Real Heroes 2014
I’m wrapping up the year by trying to finish up the last of the superhero and comic book based films that have come out throughout this year. I only have a few left to go and it’s quite possible that I can watch every superhero and comic book film that I know of before the year’s end. This is one that I only recently heard about thanks to the folks over at Superhero Speak who talked to the writer/director Keith Hartman about his little indie film that takes a look at a superhero reality show along the lines of the Real World. I expected it to be a bit dated as reality shows have spread out a lot farther than the old “putting people in a house to see how they react with each other” style made famous by MTV, that and there are many different web series out there that have tried their hands and some type of reality superhero show. But when I actually checked it out, I thought it ended up being pretty hilarious. It had a nice mix of reality show tropes mixed with a superhero spin as well as the self-involved LA actor types, only with superhero costumes. If you want to check it out for yourself, you can see the trailer and find info on where you can watch it at the movie’s website.
Real Heroes follows the casting and the goings on of the reality television show Real Heroes: LA that brings together several superheroes and makes them live in a house together to see what happens. Unfortunately, all the big name heroes have actual day jobs and wouldn’t be caught dead in a reality show so they are left with the B and C level heroes and wannabes. One of the great touches during the casting scenes is how it really captures how most reality shows don’t always cast based on the criteria they appear to be looking for alone, instead like in this case they cast based on a combination of how good of a hero they actually are, as well as their personality traits and physical appearance that would be likely to get them ratings. Which is why they cast Water Warrior and his rather dubious ability to talk to fish *cough* *cough* Aquaman *cough*. But since he looks awfully good with his shirt off, and even with his barely-a-shirt on, he gets the gig. Similarly Sable almost doesn’t get the gig even though she’s clearly the only one with any actual fighting ability, but when her argumentative teenage daughter steps in, the tension equals ratings and that’s what gets her the spot on the show.
The film makes the budgetary decision to not really show any of the action scenes outside of a couple minor fights. Instead, it relies on a motion comic style animation with narration. While it’s fairly obvious to tell that it was a choice based more on the costs rather than the storytelling, it does generally work well to help give the movie more of a superhero/comic book feel to it. And it also affords the film to use the narrator to great effect and was one of the better elements of the film. It helped that the artwork looked pretty great. There were also a couple moments where there are things going on off-camera, or a big fight scene where the camera crews are also in the middle of things so they can’t capture what’s going on clearly. It’s another cost-cutting measure, though it is also fairly successful in fitting within the context of the story.
There hasn’t been many reality shows of this ilk that have garnered much interest in recent years, instead there’s much more of a glut of reality competition shows of various forms. Unfortunately, that meant that much of the concept did feel a little bit dated and repetitive. Early on, the on-screen post interviews mention “first impressions” way too many times, and the getting to know each other moments seemed to go on a little bit too long. But the way the “confessionals” or post interviews where the cast members are talking directly to camera do feel more like how those interviews are done now rather than how they were done back in the 90’s. It’s quite obvious both in this film as well as in most current reality shows that the interviews were done well after the fact as the actors look a bit different than they do within the scenes.
Something that doesn’t show up too often in superhero media very often is homosexual culture outside of a very minor character or a joke. For the most part, Real Heroes does a great job at featuring a few homosexual characters without calling attention to it. Especially the scenes with Sable’s teenage daughter and her friend, it felt like a fairly realistic series of moments and it was never really put in the center of attention. But there were a few moments of gay culture parallels that felt a little bit more forced, like how the rather Right Wing militaristic character Big Shot goes on a tirade about how male superheroes are supposed to have male sidekicks and female superheroes are supposed to have female sidekicks since that is the way it has always been done. I suppose he overlooked either of the two female Robins.
I haven’t spent much time talking about the characters themselves yet, there is a nice mix of fun characters from Malibu Action Girl who is essentially a spoiled little rich girl who has plenty of expensive gadgets and crimefighting tools, but cares more about her toy line and outfits than she does about actually fighting crime. One of the best and worst moments is how often her personal theme song comes up, which is very character appropriate, but it gets stuck in your head in the worst way. The only one that has actual superpowers is Psychic Sam who can see the future pretty clearly which has given him a pretty bad superiority complex. The villains are an interesting mix of characters as well once they show up, and while I won’t actually spoil the climax of the movie, there are some great meta jokes thrown in the mix with different shows going on and the producers’ involvement in the whole thing. It really is a great send up of reality shows with a superhero twist to it, if you get the chance you should definitely check it out. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.