Director Mike Barnett’s chronicling of real life superheroes wants to ultimately have it both ways. It’s at times very exploitative and mocks its subjects relentlessly with tricky editing and bloopers that depict the subjects as lunatics in costumes, and by the second half Barnett tries to depict his clan of costumed lunatics in to something of a do gooder bunch with well meaning intentions that will undoubtedly get them killed one day. You can do nothing but feel pity for these people who have taken to creating ridiculous costumes and using Power Rangers as their inspiration for patrolling streets and risking being murdered rather than take up admirable trades like EMT services, law, and so much more that they can contribute society.
Instead “Superheroes” is a bastion for thrill seekers and miscreants, all of whom are walking the fine line between risky and just plain idiotic. By the time Barnett tries to destroy the foundation he’s laid out for us and attempts to salvage this film by depicting his topics as admirable folks looking to do good for the world, it completely contradicts the entire notion of this documentary and feels rather cheap and blatant. Barnett never knows if he wants to empathize or laugh at these people and in the process neither does the audience. We spend most of our time with folks who use comic books as inspiration for fighting crime all the while creating elaborate costumes to fight criminals. The sad fact is they’re not doing anything but walking around and flashing a cult-like persona.
The people here are making zero difference in the world, and see their society as a surface wound they have to cure rather than trying to affect it from the inside out. And what’s worse is that these people are capable of hurting someone very badly thanks to their ability to obtain deadly weapons without much repercussions and Director Barnett does little to ease our anxieties once he attempts to portray them as valiant and noble. Deep down the more we get to know them, the more we feel pity rather than remorse, simply because they’re more intent on harming themselves rather than offering something to the world that could help others through means like volunteering, charities, firefighting, law enforcement and the like.
What makes “Superheroes” such an terrible experience is the inherent manipulation behind these poor people and Barnett never seems to want us to decide for ourselves and instead just switches gears from one half of the film to the other leaving us ultimately confused about the film’s actual intentions. Mental illnesses as the ones represented by these people should not be glamorized or humored, instead they should be treated and downright feared. “Superheroes” plays down that fear in favor of pure exploitation garbage. A downright annoying and excruciating documentary, “Superheroes” is a film that can never be sure if it wants to mock its subjects or care for them, so it tries for both and fails