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Super

A 2010 film written and directed by James Gunn.

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Superhero, supervillain, or superfreak?

  • May 23, 2012
Rating:
+5
**** out of ****

Nerdy nobody Frank (Rainn Wilson) loses his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) - a recovering drug addict - to strip club owner Jacques (Kevin Bacon), who lures her in through the promise of truly out-there narcotics. Frank wants this man - who intimidates him by barging in to his house one morning and trying Frank's not-so-famous eggs (which he insists are amazing) - arrested for what he perceives to be wife theft, but the police won't listen, since he has no proof. Frank works at a local diner as a cook, in a city run by the criminal activity that occurs within its boundaries. He has nothing to return to after Sarah leaves him other than his usual boring-ass life. But one day, he is inspired by a television program on an all-Catholic channel in which a heroic figure donning cape and tights named the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) does his best to influence God's children to resist sin. Then, Frank has a rather disturbing dream where tentacles come out of his bedroom walls and cut his head wide open, squirt some reddish goo onto his brain, and then roll it all the way across the squiggly pink mass. Finally, his brain is "touched" by the finger of God (voiced by Rob Zombie).

Frank now believes that he was chosen by God himself to stick it to the criminals of the city. So he invents a superhero identity that he calls The Crimson Bolt, makes his own costume (which is red, with amateur safety pads and shit all over for extra hilarious measure), and finds himself a weapon (a wrench that he paints red, to match his suit). After all this is established, Frank goes out and starts whacking people across the face for things such as stealing, drug dealing, child molestation, and even cutting in line at the movie theater. It's all so gruesome, but it's funny. But it's not long before his deeds make the news. A younger girl who works at the local comic book store named Libby (Ellen Page) admires the real-life Holy Avenger in Red and recognizes almost instantly that it's Frank. Once he confirms this, she insists on assuming the role of his girl side-kick. She dresses in a green skirt and yellow tights; calls herself Boltie. Together, they aim to take Jacques and his drug-smuggling, gun-toting buddies down.

I have sat through a good many Hollywood superhero movies, and finally the one I've been looking for all along arrives; a rich, complex superhero narrative completely grounded in reality. The whole affair is funny, sad, vulgar, violent, and perverse; sometimes in that order and other times not. Naturally, I just loved it, since I'm an unashamed sympathizer of fucked up cinema with attitude. So that means that, of course, I won't admire or give high marks to a movie JUST because it's fucked up, but if there's a style to it that can elicit positive emotions from those who appreciate those kinds of films, I will give it the praise that it rightfully deserves. James Gunn's "Super" takes some pretty big risks with its plot. There are abrupt shifts in both the pacing and the tone; one moment you find yourself rooting for the extreme violence on display and another you're repulsed. But I think that's precisely how Gunn had intended it; he makes us feel bad for enjoying the atrocities.

I say "Super" is like a bad car wreck with a pulse and a funny bone. It gets dark and sad and violent, but you never want to look away. There's always something strange yet fascinating about it that keeps your eyes glued to the scene. Me, I was very engaged by the whole thing as I recognize that this is daring filmmaking and screenwriting at its finest (at least by today's standards, since nobody takes risks anymore). This probably isn't most people's definition of a perfect film, but I can look past any flaws because frankly, they did not bother me. If a film that is intended as a comedy and an action film had be laughing out loud and thrilled respectively, I think it has more than done its job. But "Super" offers up way more than just impressive bloodshed and gory kills. It truly is bad-ass and hilarious, but it also has a heart. Frank's character is portrayed as a mentally ill individual in a cruel, cruel world. It's sort of scary, how Gunn forces us to consider that something this whacked out could really happen if someone were crazy enough to do it, and so in that sense he redefines our definition of a superhero. Frank is no hero. He splits people's head open with his wrench. But he isn't exactly a villain either, so what is he?

