Picked up an interesting DVD the other day at the Zombie Serengti (aka The Walmarts)…
There are a few movies in this kind of genre… ordinary goofs, geeks and weirdo wannabees trying to be masked avengers or superheroes but are, of course… well… not so super. Comedies that takes aim at society’s infatuation with comic-book mythologies.
So, I gave Defendor a spin on the old coal-burning computer with the water-cooled monitor and the hamster-powered DVD.
OK, here’s the deal… Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson) works at construction sites by day but is a self-made superhero by night. And when I say self-made, I mean he duct-tapes the letter ‘D’ on his black sweater and is armed with the stupidest/quirkiest arsenal of cheap home-made weapons (e.g. marbles, a jar of wasps, a WW1 trench club). In his normal life, Poppington holds traffic signs and is nearly invisible to all who pass; after dark he assumes his secret identity ‘Defendor’ and prowls the streets in search of his arch nemesis, ‘Captain Industry.’ Along the way, he saves a young prostitute (Kat Dennings) from an abusive undercover cop (Elias Koteas).
Mayhem ensues when he saves the young prostitute, Kat. While this proves his commitment to fighting for the weak, it also turns him into a real live fugitive from the law. He beats up Kat’s father, a dry cleaner, when Kat reveals that he abused her as a child. Things get very real and very bad for Poppington who has, after all, genuine and serious mental issues. His relentless pursuit of Captain Industry (the result of his misunderstanding of what he was told as a child, that the ‘captains of industry’ were responsible for his mother’s death) continues to consume this heroic but tortured soul. He is a sad, pathetic but at times inspiring modern-day Don Quixote. There are those who try to help Poppington. A psychologist (Sandra Oh) and Poppington’s landlord (Michael Kelly). But to them, helping Poppington means stopping him from being who he ultimately is… Defendor.
The movie was filmed in and around Toronto and Hamilton, Ontario, two cities where I lived and worked for several years. I enjoyed seeing some of the familiar, if somewhat grubby, sites… especially those in Hamilton, a real old-fashioned steel town.
Here’s my two cents… I expected the cheesy costume, dorky weaponry, comic book rip-offs and superhero wannabee stuff. What I wasn’t expecting and what really got to me was how touching the movie could be. I also could not help but notice the similarities to another Canadian ‘avenger’ movie about a man at the bottom of society who has been pushed too far and fights back… Hobo With a Shotgun. The Hobo character, like Poppington, also develops a close relationship with a young prostitute and turns to fighting back against what he perceives to be the source of all the evil around him.
Bottom line… Defendor is a funny, sad, amusing, depressing, inspiring story. Woody Harrelson, always great at portraying weirdos, really is wonderful as Poppington. Definitely worth a look.
One and a half superhero thumbs up.