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Special: A Different Kind of Superhero Film
November 13, 2008

I was recently made aware of Special, a new indy movie starring Michael Rapaport as an everyday guy and comic book reader who participates in a drug trial for an anti-depressant. (Rapaport previously starred in Comic Book Villains, about a rivalry between two comic book shops.)

Specioprin Hydrochloride is supposed to “inhibit the chemical in the brain responsible for self-doubt.” When Rapaport’s character takes it, he becomes convinced he has superpowers. He decides to become a superhero… and let’s let the press kit take it from here:

recklessly endangering himself in outrageous situtations with increasingly painful outcomes. Rapaport [is] creating a new kind of underdog crime fighter for our chemically enhanced times.

He doesn’t actually have powers, you see, he’s just deluded by the drug. It’s a first feature from two film-school graduates who co-wrote and directed, and it’s described as “a comic-book movie that is not a cartoon but rather a film that explores the very soul of comic book ethos.” Mmmm… maybe. It could just as easily be seen as yet another portrayal of comic readers as psychologically damaged, showing how ludicrous and dangerous it is to be inspired by superheroes. Says one of the directors,

We set out to combine the mythological structure of the superhero origin story with the aesthetic of MTV’s Jackass. On the creative side, this film was inspired by the realization that Spiderman, Batman, Superman, and all the other great superheroes could just as easily be normal people suffering from psychotic delusions.

Whether I like it or not, though, may be moot. It’s only got limited distribution so far, opening November 21 in New York and LA.

12 Responses  
Raphael writes:  

I should sue them for stealing my life story!

 
thekamisama writes:  

This will probably be a better take on the idea than whatever Hollywood garbage gets churned out under the title of “Kick Ass”.

 
Kevin Huxford writes:  

Wow…this is getting a limited release now? It was shown for free at NYCC 2008. When I got home and wrote up a small review (with a diametrically opposed opinion of the flick), I was surprised to find out it had been around since 2006.

Guess whoever is distributing it figures they’re cashing in on super-hero popularity.

 
Johanna writes:  

So where’s your review? I’m curious to see what you liked about it.

 
matthew writes:  

They had me at “the aesthetic of MTV’s Jackass.”

The trailer made it look mildly interesting but the story seemed a little too simple.

A more interesting path may have been to take a non-comics reading person and drop him into the same situation. If you think you have powers that you previously did not believe even possible, what would you do? Would you take the altruistic path and help people or would you go to the prom and lift girls dresses up with your mind ala Zapped?

 
Tommy Raiko writes:  

“A more interesting path may have been to take a non-comics reading person and drop him into the same situation. If you think you have powers that you previously did not believe even possible, what would you do?”

Isn’t this kinda, sorta what you have with the Bruce Willis/Samuel L. Jackson/M. Night Shyamalan movie UNBREAKABLE?

 
matthew writes:  

“Isn’t this kinda, sorta what you have with the Bruce Willis/Samuel L. Jackson/M. Night Shyamalan movie UNBREAKABLE?”

Maybe… I haven’t seen Unbreakable yet. It’s on my Netflix queue, though. :)

 
Kevin Huxford writes:  

Johanna: http://www.schwapponline.com/2008/04/special-is-everything-that-kick-ass-is.html

I think where our differences may have come from was my failure to pick up on the possible insults to comic book readers. My previous review was fairly shallow, but what really sucked me in was just how much your heart breaks for the protagonist. Instead of wanting to yell, “I get it, you can stop now,” to the team behind the film, you want to yell at the fictional world to let him catch a break.

 
Johanna writes:  

I thought of Unbreakable, too, so you may want to check it out.

Kevin, interesting review. Sounds like Rapaport’s performance really makes the film. Unfortunately, I don’t like those kind of “see how horrible life can be” explorations. My take on it isn’t based on anything more than the trailer and a general jaded mindset.

 
Dan Coyle writes:  

Comic Book Villains is why I can never give James Robinson a dime of my money, ever.

 
Chris G. writes:  

Just once, I’d like to see a movie where the protagonist, or even the best friend or kid sister or whoever, is a better person because they read comics…

 
Johanna writes:  

Oh, I talked about one of those already: Sydney White.

 
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