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Invincible heroes, perpetual villains

It appears that the latest super-hero movie, “Black Panther,” is about to become one of the biggest box office hits of all time. Because of its popularity and the fact that its cast is nearly all black actors, it has received a great deal of coverage in the media. Previous to its release, I read several articles about the movie, and after its record-breaking opening, I went on-line to see what the reviewers had to say. They are nearly unanimous in their praise. Even my favorite, Anthony Lane, critic for the “New Yorker,” who loves to write scathing, smart-alecky comments about popuar movies, liked it.

I doubt I’ll see it.

Despite all the anticipation, the media hoopla, the important social messages it apparently contains, and the critical reception it has received, I have personal standards and “Black Panther” does not meet them.

For instance, I do not enjoy stories that lead up to a violent climax. I will admit to a couple of exceptions: “Rocky,” “Shane,” “White Heat,” “The Shootist,” ... well, maybe more than a couple.

Additionally, I really don’t care for “super hero” movies. I don’t mean super heroes like John Wayne; I’m referring to characters with super-hero powers. In “Black Panther,” for example, one character downs an airplane with a spear. I mean, I’m willing to suspend my disbelief enough to accept Fred Astaire dancing on the ceiling, but an airplane with a spear. C’mon.

While such may not be the case in “Black Panther,” too many of the super heroes are invincible. The problem with invincibility is that it takes away all tension. The audience knows the hero will survive to make at least one sequel. The creators of Superman eventually realized this and so introduced us to Kryptonite, the substance that weakened Clark Kent’s alter ego and made him more like us.

Invincibility is also a trait that keeps me away from many of the popular hits featuring vampires and zombies. Young people can’t seem to get enough of this nonsensical genre featuring the undead. It’s a strange attraction that has a history as old as man. Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein” was immediately popular when it was published in 1818, and Bram Stoker’s “Dracula” first saw the light of day in 1897. (I know – inappropriate metaphor.) I can empathize with Shelley’s built-from-a-kit monster, but I can’t fathom why some women find Dracula sexy.

Mummies, for some reason, have fallen out of popularity in recent years. I never felt they were scary, and, even as a kid, I thought Boris Karloff’s slow, leg-dragging mummy could never catch that girl he’d been dreaming of for 3,700 years. I admire persistence, but “no” means “no!”

Contemporary monsters that we have probably not seen the last of include Chucky, the homicidal doll; Jason, who wears a hockey mask and keeps returning to terrorize school girls; Wes Cravens’ “Scream” villain, wearing a face by Edvard Munch; and on and on ad nauseam.

Then there are zombies, which have no social redeeming features, except they, too, are “undead.”

Immortality is a quality that has always been sure to pack the theaters and the pews, though I have to admit that “eternal life” has about as much attraction for me personally as a bite on the neck from Bela Lugosi. I often run out of things to do before Sunday supper, so I suspect perpetuity would bore me to death.

Getting back to “Black Panther,” I’m happy for everyone involved in the movie’s production. As with anything so successful – and profitable – it will motivate several sequels and many imitations.

When it shows up on TV, I may watch it on some lazy Sunday afternoon.

Chuck Avery grew up in the Bucktown neighborhood of Connersville and is a retired high school teacher, writer and playwright.