Confessions of a Superhero review

:. Director: Matthew Ogens
:. Genre: Documentary
:. Running Time: 1:32
:. Year: 2007
:. Country: USA


Whether you've been to the Walk of Fame as a tourist to snap a picture of The Hof's star or to haunt clubs on Hollywood Blvd., chances are that you've run into Superman, the Hulk, Wonder Woman, Batman or one of the multiple incarnations of Jack Sparrow. I'm of course not talking about the real ones — because guess what, they don't exist — but about those "actors" who pose in superhero suits for tourists in front of the Chinese theater.

Part of the tourist trap that is the Hollywood Walk of Fame, these characters are the subject of Confessions of a Superhero, a hilarious and heartfelt documentary that explores the lives and journeys of some of the people behind the masks.

From Superman (Christopher Dennis) who started it all, to a group of actor wannabees trying to make ends meet, including Wonder Woman (Jennifer Gerht), Batman (Maxwell Allen) & the Hulk (Joseph McQueen), director Matthew Oggens has selected a colorful group of people that he followed during a two year period.

Obsessions on the boulevard of broken dreams

The heart of this documentary, Mr. Dennis is the man that started it all and somewhat reigns over this wild bunch - we're told there are more than 70 of them trying to make a few bucks in costume here. While Mr. Dennis seems to take his role seriously, it's when we enter his messy apartment, which has been turned into a shrine to the man of steel, that we fully understand the magnitude of his obsession. The man who lives an almost religious passion for his idol has a profile similar to Rodney Bingenheimer, the subject of another recent documentary, The Mayor of the Sunset Strip. Both are iconic figures haunting Hollywood — one in front of the Chinese and the other one at Canter's — and while Bingenheimer has more achievements under his belt, they both live in a constant state of dream anchored in some melancholic past.

While less obsessive, Ms. Gerht, Mr. Allen and Mr. McQueen follow the same path, having left their hometowns to try to make it as actors here. Their background might be diverse, from a homecoming queen to a homeless guy and a mytho-maniacal tough guy, but they're all confronted with the difficulty of reaching their dream. Their hope keeps them going and beside their costumes, which some days turns out to be quite profitable, they are not different from any other actor in town that "bartends" or "waits tables" between roles…And this is certainly where one of the strengths of this documentary lies, which makes us realize that most of these people are regular folks despite their ridiculous outfits.

There are obviously plenty of funny moments that make Confessions of a Superhero a real treat. But while Mr. Oggens clearly shows affection for his characters, without being condescending, he also often captures them in settings that will turn them into jokes — see for example the Superman convention in Metropolis or Batman learning martial arts. I was certainly not the last one laughing in the theater, knowing how fond of nerds I am, but sometimes it was also uncomfortable laughter, as if I were being confronted with a freak show mixing laughter and sadness.

While Mr. Oggens also failed to give us proper history on the subject, which was only clarified by Superman during the Q&A, one also regrets that he didn't address the conflict between them, the Chinese Theater and the city. Are they just hustlers taking advantage of tourists or do they have a positive impact in terms of image and business? After all, taking pictures with Mickey Mouse at Disney or with Fiona at Universal is more than acceptable and also great marketing for the studios. I have no idea what the answer is, but at least next time I pass in front the Chinese theater, I will certainly look at them differently, and with more appreciation than annoyance.

  Fred Thom

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