Samaritan, Watchmen and the others: when superheroes are disreputable

Samaritan: Sylvester Stallone wearing armor

With Samaritan, Sylvester Stallone has chosen to get back into the game at 76 as an actor and producer of a film that has the ambition to reinvent the superhero genre. Firmly rooted in the present, Julius Avary’s film tells the story of a character endowed with exceptional powers that he has chosen, however, to hide from the world. The man next door (in the literal sense of the term, since he lives in the building adjacent to that of the young protagonist) appears as an anonymous and humble figure, who covers his face with a hood and rummages in the garbage looking for objects to repair and then resell.

Samaritan Sylvester Stallone Javon Walton

Samaritan: Sylvester Stallone and Javon ‘Wanna’ Walton in a scene

This brief description is enough to understand how far we are from the Marvel and DC universes, from the sparkling latest generation costumes, from hi-tech weapons and from the luxurious headquarters of the Avengers, but also from billionaire receptions and Bruce Wayne’s hyper-technological cave or from sensual realm of the Amazons from which Wonder Woman hails. With the contribution of screenwriter Bragi F. Shut, Julius Avary creates an original story, which programmatically deviates from the two cinecomic giants in search of a third way. If we really wanted to find some vague link, it should be looked for in Joker, the most independent and anarchic DC work with which Samaritan shares the gloomy and pessimistic vision of society.

Joker Joqauin Phoenix Escape

Joker: Joaquin Phoenix fleeing the stairs

But even on Sylvester Stallone’s Joe Smith (name that couldn’t be more anonymous) there would be a lot to say. Let’s avoid spoilers by inviting you to read ours Samaritan review to find out more, but behind the good-natured and fatherly attitude, Stallone’s character stands as a metaphor for the conflict between good and evil, between justice and revenge. Outside of the collective imagination Samaritan, or whoever, is an anti-hero “with stain and with fear” who hides from everything and everyone. Samaritan is not alone superhero with flaws, but belongs to a tradition which, although less frequented, has given us interesting reflections on the sense of duty, justice and morality. Let’s find out together.

Unbreakable: good and evil, two sides of the same coin

Samuel L. Jackson in a scene from Unbreakable - The Predestined

Samuel L. Jackson in a scene from Unbreakable – The Predestined

The hero of Samaritan has a lot in common with the David Dunn of Unbreakable, a 2000 film by M. Night Shyaamalan which starred Bruce Willis in the role of a man who, after surviving a train accident, discovers he is indestructible . Shortly thereafter, she meets his nemesis, comic book expert Elijah Price (Samuel L. Jackson), who suffers from a disease that makes his bones break easily. The parallels between Joe Smith and David Dunn abound. The super power of both is to be “unbreakable”, but neither of them is immortal, in fact they are ordinary men and the origin of their strength is rather nebulous. Both pursue good, but have a nemesis closely connected to them (in the case of Samaritan it is the twin Nemesis, nomen omen) which suggests that good and evil are interdependent. Without one, the other does not exist.

They called it Jeeg Robot and the rebirth of Italian genre cinema


Joker: a close-up of Joaquin Phoenix

That is the conclusion Shyamalan arrives at in his impassioned homage to comics which is also his most critically loved film. Julius Avary will come to the same conclusion over twenty years later. But there is another aspect that unites the two characters: both will learn to test their limits thanks to the intervention of a teenager. Because comics, in the collective imagination, are kids stuff, but wisdom is often where no one is looking for it.

Watchmen: from comic to series, because it is one of the great novels of our time

They called him Jeeg Robot: the unlikely superhero

They called him Jeeg Robot: Claudio Santamaria in a scene from the film

They called him Jeeg Robot: Claudio Santamaria in a scene from the film

What if a suburban petty thief gains superhuman strength and endurance? One of the most intriguing reflections on the superhero genre is that of Gabriele Mainetti in They called me Jeeg Robot, an unexpected and surprising success, given that Italian cinecomics can be counted on the tip of the fingers. As with Samaritan, Mainetti’s film is also set in the Roman criminal underworld. We’re not really in Gotham City, but among drug dealers, usurers, camorristi and singing bosses, it’s not like the Roman suburbs are exactly paradise. Among other things, unlike the previous films mentioned, the moment of assuming powers, in They Call Me Jeeg Robot, is central given that it is a true origin story complete with the creation of the superhero costume.

