Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Why Superman sucks

I recently caught Unbreakable on TV. I'd forgotten how much I enjoy that movie. It's so… understated. I guess you could say it's about a superhero, in that you've got a person with a superhuman ability who does something heroic. But that sounds too grandiose. It's more like the story a dude who learns something about himself and does some stuff. At no point would a moment where this guy gets into yellow spandex or form fitting leather seem normal. For a comic book themed movie it's very down to earth.

Comic book movies got a resurgence after the releases of X-Men and Spider-man back in 2000 or so. Everyone on some level likes these kinds of stories, because the underlying message is plain and simple: "you're special." But if you just blindly go for the whole superhero theme, you're missing the point. X-Men is great because each character has a ridiculously specific power that often alone would be useless (making much of it about character interactions), and it's also got this interesting political story of the how the many treat the few. Spider-man is great because the character is a total geek (young, awkward, and flawed), but also because his heroics are on a small human scale. Both these franchises are relatable on some level. Especially in the beginning, where it's basically just glorified adolescent awkwardness. The discovery portion is consistently entertaining, but afterwards… not so much. When it goes from personal to epic… ugh.

And of course we've got Batman. He doesn't even have super powers… unless money counts as a super power. He's rich and pissed off - what's not to like? Well, when he gets too campy, that's no fun. As long as its dark, gothic, morally ambiguous batman… that's good stuff. Again, imperfection is relatable.

So far so good, but then there's Superman. Superman can do everything. He can fly, melt stuff with his eyes, deflect bullets, lift just about anything, and of course rewind time by flying around the sun real fast. He's so ridiculously overpowered that they had to write in some crazy green crystal to give him a weakness. And on top of this he has the most boringly good personality ever. Why should we care about this guy? Honestly, who gives a crap? I get that in the beginning he came in a time where we needed heroes, and that he wasn't always so ridiculously super. But at this point I'd rather we just call it quits and never return to this franchise ever again.

These days we have Heroes. It's part Unbreakable, part X-Men. And the TV format lets us spend more time getting to know the characters. The announcer for the commercials and spoilers drives me nuts, but the actual content of the show is quite good. They stuck us with a big break mid season, but thankfully there's only a week left before I can get my fix again. I just hope they don't all meet up to form a Justice League to discuss their new spandex uniforms.

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