Super

super-2

B

Almost exactly one year ago Kick-Ass, directed by upcoming X-Men: First Class filmmaker Matthew Vaughn, opened to little business and reasonable critical success. Adapted from the popular Mark Millar graphic novel, the film follows a young New York teen as he tries to become a super hero in the real world.

Now enter James Gunn’s Super — with an uber-similar premise of a “real person” decided to become the first real-life super hero. This time we have Rainn Wilson’s Frank, a sad-sack middle-aged loser who has just lost his ex-druggie wife (Liv Tyler) to drug dealer Jacques (a triumphant return from Kevin Bacon). After a bit of divine intervention, Frank decides that he can no longer live in a world where bad people can get away with doing bad things and becomes the superhero Crimson Bolt.

While Kick-Ass begins in a world of real actions and real consequences, it dramatically fails to uphold them throughout the entire film — instead becoming as sensationalized as the films and genre that it is trying to lampoon. Super, on the other hand, maintains its ultra-realistic style, which I was very pleased to see. Sometimes, though, as they say “be careful of what you wish for,” because you may just get Super.

Ultimately, I believe the film is exactly what James Gunn envisioned, and that can only be seen as a success, but the balance between dark humor and absolute terror is a fine line on which the film stumbles. Although there are moments in the film where I was gasping from laughter; I wish that the film would have been more fun. There are certainly people who will enjoy themselves more than I did, but a film like Super begs the question: “Is it really that much fun to see a woman get hit in the head with a pipe wrench?” And if you answered “yes” to that question, you may be the audience for Super, but you probably aren’t who James Gunn truly wants watching his film.

While Rainn Wilson is very good in this more dramatic turn, Ellen Page is the star of the film. She plays very much against her type — she’s not the know-it-all, smarmy teen, but an earnestly eager nerd trying to fit in. She is also quite messed up, but amidst her psychological problems, her spunky cuteness still shines through. Nathan Fillion is also pitch-perfect in a small supporting role, although he isn’t given too much to do.

Often difficult film to watch, I applaud Super for sticking to its guns, creating strangely real characters and trying to show us the real consequences to a world with a flesh-and-blood super hero. I’m a little surprised that the film doesn’t quite hold up as a parody of super hero films, but it certainly feels created from a place of love toward the comic world. I think the film is also smarter than many will give it credit for — it looks at the real-life aspects of what it would entail to be a super hero, including what I believe would be accurate portrayals of media attention and cultural impact. Although all of its dramatic elements don’t work and it may be quite too much for a mainstream audience, it’s nice to see a wildly funny small budget film that delivers exactly what it promises and doesn’t pander to the masses.

tags: ellen page, james gunn, rainn wilson, super

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