Amazing Stories – the television show – has finally hit its mark!
Dynoman and the Volt, the third episode in the five episode opening season of the rebooted Spielberg Amazing Stories, is a truly family-oriented, action-packed, exciting and emotionally-charged story, exploring multiple themes and knocking them out of the park.
Over the course of the previous two episodes (The Cellar and The Heat), critics and audience alike have essentially repeated the same reframe: the stories are ok, the acting, direction, production values are where they need to be (or better), but they just haven’t managed to hit the mark of being a truly Amazing Story; most are saying so and following it with the fervent hope that future episodes will deliver on the promise of the show’s name.
Dynoman and the Volt IS an Amazing Story.
The show is developed by Edward Kitsis and Adam Horowitz; produced by Steven Spielberg. This third episode was written by Peter Ackerman (The Americans, Ice Age, episode 2 of Amazing Stories as a producer) and directed by Susanna Fogel (The Spy Who Dumped Me) and features Tyler Crumley as Dylan (Godzilla: King of the Monsters), Kyle Bornheimer (She’s Out of My League) and Robert Forster as the Grandfather (this episode was the last peformance for Forster who died shortly after completing production).
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT
Grandpa (Forster) is coming to stay at his son’s house following an injury that will keep him out of work and in physical therapy for six weeks. Son and father have been somewhat estranged over the years and we immediately know why: Grandpa is an ornery, pedantic, mean old cuss who, we come to learn apparently cared more for his job than he did his family. Sure, is son grew up to become a doctor, but we get the sense that this was at least partially owing to his son wanting to get away from his father and the blue collar union man life he led.
Dylan, the grandson, is a typical middle school loser (apparently a hallmark of young-teen losers is being into comic books and cosplay: interesting how the nerd stereotypes still manage to persist in this age of nerdom uber alles) who is planning and making a Batman costume for Halloween (another indication that this show was supposed to air earlier than it did); Grandpa’s arrival kicks him out of his own room (though why the family of a doctor and a therapist don’t have a guest room in their house is a puzzle). Dylan tries to connect with Grandpa (he really has only one friend and that friend is rapidly being lost to the discovery of girls) but Grandpa dismisses the boy’s interests and stupid and unrealistic.
Dylan not only reads comics and makes costumes, he draws and writes them too, so this disapproval really cuts him to his quick. Meanwhile, Grandpa learns that he’s going to be forced to retire from the job and business he loves and helped to build over the course of fifty years.
Naturally, the two lost souls find some common ground in their upset and disillusionment; Grandpa reveals that he once read comics, tried to pass his interest on to his son – who kept all of the old comics, including Grandpa’s favorite – Dynoman. (He thinks his interest was spurred by the fact that Dynoman’s origin story presents Dynoman as a miner, which Grandpas father was as well. This foreshadows future events.)
Grandpa and Grandson are beginning to establish a rapport; Grandpa offers to pick Dylan up at school one day; Grandpa learns how outcast his grandson really is during their ride home. Dylan, picking up the mail upon their arrival at the house finds a package and, inside, is a comic book premium – a plastic copy of Dynoman’s power ring.
Grandpa explains that he’d mailed away for the ring fifty years ago; the package must be some kind of joke. Dylan on the other hand believes that it must be the actual power ring and urges his grandfather to put it on.
Of course it turns out that the ring confers super powers – strength, speed and flight – which Grandpa discovers much to his and Dylan’s delight.
Typically, Grandpa uses his powers to return to his job; his injury is mysteriously cured and Dylan finds new found support for his interests; who needs friends when their Grandpa is a superhero?
But there is still tension in the air; Grandpa lets Dylan down – he’d promised to go trick-or-treating with Dylan but instead put in over-time at work (substituting for Dylan’s lone friend). The loss of love robs the ring of its powers and Grandpa ditches it.
Meanwhile, Dylan re-reads the Dynoman comic and is reminded of The Volt, Dynoman’s arch nemesis; using the shards of a table that Dynoman smashed, he acquires some of the rings powers and goes to his school to crash the party and display his new found powers.
Where of course he gets himself into serious danger attempting to re-create a practical joke his Grandfather played.
Grandpa realized how badly he has screwed up, figures out what Dylan is up to and races to the school to stop him, but in attempting a rescue, gets caught up himself. Fortunately, his son had found the ring, put it on and comes to the rescue.
We’re catching a lot of lessons with this episode: love can make amazing things happen; we don’t have to give up our dreams and fantasies just because we get older; family is more important than just about anything else (a constant refrain of both this and the 80s series) and one other that I think serves as a capstone for the entire series: at one point Dylan is learning about Dynoman from his grandfather and asks how the superpowers work – are they genetic or do they affect the metabolism…. Grandpa objects: “Why do you need an explanation for everything? Your generation needs an explanation for everything. What the hell is the matter with you guys?”. Sometimes, you’re just supposed to sit back and let your sense of wonder take the wheel. Let yourself do that, and you just might find yourself enjoying things a lot more.
Right now, we need family and close friends perhaps more than we ever have. Dynoman and the Volt is perhaps the perfect episode, presented at the perfect time, for illustrating that we need to remember and concentrate on our bonds and let the whys and wherefores go.
Right now, this episode is enjoying the highest rating the show has received so far. IF this episode heralds where the show is going, we’re all in for a treat.
The show can be watched on Apple TV+