Weakness? What Weakness?
One of the reasons Daredevil is a great superhero is that he is blind. It’s there, all the time. No matter his radar sense, his physical prowess, his facility with the Law, Matt Murdock is a blind guy, and there will always be situations in which that is a weakness.
Barbara Gordon, yes, the daughter of Gotham Commissioner of Police Jim Gordon, was in a wheelchair for years. As Oracle, her online persona, she was untouchable and highly effective. But when someone puts two and two together, as they always do, and her fortress is breached, she is a chick in a wheelchair.
One final example, Bruce Banner. He can never be sure whether he will painfully transform into a colossal jade giant, The Incredible Hulk, angry as all hell and not subject to Banner’s control.
Now think of Batman.
What is his weakness?
The examples given above are all a little obvious, so I invite you to consider a stroke of genius:
Spider-man. His weakness is twofold. He’s incapable of not taking responsibility. He’s got to make a living. In other words, Spidey’s weakness is that he’s a good guy with no visible means of support.
What is Batman’s?
I love the Nolan trilogy of Bat films, but his Batman has no single, easily expressed weakness. He’s a supremely capable individual thrown into testing situations demanding supreme capability. What holds the trilogy together around this omission is a lattice-work of grand societal themes, cool toys, and charismatic opposition, all bundled together in the 21st century cinematic equivalent of the well-made play.
If it’s true that the greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he did not exist, then the greatest trick Nolan ever pulled was convincing an audience that the Bruce Wayne/Batman character did, even in fiction. Because Nolan’s incarnation doesn’t. He’s a cypher for the common hope that our way of life and values are enough to keep us safe, nourished, and progressing.
This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But for me, it’s not very satisfactory.
If there’s nothing preventing you from being extraordinary, then the story of how you became extraordinary and what extraordinary things you do isn’t necessarily that interesting. Because the question is, why were you ever not extraordinary, and once you became so why would you ever not be? If you think I’m being harsh, consider why it is that we only ever hear about the marathon runners who are old, paralysed, blind, obese, or in some other way theoretically unlikely marathoners? Running a marathon takes preparation and dedication (can’t use that word without thinking of Roy Castle, bless him) for anyone.
All of which brings me to Moon Knight. Marc Spector, a schizophrenic former mercenary who believes himself the reanimated avatar of the Egyptian God Khonshu. He has two weaknesses. His body is beat up and strictly human in its capabilities (or is it?). And he’s a crazy man who wants desperately to be a hero, but has spent his life taking every opportunity to go places where he can deal death and destruction.
I want to root for the crazy guy. I want to know if Khonshu exists, and if he picked Spector. I want to see if he can be a hero, or if he’ll just become a thug for good. I want to know which personality is the real one, or if there has to be a “real one”. I want to see whether his clicky knees will withstand the trials of heroism. And I want that story well done, not well-made.
What do you think? Do we queue for shows of strength, or triumphs over weakness?
p.s. – My weakness is ice cream. And fear of failure. Not necessarily in that order.