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Sunday, July 20, 2008


We don't need another Hero...

Well, this summer movie season is turning out to be the year of the superhero. Last weekend's release of Batman, the Dark Knight, is the latest in a long slew of comic book-based outings that includes Ironman, the Incredible Hulk, and Hellboy 2. Will Smith's Hancock also deals with a superhero of sorts, though that film takes a slightly different approach.

I did go to see the Dark Knight on Saturday and I do have to say that Heath Ledger's performance as the Joker is everything everyone has said it was. In fact, I found myself looking forward to his next appearance on screen. Perhaps it was because Christian Bale's performance was so wooden as to fade into the furniture. But maybe it was the story as well. I cannot fault the screenplay for making the Joker's sadistic actions so eratic and creepy, but at the end of the film, I was not left wanting more.

The opposite could be said about Ironman, where Downy Jr.'s portrayal of a man who never saw a problem he couldn't fix with cash or gadgets (usually both) seemed real and on the mark. The director deserves high marks for making Ironman an industrial thriller that just happens to have folks with high-powered exoskeletons fighting it out.

And that, I think, gets to the heart of the matter of what works or doesn't work in superhero movies. In the films that work, the characters are part of the story, rather than having a story built around them.

By the way, the idea for this week's cartoon actually came from many years ago when I first heard that Michael Keaton was getting the starring role in Tim Burton's Batman. Up to that moment, Keaton was known as the slacker screw-up from films like Mr. Mom and the Dream Team. Certainly not super hero material. But Burton made it work.

Oh, and extra points if you know the film (not a super hero movie) that that contains the song that shares the same title with this blog entry.

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