Real Life Super Heroes
In the past five years that I've written this column (five years? Seems more like fifty, but in a good way), I've had the pleasure of watching comic-based and genre movies and sharing my reactions, positive and negative. I've often had the experience of watching some movies - some of which I've never written about - that manage to pander to the worst impulses, that are "subversive" and "extreme" to the point where they reveal a slight cynicism and contempt for their audience. But sometimes, a movie like that reveals that out of a sense of darkness, there is a strong sense of heart, caring, and redemption.
Believe it or not, this year's SUPER, by writer/director James Gunn, is one of those films. Yes, it has much in common with another, much more mainstream property (which I will not name, because I have nothing positive to say about it) about "real life super heroes"...but unlike that other property, this film is a much more pleasant viewing experience. Granted, this is a film that for many of you, is going to be hard to watch - it's graphically violent, contains more "offensive" content, and is not the kind of film you want to show young kids. However, SUPER contains, at its heart, a much softer, more touching emotional core, and towards the end, shows a compassion for its characters that belie its initial cynical approach. (No spoilers, I promise)
Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson) is a short order cook who draws inspiration in his life from two key events - meeting his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) and helping to stop a purse snatching. However, when Jacques, a sleazy club owner (Kevin Bacon) enters Sarah's life, Frank has a semi-religious experience, finding himself "touched by the finger of God" and influenced by a local religious public access show, the "Holy Avenger" (played by Nathan Fillion). He takes on the superheroic mantle of "the Crimson Bolt", fighting dastardly deeds like child molestation and line cutting with nothing more than a trusty wrench and the catchphrase "shut up, crime!"
But wait - it actually gets better, folks.
Frank finds himself working with "Boltie", your typical comic store nerd younger sidekick (Ellen Page), and soon, they find themselves taking on Jacques and his "crew" in a violence-driven showdown. But at the end, we see...but that would be telling. And in all honesty, the movie is not always that even - some scenes have a slight edge to them, while others - which may be well-intentioned - fall flat due to a slightly underwritten script. But the ending places everything in glorious perspective - no matter how strange or unusual the previous goings-on, there's an underlying belief in the inherent goodness of human beings. SUPER has, in many ways, a great respect for its characters - and its audience. (Unlike that more mainstream property I will not name, whose attitude towards the view might be best summarized in an obscene hand gesture). It's a film that is a little bit tough to watch, but the end result is definitely worth it.
It's reminiscent of a recent documentary on HBO called Superheroes, which focused on the burgeoning "real life" superhero movement. (Think individuals like Phoenix Jones). Initially, the movie takes a slightly dark turn, focusing on some of the less pleasant aspects of this movement. (Some interviewees focus on their inner emotional turmoil, how early experiences and personal traumas drive their current focus on making things better.) There are also some slight efforts that seem, well, more absurd, with the movie sometimes taking on a more eye-rolling, what-is-this-person-about tone. Mix in some individuals who talk about the repercussions of "real life super heroes", and you have what could easily become a hatchet job.
Thankfully, something happens towards the end - more specifically, a sequence where a group of individuals decide to help out a group of homeless people before a comic convention. This sequence is where I think Superheroes very directly hammers its main point home - that in taking on these costumes, it may be less about personal "damage" and more about living to a higher ideal, about finding the common humanity in others, and about being of service at a time when doing so is becoming more of a ';merit badge' than a moral imperative. Just for that sequence alone, Superheroes is well worth seeking out on HBO.
(NOTE - normally, I try to write about movies that have been released in DVD and/or are in general release. Superheroes is not on DVD yet, after being shown in August & September; my advice is to either determine when its being rerun on HBO or ask a friend if they have a copy. It's going to be search, admittedly, but you will thank me later. It's a movie that I think all comics fans should see.....if only because its a potent reminder of just why some of us love comics).
But enough of my talk - please feel free to tune into the Zone 4 podcast every week to check out more of my thoughts. (You might even consider joining our Facebook page as well and becoming a Zone 4 Legionnaire, as well as read our awesome webcomic). Check out my website, my blog, and my social media channels....and until next time, friends, keep watching!
Read More! For more of Gordon's writings, insights, and
general information, please visit his blog at blogthispal.blogspot.com.
blog comments powered by Disqus