The Reel: Superheroes, more harm than help

Ben Conniff

When it comes to the summer movie season, there are no real “superheroes” anymore.

With big event films like “The Avengers” and “Transformers,” do we find ourselves so desensitized by a specific performance, line of dialogue, or IMAX 3D visual effect shot that we forget the broader impact of the on-screen events as they pertain to the story?

For this reason, will we, as audiences, be numb to the conflicts at hand when we sit down to watch “The Avengers” and “Man of Steel” sequels in 2015?

I think that most moviegoers pay their $10.50 just to laugh at Tony Stark’s jokes because they’re entertaining. 

I’m guilty of it. I admit that I enjoy watching Robert Downey, Jr. banter with The Avengers. 

I like special effects and action sequences because they make me feel like a giddy 8-year-old again. 

So it should come as no surprise that director Zack Snyder’s long-awaited Superman epic, “Man of Steel,” was one of the biggest blockbusters of this past summer, and one of my most anticipated of the year. 

“Chronicle” screenwriter Max Landis recently took to YouTube and voiced his opinion on the latest incarnation of Superman, as well as the general state of today’s superhero films, in a video titled “Regarding Clark.” 

The clip brought a startling truth to my attention that I think is worth sharing.

Icons like Superman, The Avengers, the Autobots and even the Jaeger pilots from this year’s “Pacific Rim” all possess some form of heroic duty. 

This usually stems from a “gift”, or some physical ability that makes them superior to, and ultimately responsible for, the rest of humanity. 

As the famous “Spider-Man” adage goes, “With great power comes great responsibility.”

So then why is it that when Superman fights General Zod, all of Metropolis gets leveled in the process? 

Why is it that when The Avengers square off against Loki and his intergalactic army, New York is reduced to rubble?

Why is it that when the Kaiju sea monsters close in on Sydney, the city only proceeds to burn once the Jaegers show up?

Think about the most financially-successful films of the past two or three summers. “Everything ends in the same city-destroying pandemonium with a terrorist attack from outer space,” Landis says.

When our “heroes,” the very beings sworn to protect us infantile humans from harm, become the source of destruction and death, they cease to become heroes.

Regardless of whether the bad guy is stopped or not, there’s nothing “heroic” in watching Iron Man and Optimus Prime stand tall at the end of a fight when there’s nothing behind them but ruin.

“That isn’t a superhero, to me,” says Landis. “That’s like a rock star.”

“The Dark Knight” films already proved that it doesn’t take a smoldering cityscape for audiences to notice and appreciate a flawed hero.

So why has Hollywood taken the “disaster movie” approach with slamming home the idea that our “heroes” are imperfect?

Perhaps it’s the emergence of television like “Breaking Bad” or darker comic-book movies like “The Dark Knight” where the villain and “antihero” are so captivating that audiences have begun rooting for the “bad guys” instead.

We’ve become so jaded by trying to relate to our heroes’ imperfections that we are willing to “forgive” them for the havoc they wreak. 

By relating to the flaws of our heroes, we, in turn, feel better about our own shortcomings.

But I don’t want to root for the “bad guys.” 

Life is difficult, and who can we look up to, and aspire to be, in times of hardship if our “heroes” become part of the problem?