Heroes: Just What the Doctor Ordered
August 27, 2008
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Whether you are a superhero movie fan or not, I think everyone can agree that The Dark Knight was mind-blowingly awesome. But besides the acting, action, deaths, promotion, and comic book history, the film holds a clear theme that has consistently appealed to Americans: the idea of the super hero.
We have always flocked to heroes- those people that will come and save us in a time of need. While there are plenty of different kinds of heroes (from those as simple as parents to those as complicated as martyrs), the comic book superhero has always been one of the most admired. Maybe it’s due to the fact that they are extraordinary: they can only die if their authors want them to, they always show up in the knick of time, and they have powers that no normal human could possess (yes, I understand Batman doesn’t actually have powers, but few human beings could do what he does and live to tell about it).
The marriage between superheroes and cinema was a match made in heaven. Both rescue us- superheroes from the bad guys and movies from reality. Once the superheroes are put into movies, they are allowed to rescue us from the bad guys and reality. It’s no surprise then, that this summer has been the summer for superhero movies. Now more than ever, Americans need to be saved from reality- economic crisis, staggering unemployment rates, booming health care costs, a burst in foreclosures, and an important and intense presidential election.
Sure, superhero movies have been around for a while, but this year’s boom stands out against other superhero movies. Spiderman blew up the box office, but it was one of the only superhero movies released at the time.
On the contrary, this summer threatened to destroy the superhero movie industry because seriously, do we really love superheroes enough to go and see four of them during a three-month period? Apparently we do. Iron Man set a high standard, but why wouldn’t it? It was the perfect choice to open out the summer, because Tony Stark is the perfect hero for a troubled America- a rich playboy that doesn’t mind a party.
Hancock had a huge opening weekend due to his flaws. He was a lazy alcoholic that didn’t feel like using his powers for good. Ultimately, most Americans are the same way. We have the ability to be good people, but we often ignore opportunities to help others in order to help ourselves.
Of course, The Incredible Hulk came next and while it wasn’t that incredible at the box office, it still managed to capture a decent audience. The love of the Hulk comes from seeing similarities within ourselves as well- when he gets mad, he turns into a monster. Who doesn’t?
Blowing all of the above out of the water was The Dark Knight (as expected). Superhero factor aside, it was a fabulous film. But it still offered us insight into ourselves. The issues of morality and corruption surround us everyday, and sometimes we feel like it’s our job to fight for morality and against corruption. And ultimately, what attracts us to Batman more than anyone else is the fact that he is the dark knight. He’s not our knight in shining armor (America has grown up enough to know that he doesn’t exist). He’s a rich orphan that doesn’t hide in his depression- instead, he runs around in a black suit almost bragging about it.
Each hero is an individual, despite their similarities. But the ones portrayed in films this year made a trio that clearly illustrated our hard times, insecurities, and inadequacies more than ever. We will have to wait in anticipation for next spring, with the release of X-Men Origins: Wolverine and The Watchmen, and then later for the already-buzzed-about Iron Man and The Dark Knight sequels, to see if our heroes continue to cater to our needs or come to push us away. But for now, heroes can prevail because we all just need to be saved.