What do you think of when you think of a superhero? Billionaire narcissists, gods with hammers, people who turn green when they get angry? Whilst these are some of the more popular examples, some of the real heroes are simply average guys — just like you and me — who when called upon in tough circumstances are capable of doing extraordinary things. A recent example of this is the upcoming Patriot's Day, in which Mark Wahlberg plays a police sergeant who, when disaster strikes, does what is necessary to mitigate the effects of destruction. Check out the trailer below:
"Basically a crossing guard", his character is a modest Bostonian who is proud to serve his neighborhood. Although not seen in the trailer, the patriotic music coupled with the shot of the Boston police badge, suggest that the real heroes of the piece are those who day-in-day-out, go to work, wear the uniform and proudly do their job. With a release date of December 21st, director Peter Berg will be hoping to do better than Deepwater Horizon, which somewhat tanked at the box office. Nevertheless, given the subject matter, he shouldn't worry, as:
Patriotic Movies Are Insanely Popular
Films of a patriotic bent which depict blue-collar workers just doing their job to the best of their ability tend to do extremely well at the box office. Just look at American Sniper which was the highest grossing domestic film of 2014, making over $350 million at the Box Office. The same goes for Berg's Lone Survivor, also starring Mark Wahlberg as an everyday hero, which made over $125 million domestically.
They appeal widely to more conservative Americans, who in not going to the cinema regularly, make an exception for films that appeal to their love for real American heroes. As Michael Moore, admitted critic of American Sniper, has said:
"this movie's audience is made up of people who go to see one movie a year or people who never go to the movies"
Therefore it taps into a largely underfed market of people who are not interested in heroes who can fly or robots that can turn into cars, but instead want to see people like them who have a job, complete it modestly and in the process serve their country. This can be reflected in:
The Success of Sully
Clint Eastwood — who also directed American Sniper — is a famed conservative, but his films are anything but gung-ho. Instead they take issues of patriotism, xenophobia and bravery and run them through a morally complex ringer, leading to a rather dour yet bracing cinematic experience. Sully, taking on the remarkable true tale behind The Miracle on The Hudson, sees Tom Hanks as a pilot performing a brilliant emergency landing. Check out the trailer below:
Subsequent to the miracle, Sullenberger is subject to intense scrutiny from the press, making him a man who is hounded for doing the right thing. His story has resonated extremely well with American filmgoers. Released around the same time as Deepwater Horizon, Sully has managed to fly ahead at the box office, opening to $35 million before grossing over $100 million domestically. Deepwater Horizon, on the other hand, opened to only $20 million, and so far has only grossed $33 million, an embarrassing fact when considering that it was made for $156 million. Sully, in contrast, was made for $60 million.
Sully for all its dour tone, is ultimately a story with a happy ending. Told after 9/11, the idea of a plane landing safely in the Hudson Bay is a symbolically rich image that those who love their country can get behind. Deepwater Horizon doesn't have a happy ending, the ramifications from that oil spill still affecting our environment to this day. In a time of deep division in the country, it makes more sense that people prefer the story which offers hope for a divided America.
Check Out The True Stories Behind These Films:
- How Historically Accurate Is Mark Wahlberg's Portrayal Of Mike Williams in 'Deepwater Horizon'?
- Clint Eastwood's 'Sully': The True Story Behind The Miracle on the Hudson
- American Sniper Review: A Powerful Film About A True Soldier
This Has Also Affected Actual Comic Book Heroes
Whilst superheroes on the big screen have outsized egos, saviour complexes and can tend to be otherworldly and brooding, the small screen is seeing regular guys who just happen to have special powers. Daredevil is a lawyer, Jessica Jones is a private detective and Luke Cage works two menial jobs just to pay the rent. Luke Cage is an interesting example of seeing how blue collar life intersects with blackness on the small screen. Tellingly, we first see him in the barber shop — a common hangout zone for African-Americans in urban areas — just shooting the breeze.
What Jessica Jones and Luke Cage have really done is used the concept of a superhero as a trojan horse to talk about other issues such as sexual abuse and what it means to be black in America. By minimising the fighting and instead prioritising the day job and the everyday struggle, we see that they are compelling not because of their superpowers so much as their everyday powers, revealing how this desire to see everyday heroes on the screen has translated towards even the most powerful of beings.
Will Patriot's Day Do Well?
In the competition of who loves their country more and is willing to make money loving it, Clintwood is still easily besting Peter Berg, director of Deepwater Horizon. Yet, with Patriot's Day there is a clear enemy, the terrorist bombers, and clear heroes, the Boston police force. This is in contrast to the middling bureaucrats who cause the problems resulting from the BP oil spill, who despite being selfish, can hardly be described as something approximating evil.
The unabashed Americanism, set in a city that lends itself to patriotism of the finest Irish-American kind, and ending with the suspects being caught and put on trial, means viewers who flock to see Patriot's Day will go knowing that the best and brightest end up getting some vindication for the horrors committed that day. With a slightly more positive outcome for the film, it could be the next American Sniper in terms of being a non-franchise film that does astronomically well at the box office. I, for one, can't wait to see it. That and Wahlberg's Boston accent.