e don‘t need another hero.‘ Tina Turner belts out at the end of Mad Max Beyond Tllllll(l(’l'(l()lll(’. ‘Oh yes we do,’ reply millions of cinema-goers across the world. Human nature demands heroes. whether in real life. dreams or stories. and in the film world they’re towering before our very eyes. 30ft tall. performing acts of bravery that are also larger than life.
First of all it was the cowboys. the soldiers. the everyday Davids overcoming sinister Goliaths; then youth culture and nuclear angst came along. and on the cinema screens. the sinner began to kick the pants of the saint as audiences became distrustful of those in power. The hero became the anti-hero; John Wayne rode offinto the sunset while Dirty Harry fought the establishment and still got his man. This screen lead. with his bad attitude and end-
8 The List 22 Sept-5 Oct 1995
tom Hanks: ‘I’m a space atlclonado, not a space lunkle'
justifies-the-means morality. still commands the box office today. no matter how many times he‘s got to Die Hard or flaunt his Lethal Weapon to do so. But — and maybe it’s an end-of- millennium thing — there‘s a new breed of old hero emerging. who‘s championing the traditional values of family. wholesome romantic relationships and the good old US of A. And in Tom Hanks. this sense of safety and reassurance seems to be embodied.
Hanks is today‘s Jimmy Stewart. an actor with a clean-cut image that people find ‘amiable. decent and non-threatening‘. as David Thomson notes in his Biographical Dictionary Of Film. It‘s this that allows Hanks to bring a big mainstream audience to a movie like Philadelphia. in which he plays a gay lawyer suffering from AIDS; it‘s also the reason why audiences felt uncomfortable with his casting as an egotistical rich wheeler-dealer in The Bonﬁre ()f The Vanities.
Early in his career. Hanks won the world over with his light comic skills in the likes of Splash and Turner/indHoot/1. He’s no hunk. but he's got enough sweet vulnerability as a romantic lead to get the girl in .S'leep/ess In Seattle or perfectly capture the child-in—the-man in Big. But in recent years. Hanks has turned from being an actor into a star and on into a
‘Hanks is today’s Jimmy Stewart . . . he’s no hunk, but he’s got enough sweet vulnerability as a romantic lead to get the girl in Sleepless In
Seattle or perfectly capture the child-in-the-man in Big.’
phenomenon. Oddly enough. while it’s Republican Kevin Costner who makes liberal- themed movies like A Perfect World and The War. it’s Clinton buddy and Democrat Hanks whose two post-l’hilmlelphia movies have shown conservative leanings.
Forrest Gtunp. for all of its intriguing views on the darkening of recent American history. had a basic reactionary message — be stupid and prosper; be female. take drugs, sleep around and die. As real life astronaut Jim Lovell in Apollo l3. he’s very much a symbol of the US administration (remembering that. at the time. the US space programme was a conveniently thrilling antedote to the protracted horrors of Vietnam). When an explosion in space puts the Apollo mission in jeopardy and the crews’ lives at risk. the ﬁlm places our fears firmly with the wives and kids. Fair enough; but on one level. we’re being shown that it’s best when women stay at home and let their menfolk go off on adventures. Apollo l3 advocates an unflinchineg Stars-and-Stripes world where. as NASA flight director Ed Harris conﬁdently states, ‘Failure is not an option‘.