Some things are just too surprising to be believed and too cool not to share. Visiting the BFI London Film Festival on October 18th, 19th and 21st is Michael Barnett’s documentary Superheroes, an insightful and, by all appearances, even-handed exploration of the expanding world of real-life superheroes in the United States.
In a style that raises fond memories of the pro-wrestling documentary Beyond the Mat, Barnett devotes to screen some pretty intriguing characters, all of whom are driven by some desire to do what they see as being right, some of whom are more convincing than others. The New York Initiative is a group based in Brooklyn who set out with some pretty admirable, if vague, goals: Lucid, a heavily-built, distinctively-tattooed hero described as being “from all over”, wants “to do something, to do anything […] I’m sick of the corruption I see everywhere I look, whether it is the boss at your work or the dude you know from next door who’s been beating his wife for twenty years.”
On the other hand, there’s Master Justice and Super Hero. You decide.
What connects them is a kind of thinking that comes straight out of comic book rhetoric, using words like ‘deeds’ and ‘vigilante’, and there’s an impression that a major motivation is self-centred. They’re trying to become the hero of their own stories by emulating a stock character: the lone good man in a corrupt world, all couched in the terms used by Batman, Wolverine and the rest. But does that make them crazy, misguided or even wrong to do so? The documentary enlists psychologists, members of the police force and even the man himself Stan Lee to dig into the question.
Superheroes have saturated popular culture in the past decade, and with this and comic/movies like Kick-Ass and Super emerging in recent years, it seems the phenomenon has only tightened its grip on our imagination.Update: The first showing of Superheroes has already sold out. Get your tickets while you can!