Superheroes, I enjoy. Superhero movies tend to be a mixed bag of either too dark (seriously, I can’t see the action in some of them), too campy (Joel Schumacher’s Batman Forever), or emotionally flat (Man of Steel).
Whoever mixed peanut butter and chocolate was a genius. Defendor is a Reese’s cup movie with a comedic outside and a warm touching inside.
Woody Harrelson plays Arthur Poppington, a simple-minded man with a good heart. Abandoned at a young age, his grandfather raises him. His interest in comic books and his grandfather’s cynical account of what happened to his mother prime him for a nightlife of vigilantism. Armed with a cudgel, marbles, jars of angry hornets, and a public works truck, Defendor begins his quest for his mother’s murderer, Captain Industry.
The story begins with a thick coating of comedy but morphs into a touching story about a boy orphaned by vice and determined to save damsels and smash villains. He gains allies and infuriates enemies. The woman he saves from physical abuse early on he saves more completely as she begins to believe in him and abandons her self destructive ways.
And then there’s Super.
My mother used get a big glass bottle of RC Cola and drop a bag of salted peanuts inside. She loved the taste. While it’s not going to make me puke, I don’t enjoy the mixture as much as I enjoy each item separate from the other. That’s Super for me.
It begins as a bizarre tragic comedy about a short order cook (Raiin Wilson, Dwight from The Office) who marries a drug addicted Liv Tyler. It’s not long into their marriage before she turns again to drugs and becomes a slave to her connection, Kevin Bacon. Wilson’s character is a naive, kind-hearted, fellow torn to pieces by his loss. That’s when a Christian superhero (Nathan Fillion) visits him and sets him on a quest to save his wife by becoming a superhero. Along his long and rocky road he gains a crazy sidekick and battles public opinion of his deeds. But the comedy turns violent and a little disturbing. The tone for the movie doesn’t quite make a comfortable transition and left me with a little vertigo. I still enjoyed it more than a dozen other superhero movies (both Fantastic Four’s, Batman: Dark Knight Rises, Batman Forever, Daredevil, Man of Steel, Ironman 3, Kickass 2, Green Lantern, Green Hornet, Hancock, Spiderman 3) possibly more.
The lesson I learned from comparing these two movies is this: you can go from comedy to tragedy and even hit a few stops in between, but you’ve got to be careful how you do it and wierding people out may earn you a quick buck or a cheap thrill, but those kinds of artistic choices don’t hold up over time.