Every hero has an origin story…but what happens when the hero falls? When the story ends, and the world must continue without their guiding light…what happens in the ‘ever after’ of a hero’s legacy?
That is the question Samaritan seeks to answer. The Amazon Prime original movie, which premiered on August 26th and stars Sylvester Stallone, isn’t the origin of the mighty hero, Samaritan, but rather the story of his domain, Granite City, twenty five years after his death. A metropolis hovering on the brink of destruction, the people of Granite City barely survive on the hope and inspiration of Samaritan’s memory. Meanwhile, the criminal element thrives on worship of his counterpart: the villainous Nemesis, who died in a final battle with Samaritan that ended both of their lives.
The story focuses on a young boy named Sam Cleary (Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton), being raised by single mother, Tiffany (Dascha Polanco) and nurtured by the bright legacy of Samaritan. Convinced that Samaritan yet lives – and that his true identity is that of Joe Smith (Sylvester Stallone), the garbage man across the street – Sam seeks the hope and salvation Samaritan represents while fighting his own moral struggles trying to survive in the bleak and unforgiving streets. Ultimately, Sam discovers that Smith is, in fact, a superhero, but as Granite City’s hopeless climate reaches a boiling point, the erstwhile thirteen year old discovers a whole lot more than he ever could have bargained for.
Originally, when I first saw the trailer for this movie, I thought I was looking at something fairly contrived – a blending of genres that, while unoriginal, looked like a good time. What I got, instead, was a story I didn’t expect to see told. This, rather than being a blend of superhero and action film genres, was a beautiful twist on some typical superhero narrative tropes that I will not spoil for you here.
What I will say is that, at its core, this is a movie about the importance of choice in the fight for one’s soul. Sam, the son of a car thief, struggles with his faith in Samaritan while being forced to work for criminal kingpin Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk). Caught between a good heart and a bad situation, Sam’s struggle mirrors that of Joe, who must contend with the legacy of Samaritan’s good deeds through his burgeoning friendship with Sam – and with the fact that he’s been in hiding while the city fell around him. As the pair grow closer, discovering their similarities, Sam is given a piece of advice by Joe at the end of the film that determines his course going forward – as well as Joe’s.
If there was only bad people doing bad things, it’d be easy to get rid of them. But the real truth is, good and bad live in everybody’s heart. And it’s going to be up to you to make the right choice.
Does this mean that Samaritan carries on? How does this factor into Sam’s story? You’ll have to watch the movie to find out – and I urge you, implore you, to do so. Those who aren’t fans of the superhero genre will find something in this movie to love, whether it’s the touching story, the incredible action scenes, or even the messed up CGI. Yes, in flashbacks to the fall of Samaritan, the de-aging on Stallone leaves something to be desired, but I discovered that I didn’t mind. Given the inferno that supposedly claimed the lives of hero and villain, and that it is a flashback, the strangeness of the flawed special effect gave those moments an air of surrealism that emphasized the notion of memory.
Perhaps a bigger budget could have corrected that, and that is my only real criticism of this film: this story really ought to have been told via theatrical release. Up on the big screen, the film’s climax would have been absolutely breathtaking.
Samaritan is available now on Amazon Prime, free to Prime members. Check it out – with a little luck? Perhaps we can play the Sam to Amazon’s Joe Smith, and coax them back for a sequel.
Liz Carlie (she/her/he/him) is a regular book, TV, and film reviewer for SCIFI.radio and has previously been a guest on ‘The Event Horizon’. In addition to being an active member of the traditional fandom community, she’s also an active participant in online fan culture, pro wrestling journalism, and spreading the gospel of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. She resides in Southern California with her aspiring superhero dog, Junior, enjoying life one hyperfixation at a time.