Directed by: Ian FitzGibbon
Screenplay by: Anthony McCarten
Based on the novel by: Anthony McCarten
Cast: Andy Serkis, Thomas Brodie-Sangster, Aisling Loftus, Michael McElhatton, Sharon Horgan, Jessica Schwarz
Running Time: 94 minutes
(Available on VOD)
Amid a plethora of maudlin tales about young people cut down by dread diseases, Death of a Superhero rises up as a creative burst of brilliance in an otherwise desolate landscape. It features a well-measured Andy Serkis (freed from his usual layers of latex and electronic wizardry that camouflages his impressive motion capture performances in such films as The Adventures of Tintin, Rise of the Planet of the Apes and The Hobbit/The Lord of the Rings series) and rising talent Thomas Brodie-Sangster (Nowhere Boy, Bright Star, Love, Actually). An Irish/German co-production, screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, the film has been making the rounds at multiple film festivals, and is currently accessible on cable (via Video on Demand).
Death of a Superhero is a synchronous coming-of-age/coming-of-death story, delivering a mix of live-action and graphic renderings that serve to explore the multi-faceted mindset of the teenage Donald, a bright, angry boy who can barely handle life, let alone life-threatening cancer. Thank heavens he’s blessed with a brilliant artistic talent, giving him the emotional outlet he needs via his sketchpad as he spends countless hours sketching his cartoon alter ego Superhero, pitching him in multiple battles against a Dr. Frankenstein-type madman called “the Glove.”
The juggling between fantasy and reality is nothing short of perfect. Like Donald, the film refuses to sink into the mawkish and, at the slightest threat of the bathetic, we are whooshed back to the boy’s drawings, where the be-gartered Nursey Worsey taunts Superhero with her deep cleavage and S&M lingerie. Through his artwork, we learn even more about Donald’s character, such as his teen boy lust for the female body, his ghoulish sense of humor, as well as his ever-pervasive sense of terror. While bald Donald and his Superhero both cloak their skulls, it’s only Superhero who sports a large red circle on his chest. Visual mark or not, the two of them share in the knowledge that they’ve been targeted for a mutual demise.
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