Superhero Me immediately makes me think of all those deliciously sad people who wrote Jedi as their religion at the last census. They are such lovely, deluded creatures.
First-time documentary filmmaker Steve Sale decides to become a superhero. His journey begins by recruiting comic-book experts for basic intelligence, for various traits that superheroes must have. In desperation, he even interviews his parents; when asked about superpowers, his dad comes out with “If you call Luck a superpower, I’ve got that!”
So, to become a superhero, without obvious exceptional gifts, he recruits the help of a personal trainer – starting off with a ‘Get Ripped in 8 Weeks’ advert, and concluding with a funny Run Fatboy Run meets Team America montage. Also needed are a martial arts guru for dispatching evil swiftly (using Drunken kung-fu, of course), and most importantly of all, the costume.
Sale picks the pseudonym, SOS, based on his skills as a sound editor, ropes a mate for some seriously cool illustrations. We see Sale mooch around and trawling the internet for inspiration. After a lengthy gestation period, he starts making and remaking the costume out of brightly-coloured spandex and other such fun fabrics. One of the movie’s best terrible puns happens when he’s shopping for y-fronts – “this movie’s pants”. We also learn that he’s considered the bathroom practicalities. What he has failed to consider is his weapons and skills – testing a loud oscillating alarm on his pet dogs, who just sit blithely and wag their tails. Also, transport is somewhat lacking, the first trip on the SOS-mobile is marinated in Fail.
To his surprise, Sale discovers there are many other real life superheroes. The reclusive Captain Ozone, “a time-traveller” who uses a petrol-powered chainsaw to make environmental fossil-fuel conservation points of note. Entomo, who fights crime on the streets of Naples, opens the doors to many other superheroes. Funniest of all is Angle Grinder-Man, a deliciously anarchic scourge of parking clamps everywhere – he has a hilarious answer phone message.
There’s even a musical band of superheroes – Justice Force Five, who inspire SOS to compose a rather catchy theme tune. In between placing adverts in local newsagents and searching for a sidekick, SOS makes a name for himself doing all manner of nice deeds, mowing lawns, charity fund-raisers, impromptu taxi services and chasing shoplifters. Even the sexually starved get a look in, a woman begs for attention with broken English:
“All the boys become gay. Save me!”
“I’m not going to make ’em straight. Look at me!”
Okay, it’s funnier in the movie. Things take a darker turn with the story of a Los Angeles vigilante: Master Legend. He seems to breathe the ethos of Superman’s origins back in the Great Depression – helping the poor and wretched. Clanking around in a roughly hewn suit of armour, balls to the wind, he fights the causes and effects of local crime. And those who “heal with the faith of the almighty crack-rock.”
While occasionally amateurish and sloppy in its staging and interviewing skills, Sale’s film also belies a certain engaging roughness – the footage was shot on inexpensive consumer video cameras and videophones, collected and edited on an old computer. Strangely, Superhero Me doesn’t feel like “a story that needs to be told by any means necessary”, as promised by the opening title cards, and could probably benefit from being about five to ten minutes shorter. Technical issues and filmmaking limitations aside, this movie is good fun, Steve Sale is an engaging and funny host, and doesn’t let his movie’s technical weakness get in the way of an entertaining time.