Pop quiz: your wife with a history of drug addiction has just left you for a suave drug dealer named Jacques and you feel as though your life is completely falling apart because of it. With nowhere to turn you plead with God that you’ll do anything to make it so she’s yours once again. A wall in your bedroom begins to tear itself down revealing a light so bright you can barely look at it. Giant space tentacles emerge from the walls around you (stay with me here) and hold you in place at the edge of your bed, cut open the top of your skull and leave your brain exposed to be touched by the tip of the tip of God’s finger that gives you the clarity you need to move forward and do what needs to be done. What do you do?
If your answer was to create a homemade superhero costume, call yourself the Crimson Bolt, go out and fight crime while devising a way to get your wife back then you’ve got a lot in common with Frank D’Arbo as this is exactly what happens to him in the movie Super. Let’s get the most obvious comparison out of the way first: Super is not a low-budget Kick-Ass. While both may deal with the question, “Why hasn’t anyone ever just become a superhero?” they both go in completely different directions.
Frank (Rainn Wilson, best known as Dwight from TV’s The Office) is a guy who, after being “touched” by God and nudged in the right direction by the religious television superhero The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion), believes he’s one of God’s chosen and must fulfill his destiny. What does Frank believe his destiny is? To stand up against those who do wrong in this world and make them think twice about the path they’ve chosen — with the help of a pipe wrench of course.
Super is definitely not for everyone. The many tones of the movie — which range from smart, funny, heartfelt and unique to shocking, violent, dark and depressing — fluctuate so often that it could easily turn off viewers coming into the film expecting a purely comedic feel as the marketing suggests. That being said, Super is often laugh out loud funny and to those who can handle the hyper-violent nature and darker undertones of the film, the emotional roller-coaster that writer/director James Gunn (Slither) takes you on over the course of Frank’s journey is astonishing.
Wilson is flat-out perfect for the part of Frank. The emotion and integrity he puts into the role is staggering and really helps bring the character and his cause to life. This couldn’t have been an easy task with the constantly changing tones throughout; however, Wilson continuously proves his worth and puts the film on his shoulders and carries it with ease from start to finish.
On his path to becoming a superhero, Frank meets Libby (Ellen Page), who gives him a few comic book pointers before ultimately becoming his kid-sidekick, Boltie. Again, the casting for this film couldn’t have been better, as Page delivers a fantastic performance in a way you’ve definitely never seen her before. Gunn loved her work as Libby so much that he actually wrote extra scenes with her and included the character in others that she didn’t appear in originally. This was a smart move, as the bond between Frank and Libby (and the Crimson Bolt and Boltie) grew at a perfect pace and really allowed for the viewer to see deeper into the characters than we might have had Page not taken the part.
If there’s one thing Gunn learned in the making of Super it’s never underestimate the appeal of a powerful, well-written story. Once Wilson signed on as Frank, Gunn began to flesh out his cast and realized that no matter how big the star — or how small the part — everyone he sent a script to would say yes. This allowed for him to choose the best actors and actresses that he felt would bring his movie to life, and boy did he get it right. The suave, yet sleazy, Jacques is played superbly by Kevin Bacon. From the first time we meet him we know he’s bad news; and yet, Bacon has such a charisma about him that you can’t help but want to see more of this guy and what he’ll do and say next.
The smaller roles that round out the cast are still played up to perfection. Fillion is awesome as The Holy Avenger (who Frank believes is the one God speaks to him through). The look of the character is hilarious and the seriousness Fillion puts behind his delivery of the Avenger’s religious preaching is great. Liv Tyler plays Frank’s addict wife Sarah and really nails it. Even though her character is mainly developed through flashbacks, in the short time she’s given Tyler makes it clear to the viewer how difficult a struggle her character has with addiction and getting through life in general. Lastly, Gregg Henry plays the part of Detective Felkner, the man Frank first goes to in an attempt to rescue his wife from the clutches of evil. Henry has one of the smallest roles in the film, however, he’s also great for the short time he’s onscreen.
While it’s not a rare thing to see a great movie and want to watch it again in the future, it’s something special when you finish a film and know you could watch it the next day and get just as much enjoyment out of it as you did the first time. That’s how I felt when I finished Super. Gunn has crafted a twisted, yet smart and beautiful tale of a man trying to save his wife the only way he believes he can — by any means necessary. That’s the same attitude you should have when it comes to finding a way to see this film.
The film is presented in 16×9 1.85 LB, 1080 HD and it looks fantastic. The colours and blacks are sharp and vivid, which help the scenes really pop. The audio, which is 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio sounds great as well.
There aren’t a lot of special features to be found for Super, however, a lot of times with films that have a limited release (especially with how quickly this film was shot) it’s easy to shrug extras off altogether and they definitely didn’t do that here.
There’s a Behind-the-Scenes feature which lasts just over 18 minutes and it’s a great watch. While we don’t really see how things were done or shot, we do hear from just about everybody involved in the film. The insights from Gunn are great here, and we learn during this feature just how he secured all the talent he did for the film and why they loved working on it so much.
There’s also a Deleted Scene which is just over a minute in length and I believe would have thrown off the pacing of the film. It involves Frank talking to his wife in the car outside of Jacques’ club.
Another interesting watch is the Making-Of the Main Title Sequence. The opening credits for Super are simply awesome. They’re done in a comic book/cartoon type sequence which is topped off by a dance number performed by all involved in the film (in cartoon form, of course.)
Finally, there’s a Commentary with Writer/Director James Gunn and Rainn Wilson. These two are great together and really make listening to this commentary a breeze. They share stories about shooting and ideas on the film and it’s just something fans of the film must listen to at some point. Great stuff here.
Super is a film that completely caught me by surprise. I went in with no real expectations and was completely blown away by what I ended up seeing. This is a film that will no-doubt garner a following, and rightfully so. Gunn and his perfectly chosen cast have created one of the year’s best films and it’d be a crime to miss it.
IFC Films presents Super. Written and Directed by: James Gunn. Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker. Running time: 96 minutes. Rating: R. Released on Blu-ray: August 9, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: ellen page, James Gunn, Kevin Bacon, Kick Ass, Liv Tyler, nathan fillion, Rainn Wilson, Slither, Super