Defendor, Arthur Poppington (Woody Harrelson), may be dimwitted and a goof but the world he lives in is real and unforgiving. I would say it is no place for someone like him but Arthur tries to adapt himself to this world when he dresses up in black tights, shoe polish, and speaks mostly inane macho talk in a husky voice. Defendor may very well be Kick-Ass with a “slow” protagonist as the hero. I can’t say one film is more realistic than the other since: a.) I haven’t seen or read Kick-Ass yet and b.) protagonists in both films walk around in costumes in public. I will dare to say though that Defendor will probably have the more realistic ending out of the two films.
The psychology behind Arthur’s metamorphosis into Defendor is more interesting than his would-be superhero antics. Arthur is a person that wants to be more than he is but is trapped by his lack of intellect, athleticism, and stupidity. The only reason he uses violence is because violence is used against others, the people he tries to protect.
A childhood trauma spurred Arthur’s vigilantism, his need to protect those that can’t protect themselves, even though his main focus is bringing Captain Industry to justice. Captain Industry, to Arthur’s dull intellect, is a manifestation of evil in the world. This evil template can be placed on any worthy evil-doer or manipulated by the shrewd to their own ends.
One such manipulator is Kat (Kat Dennings), a trash talking succubus who goes from seeing Arthur as a daft mark to the only real friend she has. Kat has some of the quirkiest dialog and inserts, along with Arthur’s boss and best friend Michael Kelly (Paul Carter), the heart and a warm, gooey center into the film. These two characters show Arthur that there is a world outside of punks and creeps, at times warmer and during others even more disturbing than the one he plunges into when the sun goes down.
The dialog in Defendor is snapper at times than expected (prostitute Kat purrs: “What does the wind do?”, “He macked on me”), riding high on one-liners, funny quips, and heroic rhetoric while at others it slips back into your standard fare.
Though unexpected, touching family moments do occur in the film that both flesh out character’s past and their relationships. During one such moment, Arthur is told that it doesn’t take a costume to stand for the ideals that Defendor stands for to right wrongs or to stop them from happening. Like Captain Kain said: “In the absence of alternatives, consider your imperative.” A friendly conversation on a swing set breaks Arthur out of what he perceives to be a necessary silent period to save a friend even though characters in the film see it as him mourning the litigious death of Defendor. In actuallity, its a mixture of both.
As was mentioned earlier, the bad guys in Defendor, among them Chuck Dooney (Elias Koteas), are all too real. They are not the comic bad guys found in Superman or Spiderman, but human waste, users and profiteers of human misery and weakness.
During the film, one can’t help to wonders how Defendor, with a large VCR strapped to his back and a helmet, can float in and out of a police station at will or why police officer Roger Fairbanks (Clark Johnson) doesn’t place to the wacky (and slightly disturbed) Defendor in a padded cell or prison upon seeing and hearing him speak in comic book-nese. Superhero fans will get a chuckle out of the appearance of DefendDog and DefendDoor during the film though (or at least a smile).
Peter Stebbings‘ Defendor is a “superhero” movie that gets the viewer rooting for the good guy almost as much as the people in his fictional life do. There is a very poignant moment at the end of film where people stare at a graffiti image of Defendor accompanied by radio voice overs. This final scene was better than all of the CGI finales most studio, franchise building superhero films, are imbued with.