tn_miragemanI was thinking the other day: I wonder if super hero movies are the westerns of our time? A genre that’ll dominate for a while and then after a generation or two of being done to death it’s put off into storage, except for special occasions, like the fancy silverware. If so then I think we’re a little early with all these super hero deconstructions, these different versions of “what would really happen if somebody tried to be a super hero?” WATCHMEN and the upcoming KICKASS are the expensive, fantastical versions of that kind of idea and then there’s this slew of low budget indie ones like SPECIAL, DEFENDOR and MIRAGEMAN.

MIRAGEMAN stars Marko Zaror, the Chilean martial artist. If you’re not familiar with him his claim to fame used to be that he was The Rock’s stunt double in THE RUNDOWN. Then, like Tony Jaa over in Thailand, Zaror and his team decided to start making movies, first the fantasy KILTRO and then this. He also has one called MANDRILL playing the film festivals and he’ll be in UNDISPUTED III with Scott Adkins.

mp_miragemanApparently Zaror is only 6 feet tall, which surprises me because he looks huge in movies. Luckily he’s got more going for him than apparent size. One reason he’s unique is that he doesn’t seem to want a macho persona. In KILTRO he plays some kind of shy goth kid with giant pants, eyeliner and a backpack who turns into a super warrior. In this one he’s another emotionally vulnerable (but more conservatively dressed) manchild. He barely talks at all – it’s 12 minutes in before he says a word, and then it’s just answering the phone “Yes.” I think the scene where he’s interviewed on TV is the only time he uses complete sentences.

Zaror plays a bouncer at a strip club whose parents were killed by street thugs. So he’s like (SPOILER FOR BATMAN MOVIES) Bruce Wayne. But the thugs didn’t stop there, they beat him up too and raped his little brother who was so traumatized he’s in an institution. That’s right, he’s like (SPOILERS FOR DEATH WISH 1-2) Paul Kersey too. He’s not planning revenge or anything, but he’s a martial artist, that’s his passion. He trains all the time, he’s got lots of trophies. Then he’s out jogging at night and he hears a scream. He runs into a guy with a ski mask and decides to kick him out. Then he takes the mask, puts it on, goes into the house and beats up some guys who have a woman tied up. Then he leaves.

This type of story is like coverage of the Iran hostage crisis – it’s old news. (You like that one? I’m trying to get accepted into Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids.) But I like that he really has no interest in revenge or crime fighting. It’s just kind of a spontaneous thing. When his little brother sees reports about his masked adventure on TV the poor kid gets excited and his condition starts to improve to the point where he even leaves his room. So what the hell – Marko makes a costume, sets up an email so people can contact him for help like they would for– well, not a super hero. But maybe the A-Team or The Equalizer.

But super heroing ain’t easy. He has some problems. The first time he tries to change into the costume before going around the corner to confront some thieves in an alley it takes so long it’s amazing the guys are still hanging around. And the first people that email him for help really just want to lure him in so they can beat him up. But soon he’s pitted against a foe more terrible than the Joker or Lex Luger: they’re called The Pedophilia Network.

(attention parents: tell your kids not to play Mirageman on the playground. Otherwise one kid gets to be Mirageman and everybody else has to be the Pedophilia Network.)

The opening is pretty gritty, makes you wonder how much of something like this really could go down. They shoot it very plain and real, and the scene I mentioned with him changing the costume is completely unglamorous. It’s a practical costume made out of real clothing items, not some fancy sculpted rubber or nothing. And the movie has a dark sense of humor that I like. There’s a running joke about an ordinary fat dude who calls himself Pseudo-Robin and keeps writing emails and talking to reporters saying that he wants to be Mirageman’s sidekick and that he’ll loan him a motorcycle. The actor is so deadpan it seems like this guy could be real.

But when Zaror fully becomes Mirageman it switches to a broad comedy, he’s running around in the mask doing absurd comic book poses, and the soundtrack turns into an overly slick studio musician approximation of blaxploitation funk, including congas, wah wahs and a huge brass section. It seems kind of more sarcastic than cool when they pair that sound with this routine imagery of fighting guys on top of roofs and man-on-street interviews (shit – even Death Wish the book had to interview people on both sides of the vigilante issue. Time to retire that one).

So all that takes away from the sense of realism. Not to mention the video game type setups – they’re always making excuses for why the bad guys attack one at a time. And he has to get past them to get to the prize, the kidnapped reporter or little girl tied up at the end of the maze like that girl that was tied up when you get to the top of the screen on Donkey Kong. It’s pretty corny and the tone is too off-balance. I like the serious earlier stuff better than when it really gets into it.

So the movie’s only okay, but I like to watch Zaror fight – in fact I like to watch him act. So I’ll check out anything he does in the future, unless they don’t allow him to fight or act. I guess it could be a documentary where he doesn’t fight but they still interview him, maybe he has something interesting to say, I don’t know. Anyway, point is, keep an eye out. He’ll do better. It’s not a mirage.

This entry was posted on Tuesday, April 6th, 2010 at 2:12 am and is filed under Action, Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

17 Responses to “Mirageman”

  1. nabroleon Dynamite

    April 6th, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Vern, you’re like school on Saturday man – No class!

    I think I’ve seen this movie at Hastings, but never took the plunge and rented it.
    May give it a shot now. Thanks!

  2. Kevin Holsinger

    April 6th, 2010 at 5:55 am

    Good morning, Vern.

    I think that it’s only inevitable that superhero movies diminish in number at some point (if nothing else, they’ll run out of major comic book characters).

    On the other hand, I think there’s a difference between superhero movies and Westerns…the big budget, CGI heavy, summer blockbuster mentality.

    Basically, once Hollywood got a taste for the blockbuster with (to a degree) Jaws, and especially Star Wars, the Western was as good as dead.

