Notable Cast: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion
Review: What do you get when you mix Kick Ass with a Troma trained writer/director? Rainn Wislon dressed in a superhero costume beating people senseless with a wrench. If you’ve seen Gunn’s horror comedy Slither, then you know the type of psychotic creativity he brings to each movie one could only learn from the great B-Movie god Lloyd Kaufman. Now imagine that thrown into a “superhero” movie, and you’ve got Super. Kick Ass’s much grittier, offbeat, and simpler brother. I wouldn’t call Gunn out for copying Kick Ass because the idea of a superhero with no real superpowers is something of a general topic. Different directors bring their different influences to the idea, and Gunn is one of those stylistic directors one could except a completely different take from. That said, it isn’t as “good” as Kick Ass because it’s really a much darker story and it’s less “fun” to watch if you will. Super is the more realistic take if normal people started playing hero. If Hit-Girl (Moretz) were to thrown down with Boltie (Page), it would be a certifiable blood bath. But I don’t believe in comparisons, because Super is a big boy film all on its own. If you want light and farfetched, go with Kick Ass. But if you want the more watered down version with reality, brutality, and Ellen Page; Super is your best bet.
Frank D’Arbo (Wilson) lives a quite life with his wife Sarah (Tyler), who is a recovering drug addict with a regrettable past. After Frank starts seeing sings of his wife slipping back into her old habits, he receives a visit from a man named Jacques (Bacon) who is looking for Sarah. Frank has no idea who he is, but gets an idea when his wife Sarah disappears five days later. Heartbroken and depressed, Frank traces his wife back to Jacques’ club where he finds her heavily under the influence and back with Jacques. Ready to give up, Frank has a vision one night and comes to the deduction that only he can save his wife. He invents a superhero named The Crimson Bolt after doing some research with local comic book clerk Libby (Page), complete with a made from scratch suit and trusty red wrench for protection. But that’s all Frank is, a man with a wrench. After some persuading, Libby joins with Frank in his quest for justice as his “kid” sidekick Boltie. Could a burger flipping middle-aged man and a comic book store cashier really fight against a true criminal with his own heavily armed protection? Frank was willing to give anything for the woman he loved, and thus The Crimson Bolt was born.
Feel safe yet?
I guess this movie hit me so hard because I’m so used to the average stereotypical superhero lore where the masked man is this studly, charismatic hero type with his own catch phrases, almost like a celebrity. Even Kick-Ass had the feel of a comic book, giving into the gimmicks and what not (not that I’m saying it was bad in any way). The character of Frank D’Arbo was the epitome of some everyday schlub who knew nothing about what he was getting into, but cared so little about himself at that point it didn’t matter. The best he could do for a catch phrase was his famous “Shut up, crime.” But could an average guy do much better? Super was the much darker and grounded side of the superhero with no powers take, but Frank had even less than no powers. He’s not muscular, has no combat skills, and is just a helpless individual all around; which makes his character even that more intriguing. Give credit to Rainn Wilson for making Frank D’Arbo a seriously embarrassing excuse for a man most of the movie, really evoking Franks awkward social tendencies. But why did this help the movie that much? Because it made watching The Crimson Bolt pummel people with a wrench that more entertaining. The sheer brutality of the violence hits you out of nowhere, and Frank turns from helpless loser to crazed psychopath running around in a red jumpsuit and whacking people with a hammer. But it’s the best someone can do without superpowers, and Gunn understood that when he created Super.
What Gunn’s script does immensely well is really give you the true experience of the subject material. It isn’t filled with high-flying stunts or over the top encounters. No stylized fight sequences, cool gadgets, or unrealistically hoeky moments (well, as least as humanly possible). Gunn showed the dangers of acting as a protector when you in fact are nothing but a mere mortal. No matter what you’re wearing or who you think you are, we’re nothing but flesh and blood. But, at the same time, it is Gunn, and his campy Troma side busted out at times, like with Frank’s inspiration and believed message giver, The Holy Avenger (Fillion). The Avenger was some made up religious superhero who always gave Frank a sign on his TV show when he needed it most, but he was also camp-tastically awesome, even for a religious program trying to be hip. So while Gunn keeps Super more focused and story driven, he manages to have his usual fun here and there, but with a little more dignity than Troma itself would have.
Super is brutally honest where some of its other predecessors have failed. I wouldn’t say the whole movie is particularly “fun,” but it delivers hard and real emotions. The Crimson Bolt was a symbol for those who wanted to fight back, but a real symbol. Someone who had nothing but a thirst for justice, and a blunt object to enforce it with. Super won’t be for everyone though. Those looking for the generic silly and light-hearted superhero experience won’t appreciate what Gunn has created. As much as it tries not to be, Super is a serious film about trying that one last shot at redemption before we give up all hope. Believe it or not, but Gunn actually created a deep and thoughtful story disguised in an independent film costume. I’ll hand it to Gunn on this attempt, because I was completely engulfed in Super, and everything it represented. The Crimson Bolt shows what all of us have held inside of us, but also shows us the reason we keep those feelings tucked away. A movie with more heart and soul than expected, Super pushes the boundaries of what a man can do, and makes us all wonder how far we could go if pushed to the brink.
Final Rating: 7.5 brain beaten criminals out of 10
Did I mention Ellen Page could be my sidekick any time? She was fantastic in the role of Boltie, not to mention a total fox…