Pretending I’m A Superman is a film that documents the making of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series, starting with the skateboarding scene’s financial rise and fall, all the way to the lead-up to the first entry Tony Hawk Skateboarding being made and the success of the game franchise.
As someone who grew up with Tony Hawk Pro Skater 2 and continued supporting the game series throughout its lifespan (yes, even Tony Hawk: RIDE), this documentary was a nostalgic delight to watch. While I never skateboarded myself, due to my medical condition, I had friends who skateboarded. This film unlocked memories of my childhood and adolescence – I remember playing the demo for Pro Skater 2 with my best friend after school, hanging out with my friends at the local skate park and staying up late to watch the X-Games Live when it showed on the Extreme channel, an extreme sports channel in the UK. It was fair to say that I dived into that sport despite not experiencing it first-hand and Pretending I’m Superman made me reminisce those times.
Aside from the nostalgia, the documentary is also a joy to watch. Interviews from pro skaters like Tony Hawk, Rodney Mullen and Chad Muska gives the audiences a history of skating from the late 70’s to the financial drop of the late 80’s, the introduction of street skating in the mid-90’s all the way to the start of the X Games and the Playstation games. From listening to the interviews, it’s clear why gaming companies, like Nintendo, rejected the idea of the Pro Skater series – there was a lack of skating games available, as well as the financial fall of the sport a few years beforehand. In short, it was a huge risk to make these games because of this, as well as the niche market. Making the games easy to play and more accessible was the key to its success and it definitely paid off, thanks to development team Neversoft (who would later make the Guitar Hero franchise). Tony Hawk Skateboarding became the third highest-selling Playstation game of November 1999 in the USA. It’s sequel, Pro Skater 2, would become one of the highest rated Playstation games to date.
The franchise was not only fateful to the sport, but also opened up a world for new console players and introduced skateboarding to people who weren’t familiar to the sport. Not only was it successful, it’s also responsible for some newer pro skaters. Like some interviews in the film mention, “tricks done today were influenced by the games.”
The game also brought success in other mediums: American punk and ska bands, like Goldfinger, were being discovered across the world due to the games. Because the internet wasn’t as big as it is now, the only way that some countries could discover these bands was through the games.
So, while the film documents the success of the Pro Skater series, it also looks at the doubts that some pro skaters had, and the game’s unfortunate end. With such a niche market, there’s only so much the games can do before going stale and running out of ideas. And, while the last games in the franchise (RIDE and Tony Hawk: Shred) brought in a skateboard controller instead of the standard console controller, Hawk himself even says that the release came around too late because interest in toy-featured games (like Guitar Hero) were no more. The release of its competitor SKATE was another obstacle that franchise had to face too.
Overall, Pretending I’m A Superman is not only a delightful documentary, but a nostalgic look into the past. The interviews are honest and tell its audience about the making of the games and the doubts that came with it when creating a revolutionary, but niche, game. With the release of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater 1+2 remaster coming out in September, so this came out at a perfect time to either refresh people’s memories of the series or introduce them to the best skateboarding games.