As thousands of comics, movies, television shows, advertisements and songs have proven over the decades, superheroes are easy to parody.
The numerous superhero tropes are an easy target, partly because they are so obviously ridiculous. Indeed, it is far more impressive that the angst-ridden Spider-Man and Batman movies (not to mention comics like Watchmen) have been taken so seriously.
The Danish movie Antboy, one of the latest, is for the most part a Spider-Man pastiche.
Pelle (Oscar Dietz) is 12 years old – slightly younger than Peter Parker when he was bitten by a GM spider. He looks even smaller and younger than most kids his age, and in his costume he is even more harmless-looking than Chloë Grace Moretz’s Hit-Girl. While not as lethal as the latter, however, he’s no slouch in the villain-fighting world since he was bitten by a laboratory ant, giving him the proportionate powers of an ant, including super-strength, super-smell and corrosive urine (because why not?).
He soon fights crime, with help from his classmate Wilhelm (Samuel Ting Graf), a bespectacled genius and comic-book geek – more like a younger Parker, but he has to make do with being a sidekick. Antboy’s arch-enemy, The Flea (Nicolas Bro, who you might recognise from The Killing II), is a genius with a terrible costume and the proportionate power of… well, you can probably guess.
Of course, all of this comes straight from the Marvel Comics playbook. For years, Marvel has wanted to make a movie based on Ant-Man, one of their earliest superheroes. Not only is this project still in limbo, but Ant-Man didn’t even make it to the roll call in Avengers Assemble last year. He is briefly mentioned in Antboy, a movie that’s more than happy to admit its blinding lack of originality.
Still, it has the innocent charm with which Danish cinema has portrayed children since Lasse Hallström’s 1985 hit My Life As A Dog. Antboy might be another copy of Spider-Man, but he’s their Spider-Man.
Marvel might be cool, but it has rarely been this charming.