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 place by turning it to an upbeat energetic film (it missed the whole point of the source material), and the Woody Harrelson film that I opted to skip called “Defendor”.
Well, director James Gunn’s “Super” is quite a different experience; it feels like a parody of sorts of “Kick Ass” and yet, it actually manages to set the right mood and tone that the “Kick Ass” had missed. “Super” is a darkly funny film about people with a streak of loneliness and depression; and surprisingly, it does many thing things right that Kick Ass had not. By the way, This is NOT a super-hero film (nor is it based on any comic book); this is a film about sadness and intense vulnerability. One needs to know what they are getting into before they assume that this is something it isn't.
Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) is a simple fellow who flips burgers and steaks at a local diner. Frank is a person with a good heart and he considers his marriage to a recovering alcoholic/addict Sarah (Liv Tyler) one of the best moments of his life. But Sarah falls for a drug-dealing scumbag named Jacques (Kevin Bacon) and within days she leaves Frank. Frank is left alone wondering what went wrong and so knee-deep in depression that he finally finds inspiration from a costumed character on TV called the “Holy Avenger”; until finally he makes a red suit and grabs a pipe wrench to go out and fight crime. Frank calls himself the “Crimson Bolt“ and soon after he begins to get the public’s attention, including a young woman who wants to be his sidekick called “Boltie” (Ellen Page, Inception).
Writer/director James Gunn may have created “Super” as some sort of a comedy. I got to laugh so hard as Frank yells “Shut up, Crime”, or when he does something so spontaneous as in beating up thugs and sometimes getting beat up himself. Gunn knew how to keep the pace smooth as the viewer is taken to an experience of laughs and gritty realism as the film also proves quite gory and bloody. It is easy to be taken by surprise by “Super”, you tend to see several tonal shifts and no matter how outrageous some elements became (enter POW! Blam! Wham!), Gunn keeps the film’s intrinsic sadness throughout its entirety. While I was being amused by Frank’s misadventures, I knew right from the start that he is someone to be pitied, and “frankly”, some of the scenes can be touching and at the same time disturbing.
To understand the characters in “Super”, one has to understand that some people have different ways in dealing with grief. Frank was amazingly portrayed by Wilson, and should’ve been the “Big Daddy” character Nicholas Cage had played in “Kick Ass”. Wilson’s scenes of sadness were presented with a very straight face; he was shattered and his life in shambles; he had real tears and I had no issues rooting for him as he tries to find a way to diffuse his pain. I was feeling so sorry for him and yet, I couldn’t help but be disturbed by his actions. His was a man whose only outlet is anger and it is quite scary. Ellen Page’s character Libby is one made from a small psychosis as she seemed to have issues separating real life from fiction and may indeed be disturbed in her own way. Page is totally charming (despite being a potty-mouth) as she assists Frank with his ‘research, and even when she dons her “Boltie” outfit. Jacques and Sarah are mere staples of other characters, but I do think them necessary to keep the story focused on Frank and Libby.
Gunn seemed to have taken some notes from Gore and blood-splattering effects as the violence in “Super” almost looked like works of the “Troma” studios. The violence is there, but they have no stylized elements about them; they look like the way they should look like, two bumbling fools trying to be ‘super-heroes’. Heads are bashed in, limbs are broken, blood is spilt and brains are splattered. They’re there, but Gunn doesn’t make them the main focus of the film, this is Frank’s story from beginning to end.
I truly liked the depiction of sadness and violence in “Super” and yet, I am not certain, I feel that Gunn may have lost a bit of his footing, as some parts of the film felt too cartoonish and contradicts the film’s aura of realistic emotion (enter psycho sexual display and some racist nuance that proves a little out of place). I can excuse it, since maybe it was an attempt to keep the viewer on his toes. “Super” may have missed some parts that made “Kick Ass” work, but it also made the parts “Kick Ass” missed a lot better. Anyone can stand up for what they believe in, and sometimes things happen for a reason. For Frank, that reason is Sarah, and sometimes that is enough. Just don’t dress up as a super-hero, ok?
**** 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 … more
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 … more
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. … more
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.