James Gunn got his start in the film world working for Lloyd Kaufman at Troma films. Knowing that makes a lot more sense watching Super, but it may not make you enjoy it more.
Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) is a socially awkward man who married Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering alcoholic. Along comes Jacques (Kevin Bacon), a drug dealer who whisks her away. Alone and distraught, Frank has a strange series of hallucinations that lead him to becoming a superhero called The Crimson Bolt and with his trusty pipe wrench he runs around town bludgeoning and nearly killing law breakers like drug dealers, child molesters and people who cut in line at the movie theater.
He meets Libby (Ellen Page), a girl who works at a local comic store. She learns his secret identity and wants to be his sidekick, Boltie. They run around together for a while and decide it’s time to go after Jacques where an over-the-top bloody final battle ensues.
This is not a normal superhero movie. It’s gory, super violent, very awkward and often very, very unpleasant. So much so in fact that I was not able to it all. It had some funny moments and there were some laughs, but more often than not I just kept glancing at my watch.
The acting is varied. Kevin Bacon is the best actor in the film and plays as truly despicable character that is very easy to hate. Rainn shows some range as an actor here, but his character’s so awkward it was hard to connect with him as a hero that it remains the film’s biggest flaw. And Page gives one of the weakest performances I’ve seen from her. She’s not bad, but she doesn’t shine they way she does in just about every other film.
Like I said, Frank is nearly impossible to identify with a hero. Sure you can understand the pain he’s going through; the loss of a loved one, the fear of being alone, but how he chooses to deal with this pain it what drives the viewer away. Sure, we laugh when Frank nearly bludgeons a guy to death for cutting in line at the movie theater, but it takes it too far and crosses that line ruining the moment. One might think that Libby could serve as the character that grounds the film, however she is even more psychotic than Frank, cackling like a mad woman when she nearly kills a guy who might have keyed her friend’s car.
From some of the really brutal beatings to an overly unpleasant sexual scene between Libby and Frank there were many times when I just wanted Super to be over. The final battle was pretty solid, but not good enough to elevate the whole film. Even when a “what should be a very dramatic moment” moment happens (don’t worry, I won’t spoil it here), I was more aware of the gore in the scene than the drama.
Perhaps if you know what you’re getting yourself into, Super is a film you can enjoy, but be warned, I was sadly, very disappointed.
The film is presented in 1.85:1f widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1. The film looks and sounds fine, a few scenes get a little loud, but over all it’s acceptable.
Extras aren’t much but you do get a few. Deleted Scenes: (1 min.): One more scene about Sarah’s drinking problem. Behind The Scenes: (18 min.): Everyone keeps talking about how great the script was, so I wonder where the film went wrong? Making of the Main Titles: (5 min) The opening titles are pretty good and this talks about how it all came together. “How To Fight Crime” Featurette: (4 min.) This is from SXSW. Crimson Bolt and Boltie and a cop talk about fighting crime then Crimson Bolt takes to the streets. This is funnier than the film Commentary: James Gunn and Rainn Wilson talk about the flick. Trailer & TV Spot
I was excited to watch Super and expected to enjoy it. I laughed a few times, but I found most of the film very hard to watch. I really wanted to like this film, but there wasn’t enough there for me to connect to. As far as guys deciding to become superhero movies go, I’d rather watch Kick-Ass again.
IFC Midnight presents Super. Written and Directed by: James Gunn. Starring: Rainn Wilson, Kevin Bacon, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler and Nathan Fillion. Running time: 96 min. Rating: R for strong bloody violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use. Released on DVD: August 9, 2011. Available at Amazon.com.
Tags: ellen page, James Gunn, Kevin Bacon, Kick Ass, Liv Tyler, Lloyd Kaufman, nathan fillion, Rainn Wilson, Super, Troma