There's something that I like about James Gunn, and I can't quite put my finger on it. His first feature film, the horror-comedy "Slither", was gut-busting hilarity when it wanted to be, with fantastically over-the-top gore to boot; but here, he's made sort of like a John Waters version of a superhero plot. He is, in a manner of speaking, a successor to that very man; as a twisted, nearly rebellious visionary that goes against the conventions of societal filmmaking and just plain speaks his mind. "Super" is a damn fine example of this, as it is both loopy and careless of what the mass majority of its audience thinks of it. Like Frank, it plays like a very deeply disturbed little movie; but Gunn personalizes his vision so that it doesn't feel empty and without a sufficient emotional core. It's not going to work for a lot of people. It already hasn't worked for a lot of people. But it's a cool - but not hip - geek flick; a cult classic waiting to happen. It's just the right flavor of awesome, so that's a fate it shall have no trouble meeting.

Some of the best films need a little space to grow on you, and that is the case with "Super". When I first saw it, I was either disillusioned or too strongly influenced by the power of all the mixed-to-negative reviews I had read for it. I clearly wasn't thinking for myself, because I don't laugh as often in most movies as I did in this one, and why I couldn't recognize that the first time, I'm not so sure. But on the second try, I knew when Gunn wanted me to laugh and when he wanted me to take the situations he was creating in a more serious light. And now I see that this is a movie with balance, and power, and a surprising resonance. So it's the kind of fucked up movie with an attitude that I was talking about earlier. Sometimes it's good for the soul to get down with your bad self and enjoy something so brilliantly demented and profane. Movies are meant as escapism, and this is how I escape. It's a personal thing, and only a select group of people will really understand.

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May 30, 2012
Now I know I have to see this. I've been meaning to for a long time. Thank you for the interesting recommendation. Well done.
 
May 30, 2012
this was awesome! Ellen Page rocked in this one!
 
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More Super (movie) reviews
review by . April 10, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Remember....With Great Depression Comes No Responsibility!!
Once Stan Lee hosted the reality series “I Wanna Be a Superhero” and Mark Millar together with John Romita Jr. had created the groundbreaking comic cult hit “Kick Ass”, I knew from the get-go that it would inspire several movies about the “normal guy who wants to be a superhero” deal. One was 2010’s “Kick Ass” movie adaptation which I admittedly enjoyed; despite the fact that I wondered if its filmmakers had even read the comic in the first …
review by . April 06, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         Super is the film Kick-Ass so thoroughly failed to be: A perverse and engrossing superhero satire. That it’s absurd, bipolar, and overwhelmingly violent, there can be no question. But if you stay with it, you may find that there is a method to writer/director James Gunn’s madness. There are moments that are intensely funny, moments that are not funny at all, and moments so gloriously bizarre that describing them would hardly do them …
review by . May 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
 TBA - 96mins - Action/Comedy/Drama - 10th June 2011 Right from the off the premise of this movie appeals to me. I was happy with Kick-Ass and the slightly more realistic approach that they made their 'super' hero take and with Super this promise of an even more ordinary man coming off the streets to fight crime made me want to watch it as soon as possible. Frank (Rainn Wilson) is just your ordinary bloke living an altogether uneventful life with few happy memories- 2 to be precise. …
About the reviewer
Ryan J. Marshall ()
Ranked #3
It's very likely that the only kind of reviews I'll ever post here are movie reviews. I'm very passionate about film; and at this point, it pretty much controls my life. Film gives us a purpose; … more
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About this movie

Wiki

SUPER is a 2010 American dark comedy written and directed by James Gunn, starring Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler and Ellen Page. It was filmed between December 9, 2009 and January 24, 2010 in Shreveport, Louisiana with additional shooting at director James Gunn's home in Los Angeles, California (the comic book store shown in the movie is a real store, ComicSmash, in Studio City, CA). Being a low-budget independent project, everyone involved in the film was paid scale (the minimum allowed by the Screen Actors Guild). The film premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival and it was released in the United States on April 1, 2011. The film is officially unrated.
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Details

Release Date: April 1, 2011
Screen Writer: James Gunn

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