There's a good idea behind this movie: a lone man claiming to be an exiled superhero shows up on Hollywood Boulevard. Is he for real? Is he a homeless man who has created for himself an intricate fantasy world? How will he interact with the other colorful facets of life that populate the Boulevard? What will he learn in the 189 days that the movie spans? These are intriguing questions that "Once Upon a Superhero" could have dealt with. Instead, it quadruples-down on directorial excess while leaving no time for anything like story or character development.
In simpler terms, this is a movie so far up its own ass it is giving itself a prostate exam.
The movie lets us know fairly quickly how much trouble we are in, because we're not even a minute in and we're given a long take of the main character's eye. Director John Kline has other tricks up his sleeve, and he's not going to let you walk away thinking he's afraid to throw every static take, lens flare, and camera effect in the book right on your lap. The movie is basically two hours of a man walking up and down the streets of L.A., but there's barely a moment that isn't assaulted by fancy edits and constant split screens. I'd hypothesize that the director would justify this by saying that this represent's Solar Flare's (our exiled superhero) fractured psyche, when all it really says is "Hey, I know how to use Final Cut Pro!"
The problem with this is that the movie is so crowded by gimmick it leaves its story completely malnourished. On his first day on the Boulevard Solar Flare encounters a stereotypical white rapper, a fake Mayan with prophecies of doomsday (the film is set in the days leading to the Mayan "apocalypse" of 2012). He meets a couple of threadbare self-styled heroes: Doc Compton (Ron Bush) and Captain Boulevard (Jason Hughes). And then... through the magic of an unintelligible mosaic montage the movie jumps 188 days to the supposed last day of Solar Flare's exile. That's right, all the meat that might have given anything in this movie purpose or meaning is just skipped over. After all, we have more screen wipes and jump cuts to get to!
If the first half of "Once Upon a Superhero" is baffling, the second half is downright interminable. It features Solar Flare again wandering around Los Angeles searching for his lost superpowers, all the while we get frequent time stamps to let us know that time is indeed progressing (after a while it becomes hard to tell). The movie's grim conclusion is undercut by relief at a narrative that is finally going somewhere after being jammed in "Manos: Hands of Fate" levels of neutral for the longest time. It may not be a happy ending, but any ending becomes welcome.
It's a shame, because as I said there are great ideas behind this film, but the movie can't stop getting in its own way with its own stylistic showboating. By the end we should be hanging on the question of whether Solar Flare's quest is literal or symbolic. Do we find out? No, but that isn't the worst part. The worst part is that by the end we just don't care.
Review by michaelseanmcgowan from the Internet Movie Database.