Recently, I had to admit to myself that I’ve become quite the film and TV snob. Whereas at one time in my life there was nothing I wanted more than a new Jean Claude Van Damme/Steven Seagal/superhero movie, these days I want something with a hefty, even difficult, plot, intelligent dialogue, and striking visuals. I find myself watching a lot of foreign film and what I’ll call non-fiction television such as cooking shows and documentaries.
If my twelve-year-old self could look forward into time, he would be very disappointed with me. I had this epiphany when a friend was trying to get me to watch a superhero movie and dismissed him, not with a wave, but with a litany of reason as to why the superhero genre in general and the film in question specifically weren’t worth my time.
But is that fair? Am I missing out on things that I would like?
I surmised I was being both unfair and likely missing out on things that I would enjoy watching. I used to love superheroes. I collected comic books, went to movies, watched television shows, ate my lunch in a superhero lunchbox, dressed-up as superheroes for Halloween… I know that between the superheroes and classic Star Trek my love for genre was born.
My friends and I couldn’t get enough of the Adam West Batman TV show. We watched it in syndication (along with shows like The Brady Bunch, Spider-Man, and Love, American Style) since we were watching it in the late 1970s instead of in the 1960s when it first aired. I think even then we knew the show was a little on the silly side, but we loved it nonetheless.
And I still remember it fondly. Having found reruns on cable, I discovered that I still enjoy watching it. So while my proclivity for new material seems to run to the snobby and literary, I’m perfectly happy with the schlockiness of my childhood.
With this in mind, I decided to give The Cape a try. The previews I saw reminded me very much of Batman, although I have to admit not so much the television show with Adam West, but the more recent spate of movies, particularly the last few starring Christian Bale. I think it’s the dark color palette that the show uses. Well that, and the fact that there’s a muscular guy in a cape punching bad guys.
I couldn’t help but compare the show to Batman as every scene, every frame passed by. There’s the stuff that comes from the comic books like the look of the Cape’s costume and the crazy villians. There are things that seem to come from the movies and television like Faraday’s training that reminded me of Christian Bale in Batman Begins or the campy humor that was a driving factor in the 1960s television show.
It’s almost like the producers of The Cape wanted to pull what they saw as all the best bits of Batman and combine them into one show. What happens in reality is that the show doesn’t do enough to distance itself from the tropes that make Batman what it is. And it doesn’t pull off those tropes as well as Batman does.
But what about the twelve-year-old me? What would he think of this? He would have loved the show. He wouldn’t have minded the similarities to Batman because that just meant he didn’t have to wait to watch Batman shows he’s seen a hundred times already. This would be new stories, replete with cool villians, wicked fights, and, if he was honest with himself, Summer Glau.
Keeping that in mind, I’m going to keep watching The Cape. Whether it makes the three seasons that Batman ran remains to be seen. Despite the relatively few seasons, the show aired twice a week initially and had 120 episodes in all.
Unfortunately, Batman ran its success into the ground. The episodes became more farcical and formulaic. Bringing in Batgirl in season three in an attempt to draw more female viewers only forestalled the inevitable. I can’t imagine The Cape running for 120 episodes.
I think the best it can hope for is to make it through this half-season and get picked up for one more season. It doesn’t have the intrigue of shows like LOST or Heroes or even Fringe where viewers will tune in to see how the mystery gets solved. We already know the solution. If there wasn’t already the iconic Batman for The Cape to contend with, perhaps it would make a bigger impact.
But in my opinion, without Batman, the idea for The Cape would have never come to fruition in the first place.
John Klima is the editor of Electric Velocipede, which won the 2009 Best Fanzine Hugo Award and has been nominated four years in a row for a World Fantasy Award. He also works full-time in libraries, surrounded by books. It’s a lovely thing, actually.