Friday, August 22, 2008

Week of August 22 to 28 -- Phil Mann

What’s On at the Tropic
By Phil Mann

The Tropic completes its Superhero Trifecta this week with the opening of the new Batman film, THE DARK KNIGHT. Iron Man was a Techno Terror, surmounting evil with alloys and clean energy sources. Think Barack Obama. Hellboy is the King of Creatures, battling vast forces of evil emerging from a netherworld almost by force of his personality and some quips. He’s a brawler. Think John McCain.

And now we have the latest edition of Batman. He’s got the riches of Iron Man and some great gadgets, plus the cahones of Hellboy without his sense of humor. But unlike the other two, who deal with worldwide conspiracies, this Batman is just fighting an urban crime wave, and verges on evil himself in dealing with evil. Think Rudy Giuliani, I’d say.

I’m not the one to assess these movies, however. For an expert opinion I turn to my 17-year-old consultant, who provides this report on two of his summer favorites:

“Batman and Iron Man, two major summer blockbusters, are tough to compare. The Dark Knight is a dark, chilling epic, while Iron Man is a special effects packed movie filled with comedic lines. Both feature all-star casts and were number one in the box office. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne and Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark both are billionaires who use their spare time to fight crime.
The Dark Knight looks deeply into what makes a hero and the limits of the law, making Christian Bale into a rogue hero. Heath Ledger’s posthumous performance as the Joker is disturbing and frightening. It features all the big explosions and hi-tech gadgets expected of it, without seeming too far-fetched. Iron Man is a much more light-hearted movie with many funny lines and quips. Robert Downey Jr. is a much more likeable character than the brooding renegade, Batman. Iron Man features many more CGI effects and more complex, futuristic technology. In my opinion both movies receive 5 stars.”

Isn’t it time for a Hillary Clinton superhero, something beyond Lynda Carter, for this new generation of stylistic and even profound uber-characters? There’s no shortage of material, as the Wikipedia listing for Superheroines makes clear. ( Hollywood, wake up. You’ll have a guy movie and a chick-flick rolled into one!

Just to keep us grounded, the Tropic’s other new film this week is the story of a true super hero. CHILDREN OF THE HUANG SHI is set in China in 1937 as the Japanese army is overrunning the country. It tells the story of a young Englishman, George Hogg, who became responsible for the children of an orphanage and led them to safety with a trek across snow-bound mountains to the edge of the Gobi Desert, a movie that reminds that ordinary humans can do wondrous things. Why do make-believe heroes always seem to be more entertaining that real-life ones, and more enjoyable? I suspect it’s because characters like George Hogg make us feel guilty or inadequate, forcing us to confront our selves, while Batman or Iron Man are guys that let us escape from our drab selves. [published in Key West, the newspaper -]

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