Monday, January 10, 2011

"The Cape" - A Review

After a lengthy marketing campaign--could not watch Sunday Night Football without seeing at least four commercials for it--NBC’s “The Cape” premiered last night. In the little bit I read about the before the debut, I knew that it was going to wear its comic book self squarely on its sleeve, or, rather, its cape. (Yeah, I know. Couldn’t resist.) Taking the show for what it is--live-action comic book based on no existing comic book character--I enjoyed two hours of fun.

Right off the bat, we learn that the action takes place in Palm City. For all the neatness of the Marvel Comics universe existing in our world, “The Cape” took a page from DC Comics--Gotham City, Metropolis, Star City--with a fictional, west coast city. I liked the vagueness of the town’s name. It could be anywhere.

Now that it’s 2011, there is almost no new origin story for a super-hero and The Cape has your standard issue protagonist. Vince Faraday, good cop in a corrupt town, can’t save the new chief of police from being murdered by a villain named Chess. Played by James Frain (The Tudors; “24”), Chess is a masked criminal mastermind (is there any other kind?) out to wreck havoc on Palm City. His alter ego, Peter Fleming, runs a private police service. With the chief’s murder, Fleming’s company, Ark, moves in a takes over. And promptly captures Faraday, puts him in Chess’s mask, and sends him out to be captured and killed.

Except Faraday survives and is saved by, wait for it, a band of circus people who are also bank robbers. (This is the point where, if you haven’t figured it out by now, you need to check your brain at the door. It’ll only get in the way.) The ringleader is Max Malini, played by everyone’s favorite voice actor, Keith David. Faraday wants revenge on Fleming, to clear his name, and rejoin his family. Max just wants to kill Faraday. They strike a deal: Faraday hands over a passcard with the codes of all the banks in Palm City and Max teaches him the fine art of deception.

Whereas Bruce Wayne dons the cape and cowl to scare bad guys, Faraday dresses up as The Cape to send a message to his son, Trip. The boy loves to read a comic book that features, yes, The Cape. Faraday can’t out-and-out see his son, but he can do the next best thing. He even makes an appearance to the young man. Thankfully, the boy is only comic book smart otherwise he’d have figured out that The Cape is really his dad, especially after the hero tells the boy to mind his math homework. I’m predicting now that young Trip already knows.

The bad guys are here, too. Chess, mask wearing criminal leader, Scales, the Russian-type dude with bad skin, Cain, the poison-making former chef, and the previews of future episodes promise new opponents. Other than the circus crew, The Cape has an ally in Orwell, played by Summer Glau. Basically, she’s what Barbara Gordon (original Batgirl) is now: a computer whiz who can help The Cape get information. Or she’s Alfred. Just don’t call her a sidekick...yet.

“The Cape” breaks almost no new ground here but its devilishly fun. The special effects are kept to a minimum. Faraday makes numerous mistakes as he tries to become a super hero. And there’s some humor in there. More than one character who learns the name of the new vigilante pauses. A store owner who had The Cape prevent a robbery calls after the hero “You’re still working on it,” a not-too-subtle jab at the name. Later, when a capeless Cape (just go with it) tells a new ally his nom-de-plume, the ally points out the obvious fact: “But you’re not wearing a cape.” Made me chuckle.

And the entire show just made me grin. It’s pure comic book fun. Don’t think. Just enjoy.

The two-hour premiere is running again tonight and next week the show lands in its usual time slot of Mondays at 8pm CST. That’s right before “Castle” for those of y’all scoring at home. My Monday nights, already great with my favorite show of the week, just got a little more exciting.


Charles Gramlich said...

I forgot this was coming on and missed the first half hour, then already had a SHowtime movie I wanted to see. I hope and imagine they will do a replay. I think I'd like this.

Scott D. Parker said...

Tonight at 8pm CST, I think. Check your local listings...

Ken Tucker at also liked it:

Randy Johnson said...

It was a lot of fun. I hope they keep it in that vein and not get to serious.

Scott D. Parker said...

Randy - That's a great way to put it: not be too serious. Just have to keep that fine line of funness and this show should do well. Or, at least, play out its (assumed) 13-episode mini season.

Capes on Film said...

Hi Scott - it's been a while since I commented. Hope all is well.

Glad to hear you and I agree that the show was fun. I was starting to think I was too much of a push-over when I read some of the negative reviews. It got ripped to shreds by several major comic book writers and on some of the geek blogs (at least the ones I read).

I disagreed with almost all of the major complaints of the online critics. Overall, I thought it was a good effort. Looking forward to the next epi.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Sundays and Tuesdays are hard. Then the other nights seem to offer nothing.

Lisa said...

Good review! You mentioned that you'd written one on my recap over at SF Signal, so I thought I'd stop by. I like your point about why Bruce Wayne wears the cape and cowl as compared to Vince Faraday's reasons. I think it'll be a good lead-in for Castle as well.

Those who missed it can catch it on NBC's web site here: