Not too long ago I reviewed a DVD similar to The Condor, Mosaic. Like The
Condor, Mosaic introduced a new superhero character designed by Stan Lee in a
straight-to-DVD animated movie. In spite of Stan Lee’s name on the cover, that
DVD came across as something designed by a marketing group trying to hit a
particular demographic. The teenaged girl at the center of Mosaic was created to
appeal to preteen girls and if you’re not in that demographic the movie falls
horribly flat. Why do I bring this up in my The Condor review? It’s because it
appears that the same marketing committee has been at it again, this time trying
to appeal to Hispanics and skateboarders. While not as big of a disaster as
Mosaic, The Condor still looks like it was designed by a committee trying to
please target audiences that it was only vaguely familiar with. The result is a
shallow and unfocused story that can’t seem to make up its mind as to what it
wants to be.
The Condor is the story of Tony Valdez, a young man who is pretty good on a
skateboard and has aspirations of making a career of it. His parents are
scientists who run their own robotics corporation, and while he has the full
support of his mother his father wishes that he would follow him into the family
business. When Tony’s father discovers that a business partner is using human
guinea pigs to test the company’s latest human ability enhancing nanotechnology,
Tony’s parents are killed to keep them from interfering with the experiments.
Soon thereafter an untimely skateboarding accident leaves Tony paralyzed, but
with an infusion of his parents’ nanotechnology and a high-tech skateboard he
becomes The Condor and sets out to avenge his parents’ murder.
There’s some potential here to explore some interesting themes, but The
Condor never rises above the shallow and juvenile type of plotline typical of
Saturday morning kiddie fare. A group of one-dimensional characters gets
together, stuff happens, lessons are learned, and then it’s high-fives all
around. Given that this type of shallow storyline is usually aimed at kids, I
was shocked to find the plot packed with sexual innuendo and risqué lines. For
example, after Tony meets a beautiful woman a friend admonishes him to “lower
his flagpole”. Also, it’s implied for most of the story that Tony is sleeping
with a strange woman he meets after one of his competitions. It’s all very much
out of place considering the apparent intended audience of the movie – it’s
inappropriate for kids but the movie is far too juvenile to appeal to kids.
If you’re going to make a point of the fact that your movie stars a Hispanic
hero, then you should at least make an effort to explore the effect of the
culture on the hero and how it has influenced him. In The Condor, Tony’s
Hispanic heritage amounts to saying the occasional word in Spanish and a cousin
who is falling under the influence of a neighborhood street gang. I’m not
Hispanic myself, but at least I know that there is far more to Hispanic culture
than Spanish and that street gangs can hardly be considered a cultural thing.
The writers also seem to be ignorant of the fact that there is no Hispanic
culture per se, but that there are a multitude of Hispanic cultures. Tony’s
background and cultural influences would be quite different if he were Mexican,
Cuban, or Costa Rican. What the writers give us instead is a shallow stereotype
that will fail to appeal to most Hispanics and do nothing to increase awareness
of the culture among those who believe in the stereotype.
As far as animation goes, the artwork is on par with Saturday morning
cartoons. The look is very flat and two-dimensional and does not stand out in
It would be easy to dismiss The Condor as kiddie fare if it weren’t for the
sexual undercurrent and blatant use of stereotypes. Because of this it’s hard to
really recommend The Condor to anyone except the completist superhero collector.