I just watched Super. Holly shit. It totally not what I expected it to be. It’s much better… And much darker…
When you watch the trailer, you get the impression that this movie is just a wacky comedy in which Juno and the guy from the office dress up in wacky costumes and hit bad guys upon the head with pipe wrenches and what not. It looks like a slightly violent, but ultimately light-hearted superhero romp. But that’s a wrong impression. It certainly starts that way, but then it awkwardly prances over “the line” and gleefully dances on the other side. You know the line I’m talking about, right? It’s that point in a movie, which when you are a parent makes you go “well, fuck – my kids are not watching this movie till they are like 30”.
If you remember Kick-Ass (which I absolutely loved), you will note that while it was extremely violent, that violence was packaged in a sandwich of pure awesome. Super delivers the same amount of violence, but with about as much grace as you would expect from Napoleon Dynamite movie. It’s awkward, clumsy violence which strangely enough makes it more disturbing. When you see someone doing flawless martial arts moves, you sort expect to see people getting hurt. But when a middle-aged, flobby guy splits someone’s head with a pipe wrench, and then fall down while running away it makes it surprisingly real. It hits closer to home.
Frank (Rainn Wilson), the protagonist is quiet, meek and shy cook at a local diner. One day his ex-addict wife leaves him for a big-time drug dealer. His life shatters and falls apart. Then, he has a strange vision that gives him purpose. He makes himself a costume, names himself “The Crimson Bolt” and heads out to the local comic store to research costumed crime fighting techniques. There he meets Libby (Ellen Page) who becomes his guide to the world of super-heroes, and later his trusty “kid sidekick” Boltie. Together they go on a rampage of overly violent crime fighting leaving a trail of blood and tears behind them. Their goal? Telling crime to shut up and eventually rescuing Frank’s wife from the clutches of the evil drug dealers.
Super does not glorify the costumed crime fighting. It shows it as a clear pathology. There is nothing awesome or glorious about the two protagonists – they are clearly off the rails. They are drunk on their newly found power, and their outbursts of extreme violence start to bleed into their daily lives. Frank cracks a guys skull nearly killing him for butting in line. Libby swings a machete at a guy who bumped into her in the hardware store. Their super-hero antics are clearly a barely controlled psychosis. Crimson Bolt and Boltie have no heroic mercy, they don’t have Batman’s honor code, and they never pull punches. They leave a long trail of collateral damage wherever they go. But we still root for them because their intentions are good, and their goals are somewhat noble. At least Frank’s goals. Libby… Well, she is there for the kicks it seems. She enjoys the wanton destruction and sudden freedom to act on her darkest most primal impulses way to much. She giggles with joy while ripping a guy apart with her Wolverine claws. Yeah, this movie is kinda like that.
The final act is action packed, gut wrenching, shocking and surprisingly moving. The ending is very strong – a layered, bittersweet sandwich of emotion. It’s none of that sugary, Hollywood cotton-candy, happily ever after crap. It’s an ending that clearly shows that choices have consequences, that life does not always turn out the way you expect it and there are things you cannot undo, or change back. But sometimes maybe it is worth it.
This is a low budget movie, but with surprisingly high profile cast. Kevin Bacon plays the drug dealer boss-man, and Liv Tyler is Frank’s addict wife – you can’t really go wrong with these two in strong supporting roles. But this is first and foremost Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page show. Both deliver excellent performances.
I especially liked what they did with Ellen’s character. Libby is a bit quirky from the start, but her interaction with Crimson Bolt unhinges something in her. You can see her clearly veer of the rails, and go somewhere dark. She becomes this tightly wound little ball of rage, lust on a major power trip. She becomes dangerous, deranged, primal. You start wondering how can she ever go back to normal after this. And then BAM! They pull the rug from underneath you. It’s like when you see Action Girl getting brutally beaten up at the end of Kick-Ass – but worse.
I highly recommend this film. It is bloody, violent an irreverent. It has guts to cross the line, and shows things that Hollywood usually pans away from, or merely hints at. The final act delivers a low budget orgy of awkwardly administered disturbing all-out violence, and yet still manages to pull out of that nose dive with a poignant message, and very contemplative and rather moving final scene. Watch it. As superhero genre deconstruction movies go, this is a good one.