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Superheroes: A Never-Ending Battle (Blu-ray Review)

23 Oct, 2013 By: John Latchem



PBS
Documentary
$24.99 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray
Not rated.
Hosted by Liev Schreiber.

Viewers looking for more after seeing the new documentary about DC comics supervillains should be well served by this engrossing three-part look at the history of the superhero genre from its inception in comic books to its influence on the major Hollywood blockbusters of today, and all points in between.

It starts with Superman, sure, in 1938, followed quickly by Batman a year later, and then a slew of heroes who were thinly veiled copies designed to capitalize on the craze. The documentary overlays the history of comic books onto the society that spawned them, and then explores how each influenced the other. World War II, for example, saw the creation of several patriotic characters (such as Captain America) and the evolution of other characters to help lift the spirits of a nation at war.

In the 1950s, comic books were under attack as a bad influence on the nation’s youth, leading to self-regulation in the form of a production code. The cheesy stories that followed didn’t do much to help the reputation of comics as a storytelling medium, despite occasional attempts at more-serious storytelling over the next few decades. It wasn’t until the 1980s and darker books such as Watchmen and The Dark Knight Returns that comic books began to take on the air of a modern-day mythology with versatile characters whose exploits could provide insight into the human condition.

Not long after, advancements in filmmaking technology and visual effects would help usher in the current boon of superhero films, many of which aspire to be more than just a drawn-out brawl between a hero and a villain.

Superheroes is hosted by Liev Schreiber, whose presence seems minimal despite introducing and narrating each segment. That may be a factor of how packed each episode is with content and other well-known talking heads, which range from comic book creators such as Stan Lee to filmmakers and actors best known for comic book-based movies and TV shows, such as Adam West (“Batman”) and Lynda Carter (“Wonder Woman”).

The Blu-ray includes an extra 40 minutes of deleted interview footage. The most fun among these is probably Jack Urbont performing several songs he wrote about Marvel characters such as Hulk and Iron Man in the 1960s.


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