How does it break the Marvel and DC-induced binary in the superhero genre?

by Sylvester Stallone Samaritanwhich was released on Amazon Prime Video on August 26, 2022, is a dark take on the superhero genre in that it casts its characters as an evolutionary human trait.

Deviating from the usual Marvel and DC tropes, the film is more about making choices in life than to be burdened with the responsibilities of the world. It has no aliens, technology, or siblings from another planet. Instead, it highlights the importance of choices and the consequences that come with them – putting a human spin on its central superhero.

The film’s insistence on choice is best captured in dialogue from Sam’s mother, Tiffany, who says.

“The decisions you make add up.”

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This Julius Avery director follows 13-year-old high school student Sam, who lives on the brink of eviction notices with his single mother Tiffany. He is a die-hard fan of the superhero Samaritan, who allegedly lost his life alongside his brother in a fire 25 years ago. While the world believes the superhero is dead, Sam has followed even the tiniest clues in his life.

Set in a crumbling economy, the film doesn’t polarize people as heroes and villains, but simply as individuals desperate to make a living.

Javon Walton and Sylvester Stallone in the film (Image via Instagram - @samaritanmovie)
Javon Walton and Sylvester Stallone in the film (Image via Instagram – @samaritanmovie)

It features Sylvester Stallone as Joe Smith, Javon “Wanna” Walton as Sam Cleary, Pilou Asbaek as the notorious gangster Cyrus, Dascha Polanco as Sam Tiffany’s mother, Moises Arias as Reza, Martin Starr as Albert Casier, Sophia Tatum as the associate of Cyrus Sil, and Jared Odrick as Farshad.

Read on to find out what some of the film’s takeaways are.

How it works Samaritan break the binary of Marvel and DC in the superhero genre?

Samaritan sets the context of an economy in the doldrums

The backdrop of a failing economy becomes the cornerstone of such superhero-genre stories because the antagonists and anti-heroes, more often than not, come from the afflicted layers of society.

The character of Cyrus, for example, comes from a background where he was beaten in the street. This, in turn, makes him prone to choosing chaos and violence over peace, thus establishing how economics coincides with ideology.

Cyrus loved Nemesis not because he thought the superhero was notorious, but because he “gave people a beating, who needed a beating”. Samaritan, on the other hand, was “just another cop to protect the rich while the rest of us went hungry.”

Most Marvel and DC films fail to establish a more realistic context. Their main concerns are espionage, aliens and technology which in turn contextualize their films. This trope is absent in Samaritan.

The film establishes empathy for the unemployed who take to the streets as drug and arms dealers, and the expelled who are hired by the traffickers to earn a living.

In fact, the superhero himself is part of this system. He works as a garbage collector and collects discarded items like a fan, radio, and camera, to pawn them.

Samaritan makes his superhero the basic human trait

The screenwriters of the film managed to induce the superhero with the most fundamental trait of survival, and that is evolution. The identity of Nemesis by Joe Smith is not only a good reveal, but also shows that superheroes are capable of undergoing change.

Nemesis diverts his course from revenge and chaos after losing Samaritan – his brother and his only remaining family.

He does not seek revenge for the death of his parents, nor do charity after losing everything. He simply goes underground with his identity and emerges 25 years later.

While there are inconsistencies in the movie as to why Joe Smith aka Nemesis stood up for Sam and not other kids who might have been bullied, the safest bet he’s playing is d incorporate the concept of choice.

Joe Smith explains this to Sam after evacuating him from the burning power plant,

“If there were only bad people doing bad things, it would be easy to get rid of them. But the real truth is that good and bad live in everyone’s heart. And it will be up to you to make the right choice.”

This binary is radically different from the usual, as the only aspect capable of evolving in Marvel and DC movies is superhero powers, not personalities.

Exceptions like Batman do exist, but the quantitative bottom hand hardly counts.

Samaritan questions social concepts of good and evil, and expands their definition

While the two brothers – Samaritan and Nemesis – are believed to have lost their lives in the power plant fire 25 years ago, the people of Granite City were just waiting for the former to return.

Even when a man with superhuman abilities is filmed saving a little girl from an explosion, he is portrayed as the Good Samaritan, even though in reality it is Nemesis.

While the world praised Samaritan, the troubled residents of Granite City admired Nemesis for defending the poor against the rich.

By depicting such social attitudes, the film not only challenges definitions of right and wrong, but also expands them to such an extent that the lines in between tend to blur.

The stories of the Marvel and DC Universes, on the other hand, don’t exist beyond the binaries of black and white, good and evil, heroes and villains.

Viewers can catch Samaritan currently streaming on Amazon Prime Video.

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