Movie Review: Super
Prinz Lee wrote this review 5 years ago
I remember the first time ‘SUPER’ was brought to my attention. It was one of those days where I was bored and pretty much doing what I normally do, and that’s skim through all my movie links I have saved as favorites. One particular site had a default exposing what was clearly a superhero-like mask being worn by some dude, and reading ‘SUPER’ across the ad. Immediately I was taken by the sight that had been force fed into my brain and as synapses kept sparking through my cranium, I NEEDED to look into it and find out what the hell the film was about. Once reading its synopsis and finding out XBOX short master and ‘SLITHER’ (2006) director James Gunn is the man behind it, this quickly went into my movie bucket list and started asking publicists I work with if they knew anything about it. Coincidentally, that same day I receive an email promoting a press screening for the film and at that moment in time I knew this film and I were meant to be!
What followed is obvious! Now even though this strange feeling of walking into a lower budgeted version of ‘KICK ASS’ flowed through my veins, it was completely opposite with similar attributes pertaining to your everyday “Joe” taking matters into their own hands and venturing out on a vigilante ride of bumps, bruises, chases and disappointments. In ‘KICK ASS’ what scratched the surfaces of hero flicks is layered by comic-book geek teens looking to do the right thing, while in Gunn’s ‘SUPER’ it comes from a different perspective; by making the superhero lead one who doesn’t even read comics, and sidesteps most of that and becomes more of an examination of the concept of right and wrong, as well as using the power of greater good as a metaphor for dealing with a break up.
‘SUPER’ follows the biggest loser of losers, Frank (Wilson) whose life takes an even deeper dive into a downward spiral when he sees his ex-addict wife (Tyler) willingly “kidnapped” by a smooth, handsome, seductive drug dealer (Beacon). Frank finds himself dumbfounded, shocked and heavily affected; he finds it difficult to cope. But soon he decides to fight back under the disguise of a DIY (Do It Yourself) superhero called “Crimson Bolt.” With a hand-made suit, a wrench as weapon of choice, and a crazed sidekick named “Boltie” (Page), the Crimson Bolt beats his way through the mean streets of crime in hopes of saving his beloved wife. The rules were set in stone way before one can imagine, and in his eyes, they are: You are not supposed to molest children, cut lines or key cars; if you do, prepare to feel the wrath of the Crimson Bolt!
Here’s where the magic of indie filmmaking comes into play, because it all lies on how a piece is written in order to help overwrite the fact that there isn’t a major studio behind it with flashy CGI effects or NAME attached. At first glance, the thought of a loser, schlubby, chubby looking guy like Rainn Wilson married to a foxy hottie like Liv Tyler made me cringe, and made no sense whatsoever. So much, the level of questionable realism nearly made me tune out. But being the man I am, as I allowed to take in more and more of the film, I/and or we learn the back-story of the couple and it suddenly makes sense. It made a lot of sense, in fact, as it smoothly unfolds, I found myself deeply impressed with what Gunn had done when transcribing writing with film frame!
As an actor, Wilson is not one of my favorites, but he displays admirable ranges in ‘SUPER.’ The script is crude, yet realistic about the pain of a break up, and Wilson throws it all out there. One scene has him weeping, going through a self-abusing religious rundown of his own faults, and it feels completely and uncomfortably real. The best acting happens in those moments when the divide between actor and character melts away, and that’s what happens here. It’s undoubtedly one of the best performances ever delivered by an actor.
As he begins his career as a hero—The Crimson Bolt—he picks up a sidekick. A ferocious Ellen Page who plays a comic shop employee whose sparkly, geeky, cute exterior hides a huge level of a violent sociopathic darkside. The initial reaction to Page’s casting is interesting; she’s an attractive young woman who seems to be fulfilling every geek’s fantasy concept of a perfect girl. But the reality is that her exterior allows for a contrast with her interior. Had Gunn cast a standard nerd-type in the role, no one would be surprised to learn that his heart was full of harshness. Everybody knows that comic book geeks are half a minute away from goose-stepping as they gulp down fascist psychosexual power fantasies. That’s something we’ve all come to accept, but by having Page be the bearer of that fanboy violence, it becomes shocking again. In other words, it’s like “Hit Girl,” except with valid meaning behind it. With that said, Ellen Page is unbelievably amazing! She’s completely committed, going big with anger and sexuality that we’ve never truly seen from her before. It’s a flawless performance, one that could have ended up being truly horrible if miscalculated by just the slightest bit. Instead, it’s simply incredible, threading insanity, vulnerability and hatred into one convoluted, thrilling persona.
No matter how dark these characters may come across with their own set of interests and rules, ‘SUPER’ IS in-fact a comedy. A dark one, but much of the elements presented in this movie are funny no matter how much violence or sarcasm pertaining to human-nature is presented. Whether the rumors are true or not, mentions of Gunn’s own divorce were expressed via this film. Who knows, maybe he was living vicariously through Frank a/k/a The Crimson Bolt, but the core to those assumptions or rumors lay deep within his heart and soul. I also say whether or not Gunn’s found tranquility with HIS own personal life is beyond me, but in the film, Wilson’s character comes to a place of peace and happiness. (I think!)
The interesting core to this film’s message is basically what we’ve all encountered at some point in our lives—bad and painful breakups! Some of us cope well, some of us don’t, but in the end it’s a matter of individuality. In our journey down a road like that, our minds venture out to many different places. James Gunn presented a metaphor of functionality to which, although extreme when becoming a superhero, can be lived up if self reflection, respect and tolerance is utilized. In many ways this film may be hard for most to swallow, but it’s truly a brilliant piece which comes from the heart, and displayed with utter grittiness only a true film warrior will enjoy. Kudos to Gunn, and glad to see he didn’t stray away by doing what he does best, and that’s his mindset of absurd humor with balls-dangling violence! Oh, yeah… this film is NOT intended for kids in the least bit as it’s too complex for them to understand, and it doesn’t include “Spider-Man” in any way, shape or form!