How I Became a Superhero
By Brian Costello,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Some graphic violence, language in French superhero movie.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Characters use teamwork.
Positive Role Models
Superhero characters are appropriately cartoonish, and the more "real" characters are basic archetypes seen in many action movies. Some diversity in cast.
Violence & Scariness
Some graphic violence rooted in real-life events. For instance, in a scene reminiscent of a school shooting, a teen who has developed the power of throwing flames with his hands goes on a rampage in his school, and is shown running down the hall as other students scream and run for their lives. This results in an armed standoff with the teen and the police. Two teens purchase two tubes filled with chemicals that are supposed to give them superpowers after inhaling; when they crack open the vials and inhale, they quickly lose consciousness and die. In a morgue, charred remains of a body. Character choked to death with a rope. Some with superpowers are shown strapped to beds as their blood is being sucked out, slowly killing them. Footage of the outside of a nightclub before it catches fire; some bodies shown catching fire. Character shown attacked in an alley before being kidnapped.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
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Regular profanity usage, including "f--k." Also: "s--tshow," "s--thead," "bulls--t," "s--t," "a--holes," "ass," "t-ts," "crap," "douchebag," "balls."
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Products & Purchases
Red Bull directly referenced in one scene. Lead character fond of candy, shown buying or being given bags of candy, product name (Haribo) clearly shown.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Cigarette smoking. Wine drinking.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that How I Became a Superhero is a 2021 French action movie based on a novel in which a pair of cops must find out who's behind the selling of a potion that gives ordinary people superpowers. Besides the expected superhero action violence (exaggerated fighting between heroes and villains), expect some violence that may hit close to home. For instance, a teen who consumes the potion that gives him the power to throw flame from his hands starts to use it at his school; a scene in a high school hallway shows kids running and screaming for their lives while the flame-throwing teen pursues them before he gets into a standoff with the police outside the school. In a scene resembling a drug deal, two teens buy the superhero formula, immediately open it and breathe it in, and then they lose consciousness and die seconds later. Character choked to death with a rope. Charred body shown in a morgue. Characters shown kidnapped, strapped to beds while they're drained of their blood. Regular profanity, including "f--k" and variations of "s--t." Cigarette smoking and wine drinking.
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How I Became a Superhero
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What's the Story?
In HOW I BECAME A SUPERHERO, superheroes and regular people coexist mostly peacefully in modern-day Paris. While most superheroes tend to use their powers to become famous celebrities, some are engaged in sinister plans leading to disastrous consequences. In a high school, a teen boy buys two vials of a mystery formula that temporarily gives him the power to shoot flame from his hands, and he uses that power to go after the classmates who have bullied him. Shortly before this, a nightclub was set on fire and burned to the ground. Sent to both scenes is Moreau (Pio Marmai), a street-smart cop who doesn't always play by the rules. Much to his initial annoyance, he's paired with Schaltzmann, a bright but untested rookie. As they begin their investigations into these crimes, Moreau talks to superheroes like the retired Monte Carlo, and Callista, who now works with underprivileged youth. They soon discover that superheroes are being abducted, their blood drained and then converted into chemicals that can be sold on the street to give regular people superpowers. But things take an especially dark turn when two teens that Callista mentors buy the formula off the street and immediately die, and Lily, the teen daughter of one of the late members of the legendary superhero group Pack Royal, has gone missing. Now, Moreau must work together with Schaltzmann, Callista, and Monte Carlo to find and stop the villain who's behind these actions.
Is It Any Good?
This is an above-average superhero movie, satirical at times, disturbing in others. How I Became a Superhero is a mostly playful take on the superhero story, showing a modern-day Paris where superheroes are common and mostly assimilated into society, and are more likely to use their superpowers to get their own television shows and celebrity than solve crime. This part of the story is entertaining and often funny, as it counterbalances the less original and more violent aspects. Some of the parallels to our world can be a bit intense, particularly for more sensitive viewers, such as a scene in which a teen who has purchased flame-throwing superpowers off the street uses them to get even with classmates in what mirrors a school shooting, and a scene in which two at-risk teens buy this "mystery formula" and immediately take it, and instead of getting superpowers after greedily inhaling it, they lose consciousness and die. These and other scenes make the movie grittier than one might expect.
While the story itself has its fair share of originality, some of the tropes are way past the point of exhaustion. For instance, the "loose cannon male cop" paired with the "by-the-book female cop" by the "stressed-out police chief exasperated with the loose cannon cop's antics" needs to be retired. Regardless, it's still an entertaining movie, with the expected hints of a sequel that come across as something to look forward to instead of inducing eyerolling dread.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about superhero action movies like How I Became a Superhero. How does this compare to other superhero action movies you've seen?
In what ways does the movie reference real-life occurrences, despite the exaggerated superhero aspects of the story?
How are humor and satire used in this movie? What does the movie say about the role of fame in our society?
- On DVD or streaming: July 9, 2021
- Cast: Pio Marmai, Vimala Pons, Leila Bekhti
- Director: Douglas Attal
- Studio: Netflix
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Topics: Superheroes
- Run time: 97 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: February 17, 2023
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