They called him Jeeg Robot: Claudio Santamaria and Ilenia Pastorelli in a scene from the film

They called him Jeeg Robot: Claudio Santamaria and Ilenia Pastorelli in a scene from the film

Ironically, Enzo Ceccotti, a character played by Claudio Santamaria, acquires powers after falling into the Tiber and coming into contact with radioactive substances. The same fate will befall his nemesis, Luca Marinelli’s Zingaro, shortly before the finale. The over-the-top nature of the characters and the acquisition of powers closely resembles the story of the Joker, this time of the original one, but like Samaritan, Mainetti is also keen to root his fantastic film in a real context, touching on adult themes such as sexual assault. Despite being a criminal, Enzo Ceccotti isn’t bad, but his superpowers don’t make him any better. Will experience like love and loss, if anything, to teach him to go straight. As Spider-Man teaches, great powers correspond to great responsibilities, but the arbitrary book of the characters and the creativity of the screenwriters give us narrative nuances that go beyond the black and white of comics.

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Who Watches the Watchmen?

Watchmen Hbo Season 1 Episode 2 Martial Feats Of Comanche Horsemanship Tv Review Tom Lorenzo Site 1

A scene from the second episode of Watchmen

In terms of superheroes, morality and nuances, no one is able to show the other side of the coin, dismantling the myth of superheroes, by Alan Moore. From Watchmen a film and a TV series were made, both heavily criticized by Moore, but his graphic novel remains a seminal work for the representation of the moral ambiguity of super heroes. What interests Moore is to deconstruct the myth, showing its human side. Dave Gibbons’ aesthetic also goes hand in hand with this purpose: beyond the costumes, the Watchmen have a common appearance and, with the exception of Doctor Manhattan, do not possess specific powers. Night Owl’s bacon has little in common with DC’s powerful and muscular Batman and is more reminiscent of Adam West’s awkward one from the 60s series.

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian in a scene from Watchmen

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as the Comedian in a scene from Watchmen

The superheroes of Watchmen are no longer the reliable creatures that can be trusted blindly. They lie, they cheat, they hide in the shadows to advance their personal interests, they are prey to their own insecurities or even worse, they are rigid in that vigilante mentality, with the load of ethical problems and chiaroscuro ideologies that it brings with it and which will determine the self-destruction. Ozymandias’ atrocious attempt to save the world, with the resulting devastating results, reveals the sad human condition: superheroes are unable to save the world, indeed, they are unable to save even themselves.

The Boys: nihilism, laughter and orgies

The Boys 10

The Boys: A close-up of Karl Urban

Many have slipped into the creative breach opened by Alan Moore, often with little incisive results as in the case of Hancock, an alcoholic superhero played by Will Smith who saves lives, but at the cost of causing stratospheric damage to the city of Los Angeles in which he lives and Opera. Marvel itself poses the problem after the destruction of Sokovia caused by the clash between the Avengers and Ultron. The “degeneration” (in the literal sense of the term) of this concept comes with the comic The Boyswritten by Garth Ennis and drawn by Darick Robertson, which inaugurates publications in 2006 and then becomes a successful Prime Video series.

The Boys 3

The Boys: Dominique McElligott, Antony Starr during a scene from the series

The Boys turns Alan Moore’s speech into a parody by transforming the Seven – a team of superheroes that ape the Avengers/Justice League – into a handful of hypocrites, depraved and vicious who nurture Nazi sympathies and exploit their “heroic” public image ” to devote himself to his perversions. Debauched at best, sadistic and violent at worst, the superheroes of The Boys are criticized through ridicule, but the work of demythologizing through parody gets the job done. Especially since, in the comic universe, the origin of superpowers is due to the assumption of a powerful synthetic drug created by Vought for newborns. The political subtext of the comic is explicit and the presence of Vought, a multinational company that manages the public image of the Supers, is a clear alarm bell about our present. Never trust too perfect superheroes… all that glitters is not gold.

Samaritan, Watchmen and the others: when superheroes are disreputable