Review - Confessions of a SuperheroBy Neal Bailey
I first met Christopher Dennis a little over a year ago in Los Angeles, and since have seen him on the con circuit multiple times. He's always a fine, nice guy, and chatting with him is already like chatting with an old friend. He's got a very good charisma, and I relate to anyone who feels compelled to dress in a strange way and go gallivanting in public. I've been known to sport a mohawk myself.
He's a bit intimidating, a bit strange... but that's not wholly bad. There's his outfit, which is the obvious introductory pause, and he's got more memorabilia than a man can shake a stick at, but in the end, you're... well, you're sitting there looking at a guy who looks like Christopher Reeve, only a little skinnier, and that's damned eerie. No wonder it's disconcerting.
I've read flaps online about Christopher's exploits, and the exploits of the people he surrounds himself with. I'm not a judgmental person, and I believe if Chris ever does something that's really off the deep end, you guys are smart enough to realize that Chris as an artist and we, the Superman Homepage, are differing entities, differing artists. So I'm not going to go into the controversies. I'm reviewing a film.
Suffice it to say, my above is to simply let you know that I've met the guy, and this film portrays his enigma pretty darned accurately.
Confessions of a Superhero is a damned good documentary, an interesting exploration about the dream to become famous, or at least a practicing artist, told from the perspectives of DC's holy trinity of comic book characters, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman, and with Joe McQueen, the Incredible Hulk. Superman is Christopher Dennis, obviously, and Jennifer Gerht plays Wonder Woman. Maxwell Allen is Batman. Most of this you wouldn't know without IMDB, however, because the movie refers to them, and in fact, the actors refer to themselves, as the character names.
Most of the documentaries I enjoy don't necessarily have a strong arc. This one does, but what makes it work is the sheer character. You feel for and get to know every character in an intimate, strong way, warts and all. There's very little cover here for failings. In fact, you might say what makes this movie great is that it exposes a number of them in a raw way. Narcissism. Anger. Fear. Homelessness. Drugs. When Joe walks up to where he used to sleep and talks about being shooed away by footsteps in the morning, you realize, yeah, he's not faking this.
Of all of the characters, I feel for Joe the most, and I haven't exactly put my finger on why. I think it's because most of the characters, as strange as they may have their lives, have support structure, but it appears that Joe is really struggling and suffering, living in an apartment with the mattress on the floor, as I used to, and having dealt with homelessness. It's a real point of greatness in the film when you see him catching a break and popping into a movie role. There's also that suit, which you literally see him sweltering and blacking out in over the course of the film.
Jennifer, Wonder Woman, surprises me the most out of all of the characters involved. She's extraordinarily beautiful, she has a strong, solid family behind her, and if the acting scene they show is any inclination, she's obviously got talent, and yet, of all the characters, her IMDB is the only one that lists no credits. Hollywood either churns and spits out the beauty like it's going out of style, or getting a part, no matter how beautiful, is just as hard as it is to publish a book, and she has my sympathy in that regard.
Batman is... well, like the comic Batman, Batman's got issues. I think of all the characters, he's the most inadvertently hilarious to watch, mostly because he spends most of the image portraying himself as a violent, angry mobster type. He declares that he has a black belt in tae kwan do, and yet has failings doing Heian Shodan, a very basic kata. To give you an idea, I've been in karate for about a year now, and I learned that kata in about the third month. Becoming black belt takes (varying) three to six years. You can also tell, watching his eyes, that he's lying half the time. But nonetheless, it's pretty interesting to watch someone, ponder their motivations for creating fictions for themselves, and imagine what must have inspired them.
Our own Jeffrey Bridges got to see Christopher's abode, which is here displayed in fully glory and from multiple angles. The man is a bit of a hoarder, but I don't know if you can call it compulsive hoarding, given the size of their apartment. I know a compulsive hoarder, and the definition of clinical is when it stops you from doing what you need to do to survive. Otherwise it can be just a really bad habit. At least, that's how I justify my comics. Hey-o! But regardless, one of the key and pivotal character insights comes from the standee of Superman from Superman Returns, where Dennis literally is speaking next to a standee that says, "How do you measure up to Superman?" Most of the film is Christopher trying to find his place in a world that openly mocks him, and for that he has my extraordinary empathy, and it is a real point that pulls you into the film.
The cinematography is also insanely good. The pictures pop. Well made pictures coupled with human beings who evolve into characters fantastically make this well worth a watch.
Dennis sold me his own copy in LA, mostly so that I could see the extras, which he said were great. They are. I listened to the commentary, checked out the extra scenes, and they're well worth the price of admission.
I enjoyed this film quite a bit, and felt happy to have spent 22 dollars on it. Honestly, I hope I run into Chris again, and wish all involved the best of luck. It's obvious they're struggling in a crazy world.