Super is the 3rd movie, that I know of, which deals with an everyday man trying to become a superhero like in the comics and dons a home made costume and starts to fight crime. We’ve had the high profile Kick-Ass and the under the radar Defendor starring Woody Harrelson. This time its The Office veteran Rainn Wilson who stars as Frank D’Arbo, who’s recovering wife (Liv Tyler) falls under the influence of a sleazy drug dealer played by Kevin Bacon. In order to get her back he decides, with a little help of the big man upstairs, to become a crime fighter himself. But is someone who thinks he’s touched by God capable of seeing right from wrong?
Like Defendor and Kick-Ass the Crimson Bolt, as he calls himself, has had no training and is figuring out how the hero stuff works along the way. His weapon of choice becomes a pipe wrench which he uses to slam criminals in the face with. It’s all good at first, drug dealers, john of underage prostitutes, muggers all end up on the pavement with brain trauma. But the turn comes when someone butts the line in front of a movie theatre and the Crimson Bolt puts him and his girlfriend in the progress in the hospital.
Though this gives Frank the insight that he’s taking things too far for himself, certain events make him reveal his secret identity to comic book store clerk Libby (Ellen Page), a 22-year old comic fanatic who makes her own cute and tight little outfit, becomes his sidekick and names herself Boltie. But it turn out she’s even more fanatic than Frank almost bludgeoning someone to death for supposedly keying a car.
Director James Gunn surprised me a couple of years ago with Slither. A fun horror comedy which was a throwback to the alien invasion horrors from the 50s like the Blob. Super however feels more like it was made by some friends in the neighborhood they live in. The only thing making this appear like a studio movie is the presence of all the relatively big names. Rain might mostly be known for his work on The Office, but Kevin Bacon, Liv Tyler, Ellen Page are rather big names.
Next to the cheap look Super also taps in to many genres instead of centering one. It wants to be a comedy, but only a handful of scenes are funny. It wants us to feel for Frank yet makes his story over the top in terms of drama, the relationship between Frank and his wife played by Tyler never feels real. At one point the movie feels a little awkward when Libby gets really horny because of Frank who is at least twice her age, or so it seems. Sensual dances: OK, but eventually even raping him. I didn’t know whether to be turned on by the idea or disgusted. Who wrote this material? Oh the director himself.
And then there’s the gore. You know, I love a movie that is gory just for the sake of being gory. Give me a movie like Braindead (Aka Dead Alive) anyway and it’ll have me peeing my pants due to the gore. But in this movie it did not really work and was so over the top that it felt like it didn’t belong in here. It’s as if the gore was there serving as a punchline, but failing. That’s because gore never is the real punchline, the image in total is. Gore is funny when it’s there to gross you outing an offbeat way, like the ear in the custard sequence in Braindead. Simply showing some head being beaten to a pulp isn’t funny, especially not in a comedy.
At least Kevin Bacon was funny.
The movie has an uneven cheap tone, and feels more like a Troma movie, the company where the director started, than an actual studio movie. Of all the everyday people wanting to be super heroes Kick-Ass is still the best.