I have been toying with the subject for a while now, it’s a tricky one and I have been struggling with the right way to approach it. Then, while watching No Ordinary Family the answer came to me; You can’t do a realistic take on Superheros, for it to work you have to have a bit of fantasy in the mix.
Take for example, Batman Begins. Even this realistic take on on the story had to have a somewhat fantastical third act to up the danger and give the hero his “save the day” moment. Many people (and champions of the R rated superhero) often say that the third act is a failure on the part of Christopher Nolan. I disagree, I think Nolan realised that ultimately these are fantastic tales and you cannot completely set them in reality. As dark a knight as he created he still exists in a world where one of his villains is the leader of an ancient brotherhood of assassins and the other uses something called a fear-o-sol.
And I’m going to go out on a limb here and say this isn’t even the best film incarnation of Batman, that is the 1960’s movie.
As much as we like to pretend otherwise all these heroes were invented to entertain children, in fact they have a lot in common with the fairy tales and fables we read to them. There is always a villain, usually a damsel in distress and the knight in shining armour saves the day. However drawing this parallel is nothing new and I’m not expecting you to think this is my idea. Rather what I want you to do is keep that in mind when you next read a comic book, it’s all about fantasy.
Getting back to No Ordinary Family this is the reason this show works and a show like Heroes ultimately failed. You can throw anything you like into the mix as long as you remember you can’t take it to seriously. Heroes, by the end was throwing about some majorly wacky concepts yet trying to convince us it was a realistic gritty take. No Ordinary Family has similar themes, a shadowy company, a mystery as to where the powers came form etc but it takes itself far less seriously and is all the better for it.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that grim and gritty is not a bad thing but when we are talking about people dressing up in costumes and fighting crime it’s perhaps better not to take the concept to seriously, and there is nothing wrong with accepting that.