Today: February 29, 2024
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Super

With the ever-increasing rise of comic-book movies, it was only a matter of time before a film was made exploring what it would be like to try

With the ever-increasing rise of comic-book movies, it was only a matter
of time before a film was made exploring what it would be like to try to be a
superhero in the real world – and they did it with last year’s Kick-Ass.
However, even this take on ‘realistic’ crime-fighting was a super-stylised
story of action and fantasy. So, if Kick-Ass is the real-life version of
superheroes, Super is the real-life version of Kick-Ass. Despite being a quirky indie comedy, the film’s
morality is deliberately muddy, it boasts some shocking brutally graphic
comic-book violence and doesn’t shy away from showing the actual consequences
of what are often quite bloody encounters with criminals.

Rainn Wilson stars as Frank, an amiable oddball who values his marriage
to Sarah (Tyler), a recovering addict, above everything else in his life. But
when she leaves suddenly to be with cocky and powerful drug dealer Jacques
(Bacon), Frank soon takes solace in tackling crime on his local streets.

Taking on a superhero persona the Crimson Bolt, Frank’s initial run-ins
with criminals do not go as planned and he is branded a menace by the media. He
does, however, find a sidekick in Libby (Page), an over-eager comic-book geek
with crazy tendencies. Together, the pair form an unlikely partnership and it’s not long before the crime-fighting duo are
forced to confront Frank’s greatest nemesis in order to rescue the woman he
loves.

While the story itself is fantastical and ripe for comic entertainment, writer-director
James Gunn injects real pathos and tension in this film
. Throughout, there are lots of funny gags and more
than a few utterly surreal moments, including a scene depicting Frank’s
‘vision’ of God literally touching his brain, but there is also real heart to
be found in this story with just as much emphasis placed on the tragic as on
the comic.

Rainn Wilson fits the bill perfectly as Frank, retaining the ridiculous
awkwardness of his best-known role as Dwight on The American Office, but
replacing that character’s self-assuredness and pomposity with a heartbreaking
neediness and desperation that makes you root for him in spite of some
obviously very bad choices. His clueless self-righteousness provides most of
the film’s best one-liners
,
including Frank’s should-be-a-catchphrase: “Shut up, crime!”

Stealing the show most of the time however, is Ellen Page’s
unpredictable Libby, who dons an equally ostentatious costume and becomes
Boltie, a feisty, petulant sidekick to Frank’s Crimson Bolt. Just as Frank
doesn’t know where to draw the line in defining criminal activity, Libby
gets carried away with dishing out her own brand of superhero justice
, with usually quite bloody and gruesome results. She
becomes an over-excited (and over-aroused) partner, a dizzying time bomb in
contrast to Frank’s dedication to his cause.

Kevin Bacon clearly revels in his bad guy drug dealer role as Jacques, an
arrogant, swaggering b*stard
, openly
smirking to himself as he waves away Frank’s initial attempts to get back his
wife. Only Liv Tyler’s Sarah falls short in the script department, given no
reason for her departure other than the eventual reveal that she has fallen
off the wagon again
. Between this
and her obvious apathy towards her husband at the film’s start, she is given
few redeemable features to make anyone root for Frank’s plan to win her back.

Overall, the film is somewhat of an oddity. Marketed as an indie comedy,
many will be surprised by the serious edge to the film and at how Frank’s
character arc is actually rather affecting. At times, the film’s contrast
between silly humour and grotesquely bloody violence is jarring
, but the many pros, including a delicious cameo role
for Nathan Fillion as TV’s The Holy Avenger, just about outweigh the few
detracting cons.

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