Ending Explained is a recurring series in which we explore the finales, secrets, and themes of interesting movies and shows, both new and old. This time, we explain the ending of the Netflix superhero comedy Thunder Force.
When fighting bad guys, one of the most important things you can do is stick close to your friends. It’s a lesson we learn in Guardians of the Galaxy, the X-Men franchise, and now Ben Falcone’s Thunder Force.
The Netflix Original is set in a world where supervillains called Miscreants reign over Chicago. This is a reality that is particularly troubling for Emily Stanton (Octavia Spencer), as her parents were killed by a couple of particularly evil ones when she was a little girl. From that moment on, she vowed to make it her life’s mission to finish her parents’ work and build a genetic modifier that gives regular humans superpowers and allows them to defeat the Miscreants.
In the movie’s prologue, we meet the young, mega-smart Emily (Bria Danielle) following her tragic loss as she forms an unlikely best friendship with class-clown Lydia (Vivian Falcone, daughter of the director and actress Melissa McCarthy). The two remain joined at the hip until Emily realizes that Lydia’s slacker mentality is holding her back from her dream of defeating the world’s evils. So, they part ways.
Thunder Force picks up again with Lydia and Emily as estranged adults, now played respectively by McCarthy and Spencer. The two arrange to meet at Emily’s office, but when Lydia stumbles into a lab and accidentally subjects herself to Emily’s new experiment she discovers she’s now capable of superhuman strength. Emily takes the intended second half of the formula, one that grants her the power of invisibility, and the pair begrudgingly team up to fight the Miscreants.
Their targets include a sadistic woman with electric bolts named Laser (Pom Klementieff), a half-man, half-crab mutant suitably called The Crab (Jason Bateman), and the man running to be the city’s next mayor (Bobby Cannavale) — who goes by the name The King and who is harboring the fact that he’s also a Miscreat himself. They all butt heads a few times, and it builds to a face-off at the headquarters of The King’s mayoral rival where Lydia ultimately makes a heroic sacrifice to save everyone from a deadly bomb.
Lydia leaps out a window and into the water below where the bomb goes off, but she survives as her superhuman strength and super suit absorb the blast. The film ends with Chicago’s new mayor — not The King — hiring Thunder Force as protectors of the city, and as our heroes walk away from the scene crowds of people chant their names in praise.
Like a lot of superhero movies, Thunder Force isn’t just about the good guys versus the bad guys. The real conflict of the film is the estranged friendship between two people who deeply care about one another but who don’t know if their lifestyles can truly coexist. Just as the viewer might wonder if the good (Thunder Force) will prevail over the bad (the Miscreants), so does the film ask if true friendship can conquer adversity.
And, in the end, it does. But this only happens when Lydia and Emily are able to confront their own demons by fighting both with and between themselves. For Emily, her inner struggle is her need for perfection as a way to live up to her murdered parents. When she finally learns to get over her preconceived notions and to accept Lydia for who she is, though, it allows her to let someone else do the heavy lifting instead of insisting she do everything alone. Lydia also experiences inner turmoil. Ever since she and Emily stopped being friends, Lydia hasn’t believed that she is good enough for greatness, and she has lived her life accordingly. But when she allows herself to actually strive for greatness, well, she becomes the film’s real hero.
Thunder Force doesn’t just teach us the importance of friendship but also reinforces the fact that no one can defeat evil — inner or outer — alone. It takes a village to beat a bomb, defeat mutated villains, and overcome insecurity and fear of failure. So yes, it turns out the real super power is the friends we make along the way.
While there are no real unanswered questions at the end of the film, it does set us up pretty well for a sequel as Laser is on the lam and there are still a ton of Miscreants out there. There’s also a budding relationship between Lydia and The Crab, that in addition to bringing more laughs in a sequel will also answer whether or not a hero and a Miscreant can find love (and maybe make little super shrimp together). Emily’s daughter also reveals that she’s worked up a super formula of her own giving her super speed, so more heroes are potentially on the horizon as well. Given the fact that the dynamic duo now has the budget of Chicago on their side, they are probably going to come back more powerful than ever to face even more intimidating villains, but at least we know they’ll face them together.
Thunder Force is now available to stream on Netflix.