Analyzing the Characters of Superhero Films
The recent increase in the amount of films based on superheroes has led to a necessity to discuss the method by which they are presented. In order to determine the fundamental components for these films, I will examine Richard Donner’s 1978 version of Superman, Tim Burton’s 1989 interpretation of Batman, and Sam Raimi’s 2002 blockbuster, Spiderman. The success of these films depends on their characters and the relationships that connect them. These characters include: the superhero, his alternate identity, the woman he loves, and the villain he must face. While all three films present each character differently, there are common threads that unite them. But before we even can begin to understand how these people operate with the films, there is a necessity to make a clear distinction between the films and the comic books. While some may argue that any diversions from the comic book story takes away from the film, it is in fact a necessity for the filmmakers to compromise and consolidate in order to tell a complete story in the two hours that they are allotted.
The Alternate Identity
Clark Kent is described as an “odd ball,” Bruce Wayne as just plain “odd,” and Peter Parker as a “freak.” The three have something else in common – they are all orphans. Yet each has parental figures that play prominent roles in the film. For Clark, it is Jor-El, his father, and his foster parents, the Kent’s. For Bruce Wayne, there is Alfred. In Peter Parker’s case, he has Uncle Ben and Aunt May. These characters play crucial roles in establishing the future superheroes that they raise.
Clark Kent has his father, Jor-El, who, although his physical form dies while Clark is an infant, continues to instruct his son while Clark travels to earth and then again when Clark becomes a man and journeys into the world. By Jor-El’s own words he has given his son every bit of knowledge he contains and his voice constantly reminds Clark that interfering with human destiny is “forbidden.” Clark is also lucky enough to have two foster parents who protect him as he grows up. When his foster father dies, Clark decides to leave his rural life behind, and to search for who he truly is. The upbringing provided by the Kent’s gives Clark a solid foundation upon which his character is seen as standing for only good.
As a direct opposite to the upbringing that Clark Kent receives, Bruce Wayne, as a child, watches his parents murdered, and they are never replaced. While throughout the film Alfred, Wayne’s butler, does serve as an instructor and advice giver, his impact seems to be much more subtle and primarily concerned with Wayne’s involvement with Vicky Vale. The impact that the loss of his parents has on Wayne is presented throughout the film.
As the movie opens, Batman joker123 two criminals who attack a family in a scenario similar to the one in which Wayne’s parents were killed. Burton also shows us the emotional impact the death of his parents has on Wayne when he has him place two roses at the sight of the murder. By having Vale witness this private ceremony and then discuss it later on with reporter, Alexander Knox, we are given the question point blank, “What do you suppose something like this does to a kid?” Later on in the film, Wayne remembers the double murder as he recalls the words of the killer, “Have you ever danced with the devil in the pale moonlight?”
In a world at the exact center of Kent’s and Wayne’s we find Peter Parker. His parents are never mentioned in the film, yet his Aunt and Uncle have provided a stable home life for him. This relationship is quickly constructed by Raimi and then destroyed. Uncle Ben is immediately painted as sympathetic because he has lost his job, and the reassurance that Aunt May provides presents them as an honest, loving couple. Add to this their interest in Peter’s day at school and the happy home is established.
What complicates Parker’s relationship with his Uncle becomes the foundation up which Spiderman is created. At the point when Parker could have prevented his Uncle’s death, we are shown a character whose sole concern is for himself. It is here that Uncle Ben’s advice, “With great power comes great responsibility” begins to echo throughout the film. Later in the film, the separation of Peter Parker from Spiderman becomes necessary when the Green Goblin attacks Aunt May and the problems that Spiderman encounters cross over into Parker’s life. It is here that Parker realizes that this separation is necessary to protect the ones he loves.