Oct 14, 2011

LFF 2011: Superheroes

Dir: Michael Barnett
If, having read comics, seen Kick Ass, and basically become aware of how hard most superheroes with 'actual' powers get their arses kicked much of the time (even when they ultimately win), you think; I should get myself a costume and do that', there is a good chance you're utterly mental. Certainly this is true of many of the real life superheroes in Michael Barnett's film, but, happily, Barnett isn't mocking these people, indeed he's celebrating them, and many of them deserve to be celebrated.

Superheroes looks at several individuals and superhero groups, but turns its focus most closely on two people who work largely alone, and a group of four superheroes who share an apartment (I smell a sitcom). The one who is perhaps most like you'd expect a real life superhero to be is Master Legend; a paunchy, straggly haired, middle aged guy who uses his 'powers' largely to drive around in a van, drink beer and hit on young women, while dressed in what looks like spray painted armour from the dressing up box I had when I was five. He's well meaning, and funny, but he's not so much a real hero. Mr Xtreme, who has a picture of Kitty Genovese (who was raped and murdered outside a populated building, within reach of 38 witnesses who did nothing) on his armour, is getting things done, and he's more typical of the superheroes we find here. Mr Xtreme is beating up criminals, he's helping out by - in costume - patrolling areas where assaults have been reported, making flyers appealing for information on a local groper and helping the homeless.

This seems to be what most of the real life superheroes seen here are like, yes, some of their tactics are questionable (the four who live together often do 'bait patrol', hoping one of them will get mugged so the others can intervene), but none is ever seen to be violent here, instead channelling private pain (most speak of difficult childhoods) into a desire to help in their own odd way. I'm not about to make a costume and become [fanfare]THE CRITIC![/fanfare], but there is something inspiring about a superhero get together where a group of costumed individuals go round distributing essential to the homeless, or a group of superheroes making such a loud noise in a park that drug dealers can't operate that night.

All this and more is chronicled by Barnett with a humane, often amused, but never derisive, eye. Much of the film is very funny, because these people are funny, but their overwhelming sincerity wins out, and makes Superheroes an unlikely feelgood, inspirational, movie.

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