SuperGuy: Behind the Cape (2000) / Comedy
MPAA Rated: Not rated, but probably PG-13 for language, some violence, and mild sexual references
Running Time: 74 min.
Cast: Mark Teague, Peter Stacker (narrator), Tim Peyton, Charles Dierkop, Katherine Viktor, Jan Garrett, Elizabeth Jaeger Rydall
Director: Bill Lae
Screenplay: Bill Lae
Bill Lae's satirical mockumentary puts forth a scenario depicting what it would really be like to have a real-life superhero emerge. While there have been many films depicting the life of the superhero, none really scratch the surface of just what a media circus such a super powered person would create, from the wild speculations among reporters, the cult-like religions that would emerge, to the people that would try to do bad things as villains against him just to make names for themselves. Although billed as a comedy, it doesn't always play that way, as there is a strong undercurrent of cynicism involved in the fact that an honest, noble superhero that devotes his life to save the lives of others would have to deal with selfish, fame-seeking, overly litigious zealots, and he'd be hampered from just the media attention without ever needing to battle a super-villain.
Told in the same documentary fashion as you'd find on The History Channel, SuperGuy tells the tale of Mark Trent, who grew up with superpowers from early childhood. Some speculate that he is an alien from another planet, while others think that he contracted the powers through a fluke accident. Whatever the story, he grows up to adulthood with super-strength and the ability to fly, traits he uses to help people in need in his cape and tights as SuperGuy. The feeding frenzy in the print and television outlets is enormous, as the entire world focuses on this one incredible man. Craziness begins, as people jump off of buildings trying to be saved, people worship him or denounce him as evil, and some even sue due to purporting to be victims hurt in the process of being saved (or not being saved, as it were).
At its core, SuperGuy: Behind the Cape is really a tongue-in-cheek exploration of the nature of being a superstar, with pressures and expectations from the media that blow up whatever flaws the object of their desires possesses, which only exacerbates the problems for the celebrity. What SuperGuy comes to realize is that, in trying to make the world a better place by being a role model, the world seems hell-bent on knocking him right off of his pedestal through backlash, hype, lies, and other, more insidious acts.
This is a low budget production, so don't expect special effects to rival the big superhero blockbusters that fill theaters during the peaks seasons. However, given the limited production values, SuperGuy does impress with a good visual style and solid acting, in addition to very imaginative construction that covers a wide variety of subject matter that, more often than not, seems right on. The props are absolutely ingenious, and it does amaze at just how much depth goes into every one of the mocked up action figures and magazine covers.
As a satire, it probably won't make you laugh as much as it will make you think. If you draw any conclusion after the 74 minutes are over, it will probably be that our society is so f**ked up that no superhero can possibly save us; even if he could, we don't deserve it.
If Lae could have made SuperGuy a short film (perhaps 30 to 40 minutes) instead, this would probably be a bit easier to digest. As clever as it often is, the tedium does unfortunately begin to creep in at about the 30-minute mark, growing ever more intense as it goes on. Without hitting any home runs in the humor department, this is a project that is well executed and very intelligent, but it does miss the mark in terms of laughs and maintaining strong interest throughout. I would say that comic book fanatics will enjoy this the most, but others will find it a bit trying, and like most mockumentaries, the less you're familiar with the subject matter, the less you'll see the humor in the very subtle situations. Still, even if you you aren't obsessed by comic books and superheroes, it still might be worth a look just for the intelligent and subversive commentary on the stupidity of our society.
©2006 Vince Leo