“The Cape” is something I’ve been hearing about for awhile. It’s the new superhero drama on NBC that is supposed to take up the mantle of “Heroes”. Now, I’ve never really watched “Heroes”, but the general word is that it was great in season one, then took a plummet into Crap City shortly thereafter, before being cancelled. After watching the pilot for “The Cape”, I’m gonna go ahead and call it. *snaps off rubber gloves* Time of death: Sunday at 8 pm.
Seriously, I’m not sure what was going on here. It was so bad on multiple levels, that I watched it twice, because I thought maybe I was missing something. The show has terrible acting, which is not helped by at all by the overwrought dialog that waved bybye to anything resembling subtlety. The characters are all one dimensional (that’s one less dimension than actual comic book characters). The pacing is absurdly rushed and the effects look like they were made on a laptop in someone’s spare time.
Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t always look for depth or subtlety. For gods sake, I’m the one who defended the films of Michael Bay. But I would like for at least one aspect of a show or film to be done competently. Maybe the craft services table on the set was outstanding, who knows? But this honestly reminded me of those UPN-in-the-daytime shows from the 90’s, like “Cleopatra 2525” or “Andromeda”, not something a maj0r network should be showing during prime time.
Maybe my hopes were too high. I loved the concept: Serialized TV show with a Batman-esque caped crusader, whose chief crime fighting gadget was (twist!) his cape. Handled well, it could be like The Dark Knight, the show. Suffice it to say, it was….not handled well (writing is hard!).
First of all, this show has no patience. We meet the main character, Vince Faraday, one of the few uncorrupt cops in the the fictional Palm City. We learn the city has a super villain named Chess. There is also a mysterious blogger named Orwell who uncovers the city’s corrupt cops on his website. We learn that a major (read: evil) company is officially taking over the city’s police force. Vince finds one of Chess’s illegal explosive shipments, is caught by Chess, framed as Chess to the media and appears to die in an explosion on TV. He survives and is captured by…. a carnival of sideshow bank robbers (?) led by magician Max Malini (Keith David). He wins their trust by giving them a keycard that lets them into every bank vault in the city (??) which they test out by robbing a bank in broad daylight (???) in a scene that lasts about 30 seconds and carries no suspense. After that, they train him to be a superhero by giving him a cape made of spider silk (????), teaching him magic tricks (?????), and having him fight a midget (???????????????????????????????????).
I have made none of that up, and best of all, it all literally happens in the first 25 minutes of the pilot. Yes, that giant paragraph up there. And given the fact that each scene is only about 30 seconds to a minute long, there is absolutely no time for any of these people to develop a personality. Worst of all, the tone is mostly self-serious. The show has almost no sense of fun about it.
Upon second viewing (I really wanted to like this show) I realized that the pacing, the dialog and the colorful imagery is perfect for an actual comic book. This leads me to one of my biggest complaints about comic book movies or TV shows: direct translation doesn’t work. At least not 99% of the time. What looks like perfectly fine dialog in a word bubble usually sounds clunky and wooden coming out of an actors mouth. Also, you can imply a lot with just a few frames of comic book art. Jumping from one scene to another in the same fashion here is completely jarring. A comic book is a comic book; a movie is a movie. If you want to take the subject matter from one medium to another (ie, a story or characters) adapt them to that medium. Stop trying to contort it.
Scott Pilgrim and Sin City are the exceptions that prove the rule and that’s because they both had (a) talented directors who knew to meet the elements halfway and (b) the movies were highly stylized and not self-serious. “The Cape” is neither of those things. It is melodramatic, incompetent garbage.
Initial Grade: D
- I will continue to watch it, just to see if things pick up. It’s got two strikes left.
- I like Summer Glau as much as the next nerd, but there is a reason she got famous on “Firefly”: She was hot and didn’t talk much. It looks like she’s going to be “the brains” of the show. Bad call.
- Some story elements are completely unapologetic rip-offs. A three-letter evil corporation (whose CEO is a bad guy) enters into a contract to run the police. Uh, Robocop. That’s f*cking Robocop. You know what? Strike two, “The Cape”. You don’t f*ck with Robocop.