium. He says that while he was battling his nemesis, Cleo, and trying to protect his world from her evil doomsday device, he slipped through an opening between time and space and crashed on Earth, where his powers are inert. Aspiring journalist Hamster (Skylan Brooks) interviews Max and slowly becomes his friend. Meanwhile, Hamster's sister, Indigo (Zolee Griggs), works for a drug dealer called "The Manager" (Glenn Howerton), hoping to make a better life for herself and her brother. When Indigo tries to make a break for it, an all-out war starts, and Max must help his new friends.

Is it any good?

With cool characters and costumes and a winning combination of the grim and the spirited, this snappy sci-fi story both adheres to traditional superhero themes and turns them thrillingly sideways. Archenemy doesn't always do a good job of guarding its ultimate reveal (is Max really a superhero?), and, by the movie's end, you get the idea that maybe there was a better story to be told here. But what the film lacks in overall reach it makes up for with its small, potent doses. Directed and co-written by Adam Egypt Mortimer, who also played with friends who may or may not be what they seem in Daniel Isn't Real, this movie's best asset is its neatly defined characters.

Manganiello does a great job of keeping Max on the fence, despondent and self-destructive but also genuinely frustrated. Brooks is a delight as Hamster, first glimpsed wearing socks with smiley and frowny faces on them. Even the villains stand out from the background, especially one who wears glasses and a sweater-vest. But it's Griggs who emerges as the star. Archenemy is brutal and violent to be sure, but Mortimer keeps a clean frame and a good pace, the animated interludes are gorgeous, and even the talky scenes are framed in dynamic angles. Overall, it's one of the finer examples of the "alternative" superhero movie genre.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Archenemy's violence. How did it make you feel? Was it intended to be shocking, or thrilling? Or both? What's the impact of media violence on kids?

  • How are alcohol and drugs depicted? Given that the main character seems to use drugs to "enhance" his "powers," are they glamorized? Are there consequences for drinking or using drugs? Why does that matter?

  • Are any of the characters role models? Why, or why not?

  • What's the appeal of superhero movies? What do superheroes have to say about who we are in life? How does Archenemy compare to more typical superhero movies?

  • How does the movie treat/represent non-White characters? Why is representation in the media important?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love superhero action

Themes & Topics

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