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Superheroes | Review

Ape Crusaders: Nutty Crime Fighters Personalities Revealed

Most kids love comic books for their brightly colored, action packed stories where superheroes generally triumph over evil villains, while adults on the other hand generally love comics for the innovative storytelling, and freedom of the medium. They’ve accepted the idea of superheroes as a storytelling device to go outside of the box of our limitations to critique human morality, social issues, or what have you, but there is a growing movement that has taken their love of superheroes to the extreme, feeling it is their civic duty to dress up in tights, armor and masks, patrolling their dimly lit streets, hoping to catch the next unwitting bad guy. Michael Barnett’s flashy directorial debut tells the story of these real life superheroes, some fed of with police negligence and actually fighting crime, while others just walk a beat giving a recognizable face to civil initiative. Superheroes presents a troubled minority, putting themselves at risk for the sake of a better world. The result is a sometimes humorous, but often morose look into why these benevolent, and disheartened souls don the superhero image.

Real life superheroes can be found throughout the US, and Barnett has done his best to include as many as possible in the film, smartly focusing in on several different ends of the crime fighting spectrum. Mr. Xtreme, a very passionate, but generally unskilled superhero by night, security guard by day, is our 33 year old, Californian, main man. He studies legal code, and martial arts, and has a deep love of the Power Rangers. Dressed to the nines in his helmet, padding and cape, he promotes awareness about open police cases rather than actually confronting assailants. Master Legend is a part of a similar front, but rather than focusing on crime, he heads the only real life super hero non-profit organization in the US. While he’s not sneaking a beer from his creepy van, or hitting on the local college girls, he spends his time helping the homeless by giving them food and survival kits, while dressed in an over the top silver and black get up. On the other end of the spectrum, Zimmer, an openly gay real life superhero who does not wear an identity hiding costume, leads a Brooklyn based team who are very serious about catching criminals in the act, going so far as to bait them with their female member. And to fill up the inherent spaces in between these characters, Barnett fills the screen with an abundance of costumed night walkers that come in all shapes, sizes, and ideologies, ready and willing to share their bizarre story.

These people don’t do this because it is a fun way to spend their time. They also don’t do it because it makes them feel cool, except for maybe Master Legend. They do it because they feel like they have to. As a trade off, many of them have sacrificed legitimate relationships with not only potential friends or lovers, but their own families. To complete strangers, they mainly seem like insane human beings who have lost touch with reality, and in some respects, this is completely the case, but that doesn’t make them less important to the communities they serve. Despite the lack of obvious mental stability and all important super powers, these people do make a difference in their communities, whether it be by helping out the less fortunate by spending their own hard earned cash to give them the living necessities the homeless can’t afford, simply speaking out against wrongdoers in their neighborhood, or putting themselves into confrontational situations where their lives are in serious danger for the benefit of the local populace. As a pivot point, Barnett employs the opinions of psychoanalytic police officers, family members, and comic legend Stan Lee to examine why these people have embraced such an outlandish, and often risky alter-ego, lived out in their free time.

Superheroes examines a very silly topic that borderlines on depressing, but it manages to make it fun, and in the process it seems to give the real life superhero scene some much needed legitimacy. Many of these people have extremely troubled pasts, and in turn have undeniable brain problems. They’ve bottled up their pasts, and turned them into a driving force for good. Barnett’s film objectively presents these oddballs with distinct style, and the highest respect for the comic world that these people hold so close to their hearts. Whether they are angry 20 somethings or masked crusaders well into their 60s, these average humans made of flesh and blood are putting themselves out there, risking it all, both on the streets and on film, and we are better for it.

HBO Doc premiere

Rating 3 stars

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