Hello Comic Booked fans and welcome to another wonderful review of a bad movie. This past week, HBO premiered Superheroes, a documentary that showcases the lives of several prominent real life superheroes through out the country. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this film. Would it be a mockery of these people? Would it be a warning to others not to emulate it? Or would it deconstruct their world and show us how trying to be a superhero affects their daily life? No, it was none of that. Instead, it felt like a 90-minute propaganda film for the real life superhero movement. The film follows several superheroes in different cities. Thrown in at certain times are motion comic sequences, which look kind of neat but also work to further their cause. I do not recommend this movie for kids. For one, the language gets R-rated; moreover, this is not a good movie for impressionable young minds. Now, I am against the real life superhero movement, but we’ll get to my opinions soon enough. On to the movie!
Superheroes opens with a motion comic of “Mr. Xtreme” reliving a moment when he was on patrol, and, with the help of his partner, he stops a man from beating a woman to death. He is just one of the many RLSHs that get to know over the next 90 minutes. We see Mr. Xtreme at his home in San Diego, where he is enjoying an episode of Power Rangers Ninja Force, and he gives us a tour around the “Xtreme Cave” (his apartment). He showcases his fighting talents on a dummy and even demonstrates his “Super Xtreme Death Metal Fighting System”, which reminds me a lot of “Hamster Style“.
We then get an excellent quote from Stan “The Man” Lee,
“I’m worried about the person who doesn’t have an actual super power, who puts on a costume and then runs around challenging criminals or a person who’s armed. I figure that person could get hurt.”
And that point is what should be the driving point of the movie, but it’s not. Instead of warning of the dangers of this practice, we meet “Zimmer” and his crew, Z, TSAF, and Lucid. These four people from New York who are a bit messed up, glorify violence. They go on to tell the story of Kitty Genovese, who was brutally killed in a New York neighborhood on March 13, 1964. Thirty-eight onlookers saw what happened, but no one helped. Now, this is a very horrible story, one I first heard of in Boondock Saints, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s where these “heroes” may have heard it as well. Both Zimmer and Mr. Xtreme are hugely affected by this story.
We get a news story about the NYPD, which focuses on how they are fixing their numbers for their reports. Zimmer and his crew discuss this in-depth and look at it as a sign they need to continue patrolling. Lt. Andrea Brown, from San Diego, discusses the problems with vigilante justice.
We next meet Master Legend, who has been a hero since he was eight. He recalls his first mission when he defeated a bully. He founded the only non-profit hero organization, Team Justice. Now, ML is by far the most disturbed of the heroes. He lives in Orlando, FL and goes on to tell us that he is on a mission from god, who has given him, “powers,” including, but not limited to, super strength, super speed, sight-beyond-sight, and healing powers. He endangers his life by jumping in front of cars, and shows what he carries on patrol: food, water, clothing, and, of course, beer. He drinks a lot throughout the documentary.
One story that carries on throughout the movie is about the Chula Vista groper. Mr Xtreme has taken up the cause to bring him to justice, and goes out and makes fliers to put up around neighborhoods. While putting up the fliers, the cops stop him and warn him not to go outdoors with weapons.
We meet a variety of heroes throughout including Life, Zetaman and Apocalypse Meow, and Dark Guardian. Each one gets a small amount of screen time, but the main focus is on Mr. Xtreme, Master Legend and Zimmer. We also get an interview with Dr. Robin Rosenberg, a psychologist who actually argues for the heroes and tries to justify that what they are doing is not insane, and maybe healthy. I couldn’t disagree with her more. One problem is she doesn’t actually talk with any of the heroes. Instead, she gives a broad generalization about people coping with problems of growing up in troubled homes.
Zimmer and his crew plot bait missions in their neighborhoods to try and catch criminals red-handed. They usually send TSAF out, because she appears to be an easy target, or Zimmer, because he is gay and tends to play it up on patrol. Zimmer is very open about himself and refuses to wear a mask for that reason. Their missions never produce any criminals but they do see some action, as a guy gets his foot run over one night and a drunk driver smashes into a car the next. Zimmer is in training to be an EMT so he can patch up a wound on the spot. He carries his supplies as well.
Dark Guardian also resides in New York, and he takes a similarly direct approach. With Cameraman, his sidekick who films the action, Dark Guardian goes out and confronts drug dealers head on. Showing no fear, even when a person threatens violence, he stands his ground. It’s easy for him as he is a trained martial artist and a teacher as well. But standing up to a guy that is twice your size is still intimidating.
The heroes then explain the importance of the costumes and why they chose their specific color pattern or design. There is an awful lot of focus on their look for people who claim not to be in this for fame. They also detail what weapons they use, some of which are downright dangerous: multiple stun guns, tasers, sonic grenades, bows-and-arrows, and batons. Master Legend himself had an iron casing used as a gauntlet. He also showcases what I guess is an “ice gun”, which he seems very serious about.
One thing that most heroes lack is training. They are not trained in martial arts or combat. Dark Guardian is really the only one who has the experience in any form of combat. We see Zimmer and TSAF spar, which reminded me a lot of when I would pretend to be a Power Ranger, when I was eleven. Mr. Xtreme enters a grappling challenge to test his skill, and, of course, he does not win.
After all the showcasing of weapons and costumes and discussing their combat training, the heroes all seem to share the same basic principles: they want to help society and mostly do charity work. A good portion of them hand out food and clothing to the homeless. Life is one hero who spends most of his time getting to the know the homeless on a personal level, and I applaud that. If you want to go out and help the homeless and donate food, clothing, and toys, then, by all means, do so. But what I have a problem with is that these people are dressing up and basically playing out a fantasy. We follow Mr. Xtreme as he becomes homeless. He moves out of his apartment and lives in his van. Zimmer and crew seem to share the same apartment, but, as for the rest, we don’t know how they live, and that is the problem I have with this documentary.
We don’t see how this is affecting them socially, or mentally. We don’t see the strain that the long hours must make on their work, and their relationships with their family. The only person who shows his family is Mr. Xtreme, and, of course, they don’t approve of his lifestyle. They are concerned he will get hurt or worse. These concerns are justifiable as he, like most others, patrols at night, in bad areas of town. But, if being homeless and looked down upon seems like a less-than-ideal living circumstance, then rest assured. The deputy mayor awards Mr. Xtreme by honoring him at a press event and having him be a speaker against sexual abuse.
Things like that send the wrong message. On the one hand, yes, it is important to help out, donate, and do charity work. In fact, if you’d like to donate, here is a list of most of the prominent charities, and this is a link to Penny-Arcade’s charity, Child’s Play. As far as stopping crime, the best and safest option is to call the police. Putting up fliers helps too, but dressing up as a super hero and running around with weapons is not the option. It is dangerous and many heroes have gotten hurt, much like this report about a hero who was beaten up. It only seems like a small step from carrying a baton to a knife, a stun gun to a real gun – then it will be a far worse situation. And this film does nothing to show the downside of being a vigilante. It briefly mentions things like civil rights and criminal law, which most of the heroes are not familiar with. The final quote of the movie it really hits the message home.
“It’ not the costume that makes you a superhero, it’s what’s in your heart. That makes you a real life superhero.”
If that doesn’t seem like a slogan from the 1950s propaganda machine, then I don’t know what does.