Super (2010)
By: Fin H. on February 20, 2013 | Comments
Roadshow | Region 4, PAL | 1.85:1 (16:9 enhanced) | English DD 5.1 | 92 minutes (Full Specs)
The Movie
Cover Art
Credits
Director: James Gunn
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Gregg Henry, Michael Rooker
Screenplay: James Gunn
Country: USA
External Links
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This indie oddity emerged at roughly around the same time as Kick-Ass and Defendor to complete a trio of "what would happen if a normal guy decided to become a superhero" movies, but was met with a somewhat baffled reception by a viewing public which didn't know what to make of its schizophrenic and uneven tone. The dichotomy to come is telegraphed right from the start, as the prologue cuts from the main character, Frank, sobbing in abject misery, to a colourful cartoon intro sequence, complete with breezy, upbeat song and dancing. The reason Frank (Rainn Wilson of House of 1,000 Corpses, who is carving out a nice line in pitiful nebbish characters) is so anguished is because his relapsed addict wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler - The Strangers) has left him to shack up with unctuous smack dealer and all-round bad egg, Jacques, wonderfully played by Kevin Bacon (Stir of Echoes). Frank soon decides, by way of a truly bizarre and vividly realised fantasy sequence involving the top of his head being sliced off by God's tentacles, to take up arms (or at least, a wrench) against evil-doers as "The Crimson Bolt."

Frank's definition of "evil-doers" seems to be somewhat nebulous, and his crime-fighting technique initially consists of loitering in bad neighbourhoods, waiting for someone to give him an excuse to clobber them with his trusty wrench, but he soon starts to garner a few headlines, as is the wont of persistently violent local nutters, and is well on his way. He even acquires a trusty sidekick: a young girl called Libby who works in the comic bookshop and dons the guise of "Boltie" to act as his enabler (although I personally preferred another pseudonym which made her short list: "The Creeping Wham!"). Ellen Page (Hard Candy) is simply wonderful in the role of Libby/Boltie, mixing a spirited, zesty innocence with a downright worrying personality disorder. Make no mistake: Libby is not just endearingly eccentric, she endearingly psychotic, and she goes about the business of maiming people with the sort of unbridled enthusiasm a six year old might show for a game of hide and seek. She also fizzes with a vigorous, adolescent sexuality (coupled with a wide-on for violence) and her inept seduction of Frank is almost unforgettably cringe-worthy.

Perhaps one of the biggest speed bumps on the road to audience acceptance which is faced by Super is the tremendous amount of moral grey area afforded to each character. Frank has indisputably been wronged, and is essentially a kind man, but he is also deluded, self-righteous and decidedly bloodthirsty (he splits open the skulls of a pair of queue-jumpers, which is something we may joke about doing but meting out such a vicious, disproportionate punishment in real life would indicate that you need your head examined). Libby is a sweet, well-meaning girl but she's…well, she's fucking insane. Likewise, whilst the thugs in Jacques' employ are bad people doing undeniably bad things, they are never presented as anything less than human. Even his hard-boiled lieutenant, Abel (Michael Rooker – Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer) expresses moral doubts by the end of the film. Using someone as radiantly beautiful as Liv Tyler is a shrewd bit of casting in that it helps us to relate to Frank's placing her on such a lofty pedestal. This idealisation of her is thoroughly deconstructed until by the end of the film she is revealed to be, ultimately, just a deeply flawed person.

With this in mind, by the time we reach the inevitable showdown with Jacques (for which Frank's combat skills make a sudden, and unlikely, sharp ascent), what might have been a cathartic rampage of vengeance is shown as what it actually is: a lot of human beings having their lives taken by horrifically violent means (complete with ironic Batman-style "Kapow!" captions).

A smattering of familiar faces belonging to some solid actors can be seen; Andre Royo (Bubbles from The Wire) turns up as Frank's co-worker and Nathan Fillion (Slither) appears in a couple of pointless and unamusing skits as Frank's fictional Christian superhero inspiration, the Holy Avenger. There are also some truly unexpected cameos by the likes of Troma ringmaster Lloyd Kaufman and Rob Zombie (as the voice of God, no less). As mentioned, Super boasts some deranged special effects fantasy sequences too (ever wanted to see Liv Tyler's face form out of gobbets of chunder in the toilet bowl?). These wacky little touches don't, however, alter the fact that this is, at the end of the day, an sad story which is positively dripping with tragedy and violence (that omnipresent, happy-go-lucky "I'm a zany indie movie" musical theme isn't fooling anyone, either).
The Disc
Roadshow's 16:9 widescreen picture is nice n' shiny for this colourful little flick, with audio options of 5.1 Dolby Digital or Stereo Dolby Digital (the peculiar fantasy effects sequences come off particularly well). There is a complete and glaringly conspicuous absence of extras of any kind whatsoever, although we do get that English audio description feature which you only seem to find on films which feature the most droolingly insane, description-defying scenes imaginable (presumably because the plummy-sounding ladies and gents who do these tracks like a challenge).
The Verdict
Movie Score
Disc Score
Overall Score
Fans of The Office and Juno who sit down to this expecting an adorably quirky cupcake of a film will likely be left aghast by what unfolds before them ("This is one gaping chest wound that can't be undid, Homeskillet!"). The brutality doesn't always sit comfortably next to the humour, but when shorn of its comedic fluff Super stands up well as a poignant and affecting tale of misplaced aggression and lost, lonely people who have parted company with reality.

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