    If you look at the highest grossing movies in this country (not adjusting for inflation), they’re heavy on spectacle. Big budget, fancy CGI, epic scale. Westerns can’t compete with that. When Avatar came out, people started talking about things like the 3D technology that was part of the movie. When a Western comes out, there’s nothing to hype about. It doesn’t matter if Unforgiven is better written than The Phantom Menace. There’s no spectacle, so Phantom Menace is closer to what Hollywood wants its movies to be like.

    And so, while advances in special effects have helped to practically kill off the Western, they’re CRUCIAL to the modern superhero movie phenomenon. Only when CGI got to the point when it could properly handle Spider-Man, X-Men, Watchmen, etc. were these movies ready to explode.

    So as I said, superhero movies can’t be big forever. But they still fit into the “ideal movie” by Hollywood’s standards. And so I don’t see them becoming as rare as Westerns in the future.

  3. I think the real question that hasn’t been asked is, when the Cape gets retired…who’ll take over the summer?

  4. Nice. Do “Steel” next!

  5. ‘Kiltro’ was a fantasy movie? I saw the first five minutes on TV once, and it seemed more like an Ong-Bak type of thing, where some filmatists follow a martial artist through a bunch of fights, shot all gritty like. There was magic? I meant to go back and actually watch, now I guess I have to.

  6. Sounds quite interesting.
    I recommened you Watch defendor, that One keeps it more serious and i liked it a Lot.

  7. My guess is that after superheroes will come steampunk. It’s everywhere these days and it’s just waiting for its Blade or 28 Days Later, although maybe Wild Wild West already ruined it…

  8. Well, the next Pirates Of The Caribbean movie is rumored to have a strong Steampunk (oh, how I hate this term) element.

  9. And with Steampunk comes live action, American anime/manga adaptations. We will eventually run out of American superheros to make movies about, as it seems unlikely they’d make a Planetary movie, or The Authority, or even Invincible or Criminal. However, Japanese characters are still ripe for the plucking, and they’re also fantastical enough to make for that spectacle you don’t usually get from European comics. (very few of which even have superheroes.)

  10. Brendan – well, I believe there was a chosen one, a magic medallion, a little Yoda type dude, etc. Not fantasy as in Lord of the Rings but as in a modern day story where a prophecy is fulfilled and ancient tribes still exist or something. I’ll watch it again and review it one of these days.

  11. Yeah, I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be anime adaptions that are the next big thing. AKIRA is in the works. James Cameron keeps promising BATTLE ANGEL ATLITA. ROBOTECH is in development. SHOGUN WARRIORS has a test trailer. We’ve already had SPEED RACER and ASTRO BOY which both failed financially but TRANSFORMERS has basically shown Hollywood the way. Giant Robots are gonna be big for a while.

    I don’t think Hollywood really gets the Steampunk (I hate that term too) thing. They’ve tried it but it has failed repeatedly (WILD, WILD WEST, LOEG) I’m not sure mainstream audiences care for it, either. It’s a little outside their zone of familiarity. That doesn’t mean a great Mad Victorian adventure film couldn’t rule (LIST OF 7 anyone?) but it needs to be treated by someone who knows. SHERLOCK HOLMES’ success may have opened the door for another attempt.

    Having said all that, I feel the superhero flicks will be around for some time to come. The flexibility of the genre and the variety of stories that can be told will continue to appeal to filmmakers. The range and scope of the comic book form; from epic to personal, tragic to heroic, G rated to R will keep them coming.

    Someone mentioned Planetary earlier. That’s exactly where I’d like to see Comic based movies go. Smart, sophisticated, mind bending, epic spectacle with real heart at it’s core. What a great fucking comic that was.

  12. Remember when Jet li was supposed to do that live-action AKIRA in the late 90s/early 2000s with the projected $300+ million budget?

  13. RRA – I might be putting more weight to this than it deeserves, but I think the success of The Expendables, The Losers and The A-Team will definitely shape the next few years of blockbuster films. They’re all in the mold of old school 80s/90s action films, the type we don’t really get anymore (other than perhaps Bond, if you count him in that, though he’s like Madonna, changes with the times and adapts different styles). I’m thinking we’ll probably have at least another decade of superhero films (DC comics are only just really getting their act together about bringing their other big superheros to the screen, they’re way behind, but it’ll mean we’ve got a while to go before they drain that resovoir) but that if these “old school” action films are a success we might go back to that kind of blockbuster for a bit, or at least they’ll return along side superhero filcks. Or maybe with the success of District 9 and Star Trek we’ll start getting a lot more sci-fi films?

  14. Comics won’t become out of favor because there’s so many different kinds. Now that film language has caught up with the kind of detail and size that comics deal with, there will never be an end to comic adaptation, it’s a carte blanche for adaptation, like books.

    Super heroes may pass out of vogue, but I think they’ll always have some kind of prescense.

    I’m not a fan of anime, but I did love me some Cowboy Bebop, cast someone besides Keanu as Spike Spiegel and consider me curious.

  15. I enjoyed “Mirageman” tremendously, I didn’t think the shift in tone was terribly detrimental to the movie I liked how gritty and balls out the ending was but I think “Kiltro” is the superior movie. Makes me think of something along the lines of “The Perfect Weapon” it definitely has a cheesy 80s/90s vibe. Vern, I think you will like it more.

  16. Damn. I was trying to remember the title to this movie an hour ago. Come to your site. Boom! It’s the newest review which I thank you for. I was gonna order this guy if I remembered on my own. Well probably not. My memory’s shit.

  17. Ugh, this came recently out on DVD over here under the title…wait for it…MIRAGEMAN KICKS ASS. And if you think that title is shameless, just look at the cover!

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