“DogMan” in cinema: a bizarre appropriation or a satire of superheroes?

“DogMan” in cinema: a bizarre appropriation or a satire of superheroes?

On a rainy evening, a gloomy mood descends on the city when the police stop an old delivery truck. Behind the wheel is a very broken-down drag queen. The makeup is smeared, the wig is twisted, and the silk gloves are torn and bloodstained. When the police officer, holding a flashlight in her face, asks her to get out, she only responds with a wry smile and a request for a light. She knows it’s not worth running away. However, she has a plan up her sleeve. Because she is actually – DogMan!!

The opening scene of Luc Besson’s new film looks like it’s taken from a forgotten detective film from seventy years ago. It leaves no doubt that the director is not afraid to exceed the limits of absurdity. Caleb Landry Jones stars as Douglas Monroe, who is active as a drag artist and uses a wheelchair, with so much fun with theatrical exaggeration that every scene becomes a celebration. It is interesting to watch how everything that can be seized through Cocoa is withdrawn with the utmost seriousness. The film itself and also the surplus of superheroes in contemporary cinema.

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A satirical commentary on superhero obsession

Trailer poster for the movie: “DogMan” showing in cinemas on October 12, 2023

Flying and teleporting in outrageous costumes with magical powers is as integral to cinema as Luc Besson was in the 1990s. Through fantastically absurd films like “Leon the Professional” (1994) or “The Fifth Element” (1997), he made a significant contribution to the creative extravaganza of the decade. But none of his films have really had much impact in the last 20 years. “DogMan” is now back on top! Well, not really. The film is clumsy, choppy, and choppy in many places. At best, it achieves camp qualities, and at worst, it’s barely audible in the gears of the plot.

What director Besson, who also wrote the screenplay, does brilliantly is a satirical commentary on the superhero craze currently dominating cinema schedules and streaming platforms. “DogMan” trades drag-flashing cape costumes, supersonic flight across the universe in a rickety wheelchair, laser vision, steel muscles and magical powers with canine training. The main character Doug not only appears as a drag performer, but also ensures a bit of justice with a huge pack of street dogs, which he knows how to command almost telepathically. Against brutal criminals and rich capitalists alike.

With these absolutely crazy transformations, DogMan shows in a very entertaining way how stupidly serious comic book stories are turned into movies. The slogan is for more bullshit, for more weird shit. It’s easy to laugh at the nonsense and insanity that the film itself produces, because the film never pretends to be anything more than a silly B-movie. One thing that leaves a rather dull aftertaste is how we deal with the topic of homosexuality…

How much weirdness can be customized?

If “DogMan” had been released in 1983, it would likely be considered an odd film today. The somewhat odd handling of eccentricity can be classified as a product of the time. But today, we have to wonder whether this only goes beyond a certain level of personalization when the story focuses on a character who is coded on so many levels. (For a detailed discussion of gay symbolism, also the current series on appropriate subject matter for the film, for example on the themes of dogs or house interiors.)

It is surprising, then, that about halfway through the film, the protagonist is heterosexual. With a strict moral guiding finger, Luc Besson could be accused of appropriating eccentricity and using it as a character-drawing gimmick. However, when leaving the church in the village, you can ask, did he not fully understand his character? Anyway: “DogMan” is a crazy, wonderful movie that can be a lot of fun if you don’t take anything about it too seriously.

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