Mystery Men

Reviewed By Thom
Posted 08/26/99 19:59:05

"A great little absurdist piece seasoned with subversion"
4 stars (Worth A Look)

I love this movie. There is so much going on in between the lines and that alone made this movie interesting for me. I mean, I liked the cast, and the aesthetic but I loved all the the little jabs at society, the media, corporate america, social attitudes, the logical extension of modern living in a paeon to "brazil", all of that.

If you have ever seen the movie "They Live" (John Carpenter) you will have some sense of how I watched this movie.

In THEY LIVE, aliens have wrapped subliminal messages in everything and a scientist invents special glasses that allows you to see past the illusion to the machinery underneath.

You need to wear those glasses to properly appreciate this movie.
First of all, you see hypocrisy - the superhero isn't really a hero. He's a chump out for himself. Fighting crime is not what he cares about, making money is. And his corporate sponsorship has made him a billionaire. Captain Amazing is anti-human.

Enter the "other guys". A motley gang of rag tag do it yourself superheroes who have yet to fully realize their superpowers. The intervention of The Sphinx as a Dr.Xavier type character, helps the other guys understand and use their unique talents individually and as a team.

The "other guys", unlike Captain Amazing, are selflessly trying to create a better, safer, more humane world. The plot twists when they accidentily psychofraculate (kill) Captain Amazing and Capital City is apparently left without its Superhero. The citizenry is not alarmed because they don't find out until after the the do-it-yourselfers emerge triumphant after destroying, archvillian Cassanova Frankenstein and thwarting his plan to psychofraculate all of Capital City.

Ding dong Captain Amazing is Dead.

And now, the real heroes, the ones who started saving the day when they toasted the "superhero" who was monopolizing the public attention because he was made to be the good guy by a smarmy publicist/manager, all of a sudden are left with the awesome privelege and responsibility to keep Capital City crime free. They wanted their piece of action and now they have the whole show.

When Captain Amazing is killed, Capital City did not lose a superhero as much as it lost its most blatant (yet unbeknownst to the blissfully ignorant citizens) symbol of hypocrisy. The person, who on the surface, looked like the protector of society, had sold out the safety of the citizenry for his own financial gain. His actions closely parallel the actions of a few corporate interests that have poisoned the environment and used exploitative labor practices for the short term monetary gain of a relative few. Or who have created illusions through mass media in the interest of commerce to sell products to the detriment of one's self-image, a healthy society, or responsibility to future generations.

Authenticity and truth is an important theme in Mystery Men.

Next Stop, Cassanova Frankenstein.

Cassanova was the random evil element. The one who thought that "nice guys finish last". He is a dangerous character, but he is overtly evil. You know what you are getting with Cassanova, whereas Captain Amazing would have you think that he was the good guy. I guess the people were safe from physical danger, but they did not really have all the facts. I mean, if you don't think that living with integrity or authenticity is important, then it probably doesn't matter to you if your understanding of reality is a carefully crafted illusion designed to make someone else money. Psychofraculation... think about it.

There is no love, no victory, no joy, no passion, except as it relates to marketing. Captain Amazing represents the image of humanity, whereas the Blue Raja, the Bowler, Mr.Furious, the Shoveler, the Spleen and Invisible Boy represent the substance of humanity.

Tom Waits' character represents the ethical stance of the true superhero. His character's role in "reclaiming society in the name of truth" uses weapons that turn the evil or the corrupt or the degenerate or the dysfunctional in people against themselves. He designed systems to use people as a weapon against themselves, their vanities, their greeds, their lusts. Tom Waits' character reinforces the underlying theme that real goodness is from the heart and it is a healing force. It is not a brand image or a public perception.

This movie is about living with truth, and integrity and a natural morality that stems from examining the aggregate consequences of one's actions. Is what you are doing making things worse? or better? do you hurt? or heal? Its also about being genuine. Not trying to pretend and just being who you are. It's about tolerance, self-acceptance, cameraderie and team work.

Maybe you'll like it just as well at face value, or maybe you'll like it because of the subtext. I think the subtext brings the face of it to life.

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