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"Samaritan": A Reluctant Superhero Film

Robert J. Sodaro is an American born writer, editor, and digital graphic artist, who loves writing about comics, movies, and literature.

Not all heroes are good guys.

Not all heroes are good guys.

Samaritan (2022)

  • Director: Julius Avery
  • Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Javon 'Wanna' Walton, Pilou Asbæk, Dascha Polanco, Sophia Tatum
  • Run Time: 1 hour 42 minutes
  • Rating: PG-13

Origin Story: Astro City

Well, there’s a “new” superhero on the cinematic block. Only he’s technically not so new, as he first debuted in 1995 in the comicbook, Astro City #1. Don’t worry if you haven’t heard of him (or the comic) as the comic itself is not from one of the big two comicbook publishers. The first volume of Astro City was published from 1995 to 1996 by Image Comics.

Then in ‘96, a second volume was launched under the Homage Comics imprint of Image partner studio WildStorm. In ’98, WildStorm was acquired by DC Comics, where the series later transitioned to the WildStorm Signature Series imprint and continued until 2010. Although it has recently been announced by series creator, Kurt Busiek, that he is bringing Astro City, as well as some of his other comicbook series back to Image.

Born in in the comics. Specifically, Astro City, in 1994

Born in in the comics. Specifically, Astro City, in 1994

Human Interest Stories

The Samaritan himself is from Astro City, which is an extraordinary series by Busiek that spins an entire comicbook universe full of iconic archetypes and story beats, where almost everything is seen from a human interest/slice-of-life perspective, often by ordinary persons living alongside the “supers.”

This made Astro City similar in tone to another series by Busiek and painted by Alex Ross, entitled Marvels, which was a four-issue limited comic series that was published by Marvel Comics in 1994.

Samaritan vs Nemesis (Brother vs. Brother)

This film, currently airing on Amazon Prime, takes place in Granite City, the former home of Samaritan, who was the gleaming hero of the city. Unfortunately, it has been 20 years since Samaritan has been seen.

As the story goes, his last appearance was in an epic, knock-down, drag-out battle with his arch foe (and brother), Nemesis. The battle royale took place at the city’s power plant and wound up in a massive explosion that reportedly killed Nemesis and sent Samaritan into hiding, never to be seen again.

The Hero of the city.

The Hero of the city.

A Boy and His Hero

Having lived for the past 20 years without their hero, the people are afraid, but not 13-year-old Sam Cleary (Javon “Wanna” Walton), he still has hope. You see, Sam is what we call a “Heroist” that is to say he still believes in the cult of heroes. That is to say he still believes that Samaritan is still out there, living in the city.

In fact, Sam is so obsessed with Samaritan that he not only has a notebook filled with sketches of his hero, but he also has taken to spray-painting Samaritan’s logo around the block. In fact, Sam has on occasion even “spotted” someone who he believes to actually be Samaritan, only to later learn that he is wrong.

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Sam is what we call a “Heroist” that is to say he still believes in the cult of heroes.

Gangs Find Nemesis' Mask and Hammer

All of that changes when he spots Joe Smith (Stallone), the garbage man. But before he meets the object of his hero-fetish, Sam falls in with a group of local toughs, led by Reza (Moises Arias), who con him into helping them rip off a local grocer.

From there, Sam crosses paths with Cyrus (Pilou Asbæk), who heads up the local gang that has been terrorizing the city. Cyrus takes a liking to Sam and tips him $100.00 before he leads his crew on a series of escalating crimes that eventually allows him to take possession of Nemesis’ iron mask, and mystical hammer—touted as the only weapon that can actually hurt Samaritan.

Once a hero, always a hero.

Once a hero, always a hero.

Good Samaritan

Unfortunately, the C-note laid on him by Cyrus only causes problems for Sam, as Reza and his boys want their cut. So, they track down Sam and start a beat-down on him when he refuses to hand over the money (as he gave it to him mom to cover the rent).

This attracts Joe’s attention, who puts a swift end to the fight by tossing the street toughs around. What makes Sam believe that Joe is Samaritan is when Reza attempts to stab Joe, only to have Joe catch and crush the knife with his bare hand.

Samaritan as Mentor

From this point on, Sam latches onto Joe, attempting to get Joe to admit he is the long-lost hero of the city, Samaritan. Only Joe simply won’t acknowledge it, but still, (reluctantly) takes Sam under his wing as he teaches the young lad about life. Here, Stallone shins in his role of the beleaguered (anti)hero.

In this role he is neither Rambo nor Rocky nor is he the Samaritan of he comicbook). He is simply a man who has seen too much, done too much, is well past his prime, and wants nothing more to do with the trappings of “civilized life. Joe just wants to be left alone and allow the city to fall apart on its own.

Cyrus (left) face to face with Samaritan

Cyrus (left) face to face with Samaritan

Our Recommendation

Up to this point, the story seems structured by rote. However, this isn’t some typical superhero slugfest where a pair of muscle-bound, steroid-enhanced, square-heads spend the entire run time attempting to bend I-beams around each other’s heads.

Samaritan is a deeper story of a man’s loss of faith and direction as well as a young boy’s unshakable belief in something greater than himself. All-in-all, a reasonably good action fest wrapped in a well-worn, but highly watchable allegory about the greater good.

© 2022 Robert J Sodaro

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