HOT DOCS-Superheroes

Originally posted:
superheroes_press_still_1.470x264Hot Docs Review
World Showcase
82 minutes | USA | Language: English | International Premiere | Rating: PG
The conceit of the graphic novel and film Kick Ass is the idea that no one before in real life has had the thought of putting on a costume and fight crime as a superhero, and if they did, and they took it seriously, then they would have to be insane. There’s a fine line between genius and inspiration, and the people profiled in Michael Barnett’s documentary Superheroes definitely mark that line as their own.
To anyone that’s ever read a comic or seen a superhero movie, the language and the iconography used by the so-called superheroes featured in Barnett’s doc are all too familiar. From the streets of Orlando, to the borough of Brooklyn, a nationwide fraternity of costumed avengers are striving to make a difference in their towns in the flamboyant and chivalrous traditions of Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Joe Shuster and Bob Kane. Real life superheroes are alive and well and patrolling down sidewalks and back alleys in a town near you.
Barnett maintains a difficult tone with his movie. On the one hand, many of these “superheroes” describe terrible, painful and downright abusive backgrounds that spurn them to make the leap to costumed crime fighting. On the other hand, one has to admire these people. In their communities, despite the jeers and despite the looks, they are delivering a kind of hope to people in precious need of some. It’s not all about beating up bank robbers or rescuing orphans from fires. It’s also about giving a helping hand, assisting a drunk man home, giving a man whose foot is run over medical assistance, and handing out needed essentials to homeless people.
But despite their good intentions, it’s hard to deny that some of these people suffer from some kind of mental malady. Mr. Extreme, a California-based hero, gives up his apartment and lives in his van in order to free up more money for the cause, plus this way he can remain mobile lest unscrupulous characters find out where he lives. In Orlando, Master Legend happily takes a break from patrolling to either grab a pint from the bar, or out of the back of his van. It doesn’t do much to brace the confidence in these heroes, but hearing them talk about their personal abuse stories, you’re glad that their emotional turbulence found a rather benign outlet like playing superhero.
The final scene of the documentary takes us to San Diego in July, the setting for the biggest annual gathering of all things geeky and superheroish, the San Diego Comic Con. But a few blocks away from the convention centre where fans dress up as comic book strong men and Hollywood studios preview superhero films, a gathering of so-called real life superheroes are helping San Diego’s homeless. These two things juxtaposed, it becomes really hard trying to figure out just who the crazy people are in this scenario. Who are the real pretenders here, and do these people truly understand the idea of superheroes better than the thousands than honour them as fans? That’s for the audience to decide.
Mon, May 2 9:00 PM Bloor Cinema
Wed, May 4 4:00 PM TIFF Bell Lightbox 2
Sun, May 8 7:00 PM The Royal Cinema