Monday, August 27, 2007

"Come on, comics aren't just for kids! It's a viable artistic medium! I'll let you borrow my copy of Watchmen! Just try it!"

If the first season of Heroes accomplishes only one thing, it's that it gives folks who never bothered reading about superheroes the chance to experience the kind of grand dizziness you get from a great comic book story arc without ever wondering what inspired that guy to put his underwear on over his tights. It lifts its mix of earthly emotion and surreal imagery from Joss Whedon and the better Marvel films, but unlike on Buffy, all the padding and one-off stories clearly connect to the season-long narrative. Watching it all over a day and a half was not unlike burning through a classic compendium - a bombastic cliffhanger hitting you every twenty-plus pages - except you couldn't take it into the bathroom with you.

I'm a sucker for "real people discovering great power comes with great responsibility" jazz and Heroes plays it out on such an epic scale (without any costumes!) that, despite some pat TV dramatics (and the rather trashy choice in guest stars - Malcolm McDowell? Eric Roberts??), the show feels like an unprecedented success. There are a lot of traps future seasons could fall into: stock adventures, contradictory details burdening the core mystery and requiring inscrutable exposition, increasingly uninteresting new characters, basically all the shit that happened to X-Files. Thankfully, the first season has enough closure that, if necessary, it could be appreciated on its own.

There may be other examples I'm unaware of, but the decision to have subtitles not only appear at the bottom of the screen but also beside or above the speaker was truly inspired. It allows for more striking compositions, hinting at comic book art without using actual word balloons, which would have been a painful contrivance (Ang Lee didn't even try that one in The Hulk). While it's not really an option for films where the language spoken is the language of the country that made it, American films incorporating foreign language sequences would be wise to rip this off.

P.S. the show is scored by Wendy And Lisa! More shows need to provide me with that kind of heartwarming opening credit.

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