Death of a Superhero (Short Film)

21 May

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Smith’s Verdict: ***

Reviewed by Tanner Smith

“Death of a Superhero” is a 10-minute short film that asks the question, what happens when a superhero loses his powers? Of course, he would have to give up the job (and throw away the costume) and reduce himself to his regular human alter-ego permanently. That’s the case with John Jameson, a.k.a. Captain Amazing. After an intense battle with his arch-nemesis, Dr. Disaster, Amazing loses his powers and therefore his identity of a superhero.

After his battle (which I’m assuming he easily ran away from after the final thrashing), Amazing (well-played by Ed Lowry) is bloodied and beaten as he returns to his apartment. Now without his strength and whatever those cool-looking lightning/laser effects that Amazing shot out of his hands were supposed to be (yeah, what were those again?), he is forced to live with his identity of John Jameson. He burns the Captain Amazing attire (which include cape and mask), his identity is declared dead by the media, and John prepares to accept a relatively normal life. However, it turns out that it isn’t so easy, as he still finds himself listening to a police band waiting for a crime he can stop. He does try to foil some thieves, but gets his ass handed to him. It’s then that he comes to grips with the concept that Captain Amazing is now dead. But is there a way a normal person can become a hero without superpowers?

For a 10-minute film, it’s intriguing how “Death of a Superhero” was able to tell an admittedly complex story and manage to tell it within certain limits so that it doesn’t feel rushed. There’s no padding involved, so there’s nothing really slowing it down, which works to the film’s advantage. The Amazing/Disaster battle is simply overlooked in the opening credits, but with enough intensity to deliver the point. This means the story gets rolling real quick, as John comes to his apartment, realizes his loss of identity, interacts with people (including a little girl who lives in the same apartment building), tries to bring himself back to being a hero, and then there’s the ending, which is satisfying with a positive (and subtle) message that isn’t forced in the slightest.

I think what I really liked about “Death of a Superhero” was that while it was about a superhero, it wasn’t a superhero movie in the traditional sense in that there’s a supervillain and a big climax. There is a climactic moment near the end, and something close to a villain (in the form of an abusive husband/father), but it’s played in a realistic way and, in a clever move, in a way that mirrors the opening battle. So we have three fights in this short film—one that serves as a traditional superhero duel (with some good visual effects by Brandon Bogard, who also provided FX for the short film “The Man in the Moon”…and unfortunately with a lot of camera-shaking so that those effects are not fully appreciated); one that serves as a standing point for the failed hero midway through the film; and another that gives the hero a moment of redemption, as a person. It’s a clever structure that works.

“Death of a Superhero,” which was made by student filmmakers of the Digital Film program at the University of Central Arkansas, is an effective short that serves as a metaphor for how modern, everyday people can be heroic in their own form or fashion. It’s a touching, well-made film with a respectable message delivered successfully.

NOTE: You can see the film here: https://vimeo.com/44162407

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