So last week after watching the premier episode of NBC’s newest entry into the superhero genre known as THE CAPE I posted on Facebook that, “The Cape is The Crap”. I figured it was a bit unfair of me to just call THE CAPE crap without explaining why I thought it was so awful. Not that THE CAPE is worth any of my valuable writing time but, hey, I figure I’ll give it a shot. I’ll jot down some thoughts as to why THE CAPE is not the superhero show any of us were hoping for. Especially comic fans.
So why is THE CAPE so terrible? Besides the fact that it’s a ripoff of everything from Batman, to Birds of Prey, to Spawn? Well, here are some of my reasons.
The first one being that THE CAPE doesn’t know what it wants to be. Does it want to be a gritty crime superhero story? Does it want to be an optimistic superhero in costumes action piece? Does it want to be a goofy spoof of the superhero genre? What is THE CAPE? From what I can tell of the pilot episode THE CAPE is a mess. It doesn’t know whether it wants to be Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight, or The Green Hornet or The Greatest American Hero. The tone of the show is all over the place. If you’re going to do heroes fighting criminals in some dark underworld then do that. If you’re going to have heroes and villains in goofy costumes and an outfit called The Circus of Crime (something blatantly stolen from Marvel Comics) then go all the way with that. You can’t do both. It just doesn’t work. What THE CAPE does, and does badly, is that it tries to keep its foot in both worlds. It can’t decide what it wants to be. Therefore, the whole tone of the show is off. You end up not being able to take any of it seriously. Or even have fun with it. It’s just a mess. And the whole thing comes off as goofy. Unfortunately THE CAPE ends up doing what so many other comic book type TV properties do: they try to run away from the fact that they are about guys in costumes fighting crime so they make themselves gritty and dark and, god help us, serious. Obviously, for Nolan’s Batman movies it works because he goes whole hog with the serious crime drama. THE CAPE doesn’t. Not even close. It tries to balance itself somewhere between fun filled superhero antics and dark and dreary vigilantism and just ends up falling off the cliff.
The next reason it doesn’t work is because of the lead. Sorry, I just don’t buy him as…well…anything. I’m not here to trash any actors but David Lyons is about as compelling as a piece of dry toast in the lead role. There’s nothing interesting about him at all. He’s just…bland. There’s nothing there. He’s practically sleepwalking through the whole pilot. He gets setup for a crime, his family thinks he’s dead, he’s tortured by a criminal gang and he’s…just sort of not affected by it all? It’s almost as if every event is about as troubling to him as having to fix a doorknob or other such home repair. The stakes are all played at the same level…Lyons is a bore.
But I maybe I’m being a bit too harsh on Lyons. The truth here is that his character is given no time to develop. The pilot episode is just rushed. The man who would become THE CAPE is not allowed to let events sink in. During the pilot events are just touched upon. Things occur but there is not breathing space to let them develop organically. The whole first episode is just a checklist of how a bad eighties superhero origin should develop. Man has a family that he loves. Check. Corrupt police squad. Check. Ridiculous corporate supervillain with a lame costume. Check. Cop framed for crime he didn’t commit. Check. Cop trained by oddball mentor to fight crime with no rational benefit to the mentor. Check. And on and on it goes. It’s just a badly constructed mishmash of every silly superhero trope from the last thirty years.
Granted, when I was a pre-teen I may have loved this sort of thing. But that’s when I was a kid. Kids today are a bit more sophisticated than I was in the eighties. And in the eighties there were not a lot of options if you were into superhero stuff. If M.A.N.T.I.S. was on you watched it because, well, Knight Rider wasn’t on until Friday night and there was nothing else on. Today kids have been exposed to Faverau’s Iron Man, Burton’s and Nolan’s Batman, and tons of other sci-fi/action superheroes. There’s no room for something this…cheesy…and bad. There are so many options that a pre-teen who’s into superheroes (And let’s face it…how many pre-teens are just into superheroes these days?) can just switch over to something else on cable or their DVR. There’s no excuse for something this badly put together and badly thought out.
So here’s my advice to the producers of THE CAPE. Kill Vince Faraday (Really? Who thought that name up?) off and replace him with Keith David’s character. Make Keith David THE CAPE . Seriously. Keith David could read the phonebook and I would sit down and listen to him. He’s such a decent actor and got so much more presence than so many other actors out there. THE CAPE with Keith David in the lead is a show I would watch in a New York minute. I can just hear the executives freaking out now at this suggestion. “But he’s old, he’s not waif thin and he’s…black!” Which are all reasons I think that David would make a much more interesting CAPE than David Lyons. That plus, well, he’s just a great actor. Keith David is like E.F. Hutton…as soon as he opens his mouth, you’re gonna listen.
But that’ll never happen, of course. Still it’d be a great show. Imagine a superhero leading a circus of freaks to fight crime. Someone with age and experience under his belt. Someone with some serious gravitas. Instead what we have is a paper thing leading character with a cardboard cut out origin. Oh, well.
The ones who I feel truly bad for are James Frain and Summer Glau. Frain did such a great job on both The Tudors and True Blood that to see him stuck on this show is just disheartening to me. Well, at least he’s getting a paycheck. As far as Summer Glau is concerned…well, I guess she can keep her career track on being the queen of failed sci-fi premises but I really do think that she’s a bit better than that. She’s obviously a good actress and she’s easy on the eyes. I just wish she’d book something that lasted a bit longer than a season and put her in the lead role. Summer, I know your agent is keeping you working but you really need to get a project that puts you center square and pushes you to the next level. THE CAPE is certainly not going to be that project. Time for you to find new representation.