With the rising popularity of comic book heroes in mainstream culture, we have also seen a rise in something else – civilians in film who for some reason or another decide to live in metropolitan areas; this is despite the fact that the chances of dying in some mind-bogglingly horrific way rises immensely.
When I was a kid I loved the idea of living in a world full of superheroes. I pictured Batman grapple-hooking around the cityscape (despite the fact that the city I lived in is way less conducive to that method of transportation than say, New York City), keeping watch over the citizenry, making sure the good people of (insert name of metropolitan area here) were safe from the common criminal.
Now that I am older, and more wary, I realize that living in a world filled with superheroes would be horrifying. That level of heroism almost necessitates an opposite level of villainy. If the pendulum swings that far to the good, then it will also swing that far to the bad end of the spectrum, and then we get supervillains. Not everyone that is given the kind of power a superhero possesses will use it for the greater good.
This leads me to my main point. If superheroes and supervillains actually existed, and it was anything like it is in the comics or movies, why in the hell would anyone want to live in a Gotham, or a Metropolis, or another clone of New York City? A person moving to Gotham City has more death wishes than Charles Bronson (Get it? Death Wish?).
I am not saying that comic book tragedy never strikes at the heart of Anytown, U.S.A. (look at Thor and Iron Man 3), but these small towns are targeted much less than the comic equivalent of your Los Angeles’s and New York City’s.
In the Battle of New York, the climactic battle sequence at the end of the Avengers, the Avengers do everything they can to save as many people as possible while fighting off the Chitauri invaders. They manage to keep the attack within 4-6 square blocks, set up a defensive perimeter around civilians, and control the damage done as well as a Norse god, raging green beast, a guy with weaponry more advanced than what we see in Star Wars, and three above average humans could, but several thousand people still die, and there was about $160 billion in damages.
This of course pales in comparison to Man of Steel. In Man of Steel we see two veritable demigods using Metropolis as their Octagon, and the inhabitants of the city have a lower chance of survival than the toys Sid “plays with.”
Zach Snyder, director of Man of Steel, said that the death toll is supposed to be reminiscent of ancient myths, saying, “In ancient mythology, mass deaths are used to symbolize disasters. In other countries like Greece and Japan, myths were recounted through the generations, partly to answer unanswerable questions about death and violence. In America, we don’t have that legacy of ancient mythology. Superman … is probably the closest we get. It’s a way of recounting the myth.”
Charles Watson and his hazard-assessment team at Watson Technical Consulting estimated that over 129,000 people died in Metropolis during that fight, with another million people being injured. Watson also estimated that the damage to the city would cause a total economic impact of $2 trillion!
Could you imagine being in either of those cities when these events unfolded? If a movie were told from the perspective of the average civilian it would be a disaster film. It would follow the destruction of a city, the death of tens of thousands, and the displacement of millions of people who lost everything. That doesn’t sound like a superhero movie; that sounds like the prequel to the Road.
There is no telling how many people died when Scarecrow released a weaponized hallucinogen using the water supply causing people to collectively go crazy and attack people out of fear; or when Bane cordoned off Gotham from the rest of the world, and let anarchy reign.
What could possibly motivate someone to live in these cities? How economically viable is a city that has to spend most of it’s resources rebuilding every few months? I know the recession was bad, but surely there are alternative sources of income in say, Iowa or the Dakotas?
What do you guys think? Would you rather live in a world with or without superheroes?