Saturday, July 13, 2013

Superhero by design

I thought long and hard about this last night--about 15 minutes--and I came to an epiphany.  My favorite genres of movie watching all involve superheroes.  As far as epiphanies go, it may not seem monumental. Thirty-two days ago I  had the divine inspiration that I like my tea cold rather than hot (and unsweetened. I'm not all, "This tea is great. Now lets drown out the tea taste with a crap load of sugar.").  And last night, superheroes movies rock my world.

If you asked me this same question three night ago, I would have waffled between zany comedies and animated films.  But when I take an honest look at myself, the last "zany" comedy I saw and actually enjoyed was Superbad.  The rest were OK, but not "buy the DVD" good.  And animated film, well, I'm 36 and having cartoons being my favorite is weird.  On the scale of weird, its "I'm going to stand over here" weird, not "You know you can't live by a park or school" weird, but still weird nevertheless.

I think I like superhero movies, especially most modern takes on superpowers, because filmmakers are now focusing on people dealing with superpowers instead of superpowered people.  What's the difference?  I'll answer that question with a question.  Is Clark Kent a reporter who happens to become Superman to save people, or is Superman a hero who happens to become Clark Kent to blend in to society?

It's more interesting when Clark Kent plays Superman or Tony Stark plays Iron Man.  I'd much rather see characters try to balance their "real" lives with saving the world.  Personally, I think it would be awfully stressful to have that much power in the palm of your hand, and I get bored when I watch people handle god-like power flawlessly.  So, why the Hulk kicking the crap out of Loki makes me cheer, the real highlights were when Bruce Banner, Chris Evans and Tony Stark argued about everything.

Most good (Hear that Green Lantern!) modern superhero movies tend to skew more to the mortal than the mask.  Except for Chris Nolan's Dark Knight trilogy. Batman sits front and center and Bruce Wayne plays a supporting role. Bruce doesn't seem to have any complex motivations or development except to fund Batman.  I watched the Dark Knight for the first time last week and while Ledger's Joker rocked, Bale's Bruce fell flat.  Every single scene of his as Bruce Wayne featured exposition as how he would act as Batman.  Whether to build a better suit or pose as a distraction to extradite a mob accountant, Batman only used the Bruce Wayne as a tool for his purposes, and not the other way around.  Interestingly, Michael Keaton's rendition of Batman seemed to let Bruce use the Bat.

Now, if we could get a super-villain movie that showed some altruistic reasons for their villainy. 

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