Tribeca on iTunes: ‘The Giant Mechanical Man’ and ‘Death of a Superhero’

I recently watched two films shown in the recent Tribeca Film Festival that were available for download in the iTunes store – The Giant Mechanical Man and Death of a Superhero. Here’s to hoping that other festivals adopt the same distribution system and have at least some movies be released simultaneously.

The Giant Mechanical Man

I found this movie to be quite unremarkable, employing hackneyed, forgettable rom-com tropes. Jenna Fischer and Chris Messina play Janice and Tim, two lost souls in New York amidst the backdrop of the failing economy. Both of them feel lonely, largely because of their grim employment prospects and lack of a general life direction. Their malaise is made worse by the fact that they don’t even know what will make them happy. And to rub home the point, they are surrounded by caricatured characters written to be as unsympathetic to them as possible — a controlling sister obsessed with “fixing” Janice’s life played by Malin Akerman and a thoughtless girlfriend who dumps Tim played by Lucy Punch.

I think what made me dislike the film is how it drowns in its own quirky, twee sensibilities without having much to say about anything. I wasn’t compelled to feel anything for their characters — I wasn’t moved by their sadness or elated by their union — because the movie didn’t give me any reason to. It was just bland preciousness. And like the title portends, it was dry and mechanical.

Death of a Superhero

I responded to Death of a Superhero a little better. Thomas Brodie-Sangster plays the role of Donald, an artistic teenager afflicted with cancer. He draws comic book characters as a coping mechanism to deal with his struggle and ruminations about his mortality. He imagines himself as an invincible superhero being taken down by a villain named ‘The Glove’. The Glove is a metaphor for all the traumatic things, both physically and emotionally, that he goes through because of his disease.

He is aided in this by his psychiatrist, played by Andy Serkis. Serkis is actually quite good here — I rarely see him take on dramatic roles and he pulls this off convincingly. What makes Donald trust him (and the audience believe in him too) is that he comes off as damaged as well; he’s not the smug, divorced shrink who has such a good grip on his/her sanity. But what I like the most about this film is its unique take on the ‘coming of age story’, specifically on the difficulties Donald faces when it comes to exploring his sexuality and building his self-image. It is a decent attempt to explore the complexities of cancer without being too melodramatic or patronizing.

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