Are Fantasy Heroes “Super”?
As usual, I’m starting this off with a little bit of an update. I was really happy with my first Superhero Shorts article, taking a look at a brand new video that has just come out, and I’ve gotten to talk to two other video creators. This Saturday I’ll be featuring the video “Wolverine’s Claws Suck” by the video team of Greg and Lou from YouTube, and next Saturday I’ll be featuring Batman: Dead End by Sandy Collora. I’ve been really happy with the people that have gotten back to me and answered my questions, I hope the trend continues. As far as upcoming movies, Thursday is Batman: The Movie. I’m hoping to have another video with my daughter Jena talking about it, but I haven’t filmed it yet, so she might not cooperate, and I haven’t yet decided what two movies I’m going to watch to finish out the month, though I may end up watching Sky High and Zoom. But today, I’ll be talking a little bit about a couple other movies.
Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve watched two movies that I really enjoyed but I decided they don’t fit my self imposed theme for this site, even though they are a pretty close fit to a certain extent. So I thought I’d take a little closer look at them in a blog post rather than a review and try and deconstruct the fantasy hero and see how he compares to the modern superhero. By the way, the movies in question are Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, and The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Between the two of them, I enjoyed Percy Jackson a little bit better, and I’m glad that they are moving ahead with a sequel. And especially when comparing Nicolas Cage movies, I was still pleasantly surprised by The Sorcerer’s Apprentice.
Some people may say that the modern superhero draws a lot from ancient myths and legends. Instead of legendary demigods and warriors, they are replaced by crimefighters and superheroes. Hercules is a classic example, he was half god, had strength greater than any man, and made a name for himself by doing dozens of heroic deeds. Let’s break that down a little bit and see how it relates to a similar superhero, let’s go with Superman. Hercules was half god, in other words he came from a different race of beings with extraordinary powers and was not the same as the mere mortals that he lived with. Superman was Kryptonian, he also came from a different race of beings with extraordinary powers. They both had great strength, were celebrated by the general public as a hero. The two main differences are that Hercules was from ancient times and his story hasn’t really been updated, aside from his Marvel comics version which I am not familiar with except for the fact that it exists. Superman lives in modern times, and his story is seemingly constantly updated. The other difference is that Superman has an alter ego in Clark Kent. Hercules is always Hercules.
But that’s Hercules and Superman, let’s get down to the specifics of Percy Jackson and the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. And since I can’t remember the character’s name, I’ll just call him Jay imnotgoingtotryspellinghislastname. Both of these movies are what I like to think of as fantasy movies. There’s magic, there’s Greek gods, there’s swordfighting, there’s dragons. At first glance, they are both very clearly not superhero movies. Are they? One of the two differences I mentioned between Hercules and Superman is that Hercules takes place in ancient times, and Superman takes place in modern times. That’s solved easily enough because both of these movies take place in modern times. Percy Jackson’s conceit is that the ancient gods are still around, but they hide their presence from the general populace, and those that are aware of them use illusion when in the real world, or stay together in hidden places within the real world. The Sorcerer’s Apprentice’s conceit is that there are very few sorcerers left in the world and they conceal their magic within illusions to stay unnoticed by the general populace.
The second part of the equation that is missing to some degree is the secret identity. Both Percy Jackson and Dave use their real names in their movies. Yes I had to look up Jay’s character’s name because that sentence doesn’t make as much sense otherwise. There is a hint of a secret identity in both of the movies, much more so in Sorcerer’s Apprentice. Dave initially hides his magic from his love interest for most of the movie, pretending that Nicolas Cage is merely his Uncle rather than his sorcerer master. But at the end, he reveals his magic to her when she is used as bait by the villain sorcerer. In Percy Jackson, it’s actually the people around Percy that have the secret identities. Both his satyr protector and his centaur teacher are watching over him in the real world before he realizes his true identity, but at the end of the movie, Percy chooses to live in the hidden portion of the real world where everyone knows his true, heroic identity.
Both Percy Jackson and Dave have extraordinary abilities, and perform extremely heroic tasks, and yet at the end of the day, I still don’t really think of either of them as superheroes. When I talked about what defines a superhero, I mentioned the costume, or at least a persona. In both of these movies, neither character takes on a different persona to make them into a hero, instead they find the strength to make themselves heroes, rather than to hide behind a different costume and a name. Aside from that, there’s also an elusive style that’s just not there. I can’t quite put my finger on it, and I don’t believe it’s just about the costume, but there’s just something different between these two heroes and a couple of superheroes. If you have a theory, I’d love to hear it right here in the comments section. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.