I've ridden this pop culture hobbyhorse before, in a 2010 Salon piece unsubtly titled "Superheroes suck!" (Not my headline, for whatever that's worth.) There's a lot in the piece that I wouldn't change, including the contention that— Robert Downey , Jr. as Iron Man aside—the superhero film as currently envisioned can plug pretty much any actor who looks the part into a hero/heroine role, which means that they're all ultimately cogs, and a performer's physique and overall look will matter more than their personality. I'd take back what I said about the Christopher Nolan Batman films, though. The post-"Iron Man" Marvel films have honed the soft bigotry of low expectations into a science, to the point where every new movie coasts on an initial burst of mild audience surprise ("I saw it this weekend, it's better than I expected!"). I've stopped making fun of the Nolan films' solemn pomposity because the director's deranged passion for each moment makes the whole trilogy feel singularly alive. " Batman Begins ," " The Dark Knight " and " The Dark Knight Rises " are honest-to-God auteurist statements in a genre that's increasingly scared of them. It's hard to imagine heroes as perversely scarred as Batman/Bruce Wayne or Selina Kyle or villains as flat-out horrifying as Nolan's Scarecrow, Joker and Bane in the universes of the Sony or Disney Marvel films—or in "Man of Steel." It's equally impossible to imagine a fight scene as old-school as the backbreaking confrontation between Batman and Bane in "TDKR," which plays out in wide shots with few cuts and realistically awkward movements. In the superhero movie circa 2014, that's radical characterization and radical filmmaking. It goes against the plan. "You know what I've noticed?" the Joker says in "The Dark Knight," "Nobody panics when things go 'according to plan.'" We need more panic. More panic means more art.
Determined to counter the prevailing attitudes, Danae and Philip enroll their children in the progressive Hand to Hand School, the only bilingual school in the city in which Jewish and Arab children study together and become immersed in each other’s culture. The couple’s oldest son, Tristan, takes to the new environment, becoming close friends with an Arab youth with whom he communicates in the language appropriate to the neighborhood they happen to be in. His commentary and curious questioning about the family’s new situation provides a sort of guide for how well things are going for them.