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Simon Read [Film Festival 06.21.10] United Kingdom movie review comedy documentary

Year: 2010
Directors: Steve Sale
Writers: N/A
IMDB: link
Trailer: link
Review by: projectcyclops
Rating: 5.5 out of 10

Superhero Me is a documentary by English music producer Steve Sale. He preceeds the film with a bit of text explaining that he filmed any which way he could and that the budget was almost non-existant. Then he quotes Mariah Carey; "So when you feel like hope is gone, Look inside you and be strong, And you'll finally see the truth, That a hero lies in you." We begin with comic book experts comicly explaining their veiws on what it means to be a superhero - and I'm about ready to sit back and watch an entertaining documentary about a guy who wants to join the growing cult of real life superheros that's expanding around the world.

Steve does some research into what kind of name his alter-ego should have, and how to make an effective costume. He recruits friends who work in fashion and graphic design to help him with his mission. He visits his mum and dad and asks if they feel like heroes sometimes, dad certainly does, although mum's sideway glace and smile make us wonder. Weight training, kung-fu lessons and an Australian wonder-diet are just the beginning, and soon Steve's turned himself into 'SOS' who's vowed to protect the streets of Sutton and Epson with a bright yellow unitard, sonic alarm and gas scooter. All this sounds like fun, right?

Up to a point, yes. It is amusing to see Steve realising his physical limitations on an obsticle course, worrying about his unhealthy new diet and visiting a wind tunnel to fly around. He's an amiable fellow who clearly likes his music, as all of this is cut to uber-trendy indie tracks which give the message, "Hey! We're cool, this is great, I'm having fun!". In that way mobile phone adverts give a distorted view of real life with everyone floating around in magic bubbles, 'chillaxin'. We're bascially just following him around Sutton inbetween musical montages of him jumping about in his yellow costume and mask, and it isn't until he visits Florida and real-life vigilanty 'Master Legend' that things go from twee to actually interesting.

Master Legend is a very odd guy and Steve seems somewhat intimidated by him when they first meet. He's a big man with a Darth Vader helmet, knee and shoulder pads and a large van he cruises around in, looking to help anyone who might need assistance, and all for free! He gives food and toiletries to the homeless, confronts muggers and carries out patrols of dodgy neighbourhoods. He sounds like a really nice guy, until he explains that he's already died twice (?), that his father drank, beat him constantly as a child, and eventually killed himself. I'm immediately thinking, 'Wow, this guy has problems that manifest themselves in how he sees other people and himself... he's crazy', but does Steve investigate or even question Master Legend? Not really. He kind of uneasily praises him and returns home, where he's become just famous enough in his town to be invited to turn on the Christmas lights - but he's late and doesn't in the end. The Master Legend section is an example of how Steve could have geared this film more towards examining the people he's been inspired by to become a hero, but alas it's back to Blighty and Sutton and Farrow.

I was with Steve, I think, right up until he decided to bump up the running time by including his wedding video. He's decided to make a documentary about himself, when the better idea might have to make it about these weird superheroes. There is this strange vigilanty craze going on in the world as evidenced by the hundereds of websites he visits, and Steve had the opertunity to make a really interesting documentary about it. Instead he's just taking part in it with predictable results (he manages to stop one shop lifter) and he visits only two real-life superheroes and doesn't think to ask why they're doing what they're doing in any depth at all, or why they think it's positive, or somehow nobel. It was sort of like watching Louis Theroux or Jon Ronson, but if they were a less observant and careful journalist, and more a kind of chummy 'regular guy'. A pre-dad, Playstation loving, iPod listening, Carphone Warehouse shopping 'bloke'. Someone who calls you 'mate' even though he's never met you. Someone who likes indie rock basically. He's a very normal man and we're watching him dance around in costume, smiling and for all the world making an idiot out of himself. Tee-hee.

Much like Chris Waitt's documentary from 2008, 'A Complete History of my Sexual Failures', Steve Sale has made the film about himself and his own life and not enough about the subject matter. The biggest laughs come not from watching Steve as SOS, giving directions to bewildered tourists or failing to start the engine to his pathetic gas scooter while hipster tunes blast out on the soundtrack - for these scenes get old quite quickly - but from his pet dog, which he dresses as Batman. It's really cute and funny, yeah?

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