The Equalizer: Is Denzel’s latest the answer to calls for a black Superhero film?

Is Denzel’s latest the answer to calls for a black Superhero film?

There have been many different eras of film, the ‘Silent’ era (20s), ‘Big Musical’ era (50s) and of course the ‘Bad Hair’ era (80s) but since the turn of the century we have, web-swung, flew and slunk through the shadows into the ‘Superhero’ era. And with billion makers like The Avengers and Batman it doesn’t seem like this ‘fad’ will be going away anytime soon.

And who can complain about that? The films are generally well reviewed by critics and audiences alike and make a ton of money. Surely everyone is happy in that equation, right? Cut to me, a mixed raced kid in the back an Odeon in Manchester watching Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr) selflessly save New York from destruction. My fading grin not matching the jubilation on screen as Hulk and friends exchange high fives and make dinner arrangements. I probably had a similar face at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises as Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale) performs a similarly selfless act to Iron Man but in this instance saves Gotham, where people are much too serious for high fives. In fact go back the past eight years and you’ll see a montage of fading grins appearing on my face as the credits roll on yet another superhero film I have a moment of realisation: all the ‘super’ heroes are white.

Since 2008’s Hancock (starring Will Smith) there has been no real identifiable representation for any Black Brits (or any other race for that matter) in ‘Superhero’ films, the now dominant genre in blockbuster filmmaking. This is a problem.

Now, I know what you’re going say. You Thor fans will probably throw Idris Elba at me, who does great support work in that franchise as Heimdall. Folks who caught this year’s Captain America will probably be quick to counter me with a ‘Falcon’ punch (Anthony Mackie). And who could forget Halle Berry whippin’ up a storm in four X-Men movies?
I am aware of all of these (and many more) actors and actresses’ great work and don’t mean to diminish their performances at all, I just think more needs to be done. I am looking for more diversity in the LEAD roles. The roles where the character name is also the name of the movie.

Those looking for a black ‘Superhero’-esque character on their screens will have to think outside the box a little, which brings us to new release The Equalizer starring the legendary Denzel Washington.

The Equalizer follows the story Robert McCall (Washington) a retired black ops government operative who now lives a normal life working at a hardware store. However, as his friends fall into trouble he cannot resist using his trademark brand of Denzel badassery to ‘Equalize’ society and put things ‘right’.

Some might call this level of action film more of Bourne/Taken revenge fantasy than ‘Superhero’, but the tortured past and shadow-lurking finale read Dark Knight to me like a bat-symbol in the sky (and hey beggars can’t be choosers, let us have this one).

The only bad part is the film isn’t one of Denzel’s best. Despite being reunited with his Training Day director Antoine Fuqua, The Equalizer never rises above its genre roots. Effortlessly charismatic as always, Denzel shines in the first half of the film. However, as the film increasingly focuses on higher and higher levels of violence, and Denzel becomes a silent stalking vigilante, we miss the charm that makes him a true screen great.

So as I sat in the theatre my smile faded as although the wait for a ‘black’ superhero film is over, the wait for a great one continues. Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, over to you.

-Dylan Wiggan

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