Nov 24, 2017
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
“I want a hero” said the poet, Lord Byron. Throughout the evolution of our species, our collective unconscious has cried out for a hero figure. We need them. It is programmed into our DNA. They have defined our values and beliefs. Modern psychologists have explained our proclivity and passion for these archetypes. They have looked at how the syndrome has been vital to our development as sentient entities. There are certain characteristics that describe heroes that transcend culture and are identifiable in disparate communities. In our democratic societies there has been an equalization process and too often the omnipresent media has shown that our staunch leaders have feet of clay. But we apparently still want our champions so we have created The Superhero.
Do not disdain the Marvel cinematic universe, comic book super person. As Americans all these guys are part of our mythology. They are just contemporary manifestations of deeply held beliefs. Spiderman: Homecoming is the story of an ordinary kid who was bitten by a radioactive spider which gave him his powers. There must be an origin story of magical proportions and this is his. The new incarnation of Spidey is Tom Holland who has the look of a befuddled teenager. Because he is so young he is mentored by another super fellow in the person of Robert Downey, Jr. otherwise known as Ironman. His opponent in this film is Michael Keaton who has confiscated some potent material from an extra-terrestrial event and plans to weaponize it. This is the wickedness that Spiderman must overcome as all heroes must have a journey where they confront evil and destroy it.
Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes has all the required features. There was something surreal about how he was conceived, a mad experiment gone awry. For Caesar and his coterie of apes it has given them what appears to be skills and compassion that somehow have been drained from the human race. Caesar is played by Andy Serkis who is motion captured in a marvel of modern technology. Caesar is interested in interspecies harmony and regards with revulsion as humans kill other humans and sustains even more disgust when a dissolute colonel has enslaved hundreds of primates. Woody Harrelson as the colonel is a blatant replication of colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now right down to the shaved head. There are many metaphors about building walls, etc. Caesar is half animal, half human but all hero as he defeats Harrelson and rescues his furry compatriots and leads them to safety.
Because there is a trend in bringing these superheroes to film we can only speculate what makes them so indispensable to our society at this point in time. Could it be that we have not produced enough every day heroes to supply our lust for the scenario of pitting good against evil or has technology made us painfully aware of our heroes’ tragic flaws?
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