I recently reviewed NBC’s new superhero drama The Cape (http://www.storminforms.com/tv-review-the-cape), and based upon the majority of reviews I’ve read and the feedback I’ve gotten from other people about the show, I think it’s safe to say I’m not alone in my thought that the program is a stinker.
Amazingly, New York Times TV critic Ginia Bellafante gave the show an incredibly positive write up: (http://tv.nytimes.com/2011/01/07/arts/television/07cape.html)
Now I don’t have an issue with someone having a differing opinion from mine when it’s based upon a logical argument. I do, however, have an issue when said opinion is derived from numerous idiotic justifications.
So what’s the main reason Ginia Bellafante think The Cape is a quality program?
The amount of sunshine in the show.
Bellafante spends the first three paragraphs of her review crowing about The Cape’s sunny skies and panoramic shots of the city. I’m not kidding, this lady is utterly smitten by the nice weather depicted in the show.
And while that’s all well and good, pleasant sun-soaked visuals and establishing shots are not exactly the most important element when crafting a quality superhero story.
Now I’m not saying that a superhero story’s setting is not important. The Dark Knight‘s dark and gloomy Gotham City certainly enhances the film’s theme of order versus chaos and gives Christopher Nolan’s film a distinctive ambiance.
No, what I’m saying is that if your superhero story has the intellectual depth of the Kardashian sisters discussing the geopolitical ramifications of Tunisians driving their leader from power, then all the sunshine, stylized settings and backdrops in the world can’t change the fact your TV show sucks.
Apparently Ginia Bellafante doesn’t realize that just because it’s a balmy seventy-five degrees in the fictional Palm City the televised climate is not capable of changing the fact that flimsy stock characters are running around from one air conditioned location to the next spewing nonsensical and ham-fisted dialogue.
Was Bellafante even watching when Vince Faraday aka The Cape conveniently bumped into his soon-to-be cyber-hacker sidekick? Not only does Faraday just happen to stumble across her while they both coincidentally happen to be spying on villains, but after thirty seconds they agree to team up and fight crime together.
Talk about lazy and contrived writing.
Do you think Batman would instantly trust someone he ran into while snooping around a crime scene?
Any poor bastard that offered to “team up” moments after meeting the Dark Knight would find themselves hung upside down and viciously interrogated faster than it takes Vince Faraday to disarm bad guys with his cape (which, I’m sorry, as far as crime fighting techniques go, is pretty damn lame).
Of course, like any superhero worth his salt, The Cape needs to have an arch enemy, and does, in the form of Chess, who spends his days as Peter Fleming, head of the Ark Corporation, a corrupt company that successfully privatizes the Palm City Police Department.
Ginia Bellafante seems to like Chess because he’s emblematic of privatization. While I’m all for intelligent villains in superhero stories, slapping a topical “big idea” on an otherwise insipid and cartoonish antagonist does not automatically make the character great.
Not to mention the fact that Chess never even comes close to living up to his name, aside from his cheesy penchant for saying “Checkmate” a lot.
I’m assuming Chess was intended to be a cerebral villain on par with a Lex Luthor or a Joker from The Dark Knight, but instead, The Cape’s arch enemy’s villainous schemes are about as insidious as those of a purse snatcher’s. His master plan is anything but, and his supposedly “nefarious acts” are hardly diabolical in the least.
Nevertheless, Ginia Bellafante apparently finds this unconvincing and feeble narrative appealing as she rounds out her review by praising The Cape for aligning itself with “the notion that talent extends beyond genetic design” because Vince Faraday isn’t born with extraordinary powers.
You think this element somehow sets The Cape apart from other superhero stories? I’m pretty sure that the creators of Batman, Green Arrow, Elektra, The Punisher, Kick-Ass, The Green Hornet and Kato, and Hawkeye, Black Widow and Nick Fury from The Avengers would disagree.
Being a superhero without superpowers is hardly an original idea. The psyche of these heroes, however, is what truly defines them.
Batman is endlessly haunted by the murder of his parents. The Punisher is deeply traumatized by the Mafia hit on his wife and child. Green Arrow became a comic book voice for left wing and progressive politics while Black Widow defected from her native Russia to the USA in order to defend the ideals of freedom and democracy.
The Cape on the other hand? He’s framed for a crime he didn’t commit and presumed dead. Rather than say, I don’t know, grabbing his family and leaving Palm City and the threat of Chess and the Ark Corporation behind, he instead decides to “stay dead” and create a crime fighting alter ego.
Do you think The Punisher would have done this if his family survived that mob hit? Hell, no. That guy’s tougher than nails but he still would have gotten the hell out of dodge because it would have been the best chance of keeping his family safe.
And what about Bruce Wayne? You don’t think he would have traded all the amazing training and gadgets in the world for one more day with his parents?
A huge motivator for why Bruce becomes Batman and Gotham’s defender is because the city itself is all that he has left of his parents. By saving Gotham he’s also saving the memory of everything good and noble that his parents stood for.
If Vince Faraday truly loved his family, or if he wasn’t such an idiot, he’d be with them, even if it meant they were all on the lam. Instead, Faraday puts his family at risk every time he puts on his cape, goes out to fight crime and risks his secret identity being discovered.
And considering Chess appears to only be concerned with wielding control over Palm City, the logic for Vince letting his family assume he is dead (which most likely will seriously psychologically damage his son) instead of restarting their lives in another city is flimsy at best.
Of course, none of these things seem to bother Ginia Bellafante. Perhaps if she spent more time paying attention to the unconvincing narrative instead of being distracted by sweeping shots of sunshine and making forced allusions, she might actually see The Cape for the shallow and trite attempt at a superhero story that it actually is.