New York lends itself well to Superhero films because it’s a city of many levels with some magnificent architecture. Sweeping vistas of skyscrapers above streets bustling with traffic below make for dramatic action scenes; the five boroughs are as distinct as the people that inhabit them, creating a visual treat for the camera.
Superman (1978) brought Clark Kent to international attention – a journalist by day, and an evil-vanquishing hero by night, with only Kryptonite as a weakness, with the ability to change into his ‘super suit’ in less than a second. A main feature of the programme is The News Building, a real life building that was the home of the fictional newspaper The Daily Planet, where both Clark and Lois Lane work. Spiderman (2002) used New York to its fullest – after Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) is bitten by a strange spider whilst on a school trip, he develops some strange, spidery powers. The New York skyline provides the perfect setting for cruising from skyscraper to skyscraper, whilst yellow taxis queue up below. Peter Parker attends Columbia University, Manhattan, which features in the film, as does the New York Public Library. Many other skyscrapers are also in the film, but the action is too fast paced to keep up with which ones they are.
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (1990) was edited by Sally Menke, the woman who used to edit every Tarantino film until her untimely death in 2010. The film shows New York from a different perspective to other superhero films – largely from underneath. It portrays Manhattan as a place largely overrun with crime, but where good still vanquishes evil. Kick Ass (2010) is arguably the most original superhero film to grace our screens – the film shows New York from more of a ‘street view’. There are a few skyscraper scenes – remember the Armenian man with a history of mental health problems?
New York is important – it is arguably one of the most famous cities in the world, and has long been portrayed as the land of opportunity. Superheroes gather in New York because it’s fast paced, and full of possibility – the only place where you can be a journalist and a flying extra-terrestrial in the same day, and everyone still thinks you’re a stand-up guy.