Thursday, April 28, 2011

Super (2011)


A Wrench in the Gears of Super-heroism  

Living in an age where comic books are constantly vetted for summer blockbuster status or even being rebooted after just a few years for the ever demanding fanbase; things like webbing, shields, hammers, batarangs and anger issues can be a bit overwhelming. Don’t get me wrong; I love comics and their manly, tight-suited heroes just as much as the next fan boy, but sometimes there needs to be a balance when it comes to film. For every CGI-driven, hero-saves-the-world-and-gets-the-girl, “the next villain better be…” feature, there should be a celluloid anti-hero. A person who has no super powers or the future of the world’s safety on their shoulders at every turn. A person whose enemy isn’t a 12 armed mad scientist who can shoot Cancer-Missles into the earth’s core. Some would say that was last year’s surprisingly entertaining Kick-Ass. I would have to interject and say that if Kick-Ass ran into The Crimson Bolt from James Gunn’s latest “average joe-cum-crime fighter” film Super, he would piss his tights and wake up with one hell of a headache.

 Frank D’Arbo (The Office’s Rainn Wilson) is an everyday loser. I don’t mean that he gets splashed by cars or falls into open manholes when not paying attention; he’s a short-order cook whose two best memories are marrying his beautiful wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), and the one time he helped a cop catch a criminal by pointing through a doorway and saying “He went in there, officer!” He even draws those memories in colored pencil and puts them on the wall so he can wake up everyday and try to find that happiness. When Sarah comments that the hands are too big, he whites them out and makes them smaller. His marriage seems to be falling apart. Apart from a lack of intimacy, Sarah (who is a recovering drug addict) is now getting high in the house with shifty characters. At the peak of his worry, Frank is visited by local drug lord Jacques (Kevin Bacon) who is looking for Sarah. Against his better judgment, Frank even goes so far as cooking him breakfast. A few days later, Sarah is gone as well as her clothes. Like I said, he’s just sort of a loser.


While drowning in his own sorrows, Frank stumbles upon a religious television show called The Holy Avenger where the titular character (played wonderfully by Nathan Fillion) stops absurd situations and tells the viewer that anyone can stop evil. That message, combined with an over-the-top vision that fans of Gunn’s previous film Slither will appreciate, convince Frank that he must become a superhero in order to stop evil and get Sarah back. To do this, he enlists the help of both comic book nerd Libby (Ellen Page) and a massive pipe wrench. Soon, he’s cracking the city’s wrongdoers over the head with the aforementioned wrench in an attempt to prepare himself for his final battle with Jacques and his gang.

  
Super is billed as a comedy and the trailer leads you to believe that as well. While it is funny and even downright hilarious at moments (The Crimson Bolt’s catchphrase is “Shut Up, Crime!”), this is a dark dramedy overall. If you’ve ever seen Louis C.K.’s standup, you know that while it’s funny, it’s also like watching a man have a breakdown in front of you. It’s hilarious, yet uncomfortable and it leaves you feeling unsure how you should feel about him. Super is the same way. From the beginning of the film, you’ll crack up and enjoy Frank taking on drug dealers and pedophiles with his wrench. You’ll support him and cheer him on. Then later when you seem him nearly split open a couple’s heads open for butting in a movie line, you will probably be laughing out of unease and shock (if you‘re laughing at all). The latter half of Super is watching a man’s life fall apart while he tries to do what he thinks is right. As the film grows darker and the line becomes more blurred,  you will probably find yourself casting more judgment on multiple characters than you thought imaginable in a movie billed as a straight comedy. I have no problem with this as I loved the film, but I say this for those happy-go-lucky Dwight Schrute fans out there who want to see him as a bumbling crime fighter and then leave the movie depressed and confused.


Overall, Super impresses on every level. The acting is great (particularly on Wilson and Bacon’s part), the score by Tyler Bates (The Watchmen, Sucker Punch) is gorgeous and perfectly fitting in both the film’s quirkiness and sadness, there’s more gore than some horror films, and the latter half of the movie will probably stay with you for a while. I doubt people will be saying that about Thor’s last act. Aside from Fillion, the film also features appearances by Gunn regulars Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry as well as cameos by Lloyd Kaufman and Rob Zombie as the voice of God. With little to nothing to complain about (Ellen Page’s character can be a bit annoying, but I think that’s part of the point), I highly recommend Super to anyone looking for a funny, but dark and emotional experience.  It just goes to show you that while CGI, muscles, and explosions can make for an entertaining two hours, an everyday character with realistic goals and problems can stay in your head for life. And all he needed was a pipe wrench to do it.


5/5 stars

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