Courage in tights is still courage

Courage in tights is still courage

Read Mark Hadley's review

By Mark HadleyWednesday 18 Jul 2012MoviesReading Time: 4 minutes

The Amazing Spiderman / The Dark Knight Rises
Distributor:Sony / Roadshow
Release date:July 4 / July 19  

There are two types of people when it comes to superhero films: those who buy the tickets and those who roll their eyes. With this month’s release of two of the year’s most anticipated films falling into that comic category, I’d like to encourage that second group to join the first. Yes, you can be sure that destruction will often take the place of dialogue. Yes, the villains’ methods will remain largely unexplained. And yes, the heroes will display more drama than the combined cast of an amateur theatre company. But courage in tights is still courage.

Sony Pictures has made good on its promise to reboot the Spiderman franchise after three-time director Sam Raime and his star Toby Maguire walked away in 2010. The Amazing Spiderman is a return to a simpler Peter Parker with Andrew Garfield presenting a hero who has to work much harder at being heroic. This version of spiderman no longer possesses the innate ability to shoot webs from his body, but has to invent devices that will do it for him.

But he still has plenty of Parker’s cockiness and overactive conscience as local hoodlums soon find out:

Parker: You know if you’re going to steal cars, don’t dress like a car thief. 
Car thief: You a cop? 
Parker: You seriously think I’m a cop in a skintight red and blue suit?
When the teen discovers his parent’s disappearance had something to do with his father’s scientific experiments, he tracks down Dr. Curt Connors (Rhys Ifans) for answers. But reforging the connection provides Connors with the missing piece to a genetic puzzle that unleashes the villainous Lizard on an unsuspecting city. Once again Spidey finds himself defending a public that is busy hunting him down as a masked vigilante.
Which brings us to where The Dark Knight left Batman
At the end of Christopher Nolan’s second installment Bruce Wayne’s alter ego took the blame for the murderous Two-Face’s crimes so that the city could heal around the memory of the virtuous DA Harvey Dent. However Christian Bale’s character is forced out of retirement eight years later in The Dark Knight Rises when the adrenally-overcharged Bane (Tom Hardy) arrives to wreak havoc. According to Nolan, Bane was chosen as his main antagonist to stretch Batman, “…mentally as well as physically.”

Like Parker, Wayne’s integrity is tested to its very limits by an adversary who acknowledges none:

Wayne: Why didn’t you just kill me? 
Bane: Your punishment must be more severe. When Gotham is ashes, you have my permission to die.
Equally challenged, equally misunderstood, Batman and Spiderman are forced to combat inner and outer demons to defend that which they know is right, even when it seems the object of their devotion is unappreciative of their efforts. This is the hero’s primary characteristic: courage. It’s the attribute which war-time Prime Minister Winston Churchill described as, “…the first of human qualities because it is the quality which guarantees all the others.” 
But, I hear my second group of filmgoers ask, “Why do we need men in body suits to show it to us?”
Heroic stories make the invisible visible. Lessons like, ‘Stand up for what you believe in’ fade to beige because they’re so familiar. When imaginary characters wear those inner qualities as boldly as bright Lycra and body armour, we get a stark reminder of what our real lives should reach for. C.S. Lewis criticized people who criticized fantasy stories for the same reason:
“Since it is so likely that (children) will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage. Otherwise you are making their destiny not brighter but darker.”
Public Christianity often shies away from heroism but I find that strange when missionaries, social workers and other pastors provide some of the brightest points in a socially dark landscape. They in turn have been inspired by the story of a misunderstood messiah. Batman and Spiderman are useful billboard figures that reflect the real-life courage Jesus showed in the Garden of Gethsemene. Rudolph Stier wrote, 
“When men sought to make Him a king He fled; now that they seek to put Him to death He goes out to meet them.”
Jesus was heroic not because he felt no fear, but because he mastered it. He served God even though the world opposed his efforts, and continued to do so all the way to the cross. It remains to be seen whether Batman, Spiderman or we will go that far.