‘Super’ Review

Published 4 years ago by , Updated April 14th, 2011 at 10:46 am,

Super Poster Rainn Wilson Super Review

Screen Rant’s Rob Frappier reviews Super

Numerous recent films have explored the “reality” of being a superhero – Kick-Ass, Defendor, and even Watchmen – but none of them have taken the conceit to its logical and brutal extreme like James Gunn’s Super.

Recalling Gunn’s roots as a low-budget filmmaker for Troma Entertainment, Super is violent, darkly comic, and totally surreal at times. Unfortunately, it is also ultimately unsatisfying, despite the presence of interesting themes bubbling just under the surface.

Super stars Rainn Wilson from The Office as Frank D’Arby, a lifelong loser whose only luck in life was meeting his beautiful wife Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering alcoholic and drug addict. Frank’s existence is shattered when Sarah slips back into substance abuse, thanks to the machinations of small-time gangster Jacques (played with an almost palpable level of sleaze by Kevin Bacon).

Frank’s fragile psyche, weakened by a lifetime of emotional and physical humiliation, finally snaps and he convinces himself that Sarah has actually been kidnapped, rather than accepting the reality that she has left him. Spurred on by visions of a cheesy Christian superhero, The Holy Avenger (played by fan-favorite Nathan Fillion), Frank crafts his own costumed identity: The Crimson Bolt.

Rainn Wilson in the trailer for Super Super Review

Seeking advice from comic shop employee Libby (Ellen Page in a truly manic role), The Crimson Bolt learns the ins and outs of the superhero trade and even comes up with his own signature weapon: a pipe wrench, which he puts to vicious use throughout the film. It is in this early part of the film where Super excels. It’s funny when Frank stands in front of his bedroom mirror and yells  “Shut up crime!”, and it’s funny when The Crimson Bolt shouts ridiculous after-school special lines like “Don’t sell drugs!” or “Don’t molest kids!”.

As the film progresses, however, and Frank becomes more unhinged from reality, the movie simply became too depressing for me to enjoy. It’s hard to identify with a man who posts strange prophecies on his walls and beats people over the head with a wrench. When Libby joins Frank’s crusade as The Crimson Bolt’s plucky and psychotic sidekick, Boltie, the film takes an even stranger turn.

Libby, who seems outwardly normal, is even crazier than Frank. At least Frank maintains some semblance of morality (albeit his own twisted version). Libby is simply a sociopath. In a way it’s an inspired role, akin to a more grounded and disturbing version of Hit-Girl. However, Page’s performance is so unsettling, that I found it hard to watch. Some would argue that that’s the purpose here, and I agree, but it doesn’t change my reaction to the character.

Super Ellen Page Rain Wilson Super Review

Wilson gives a good performance at times, and I admire him for taking on a tricky role, but it’s clear that he’s most comfortable in the comedic scenes. Frank’s emotional journey is the heart of the plot; however, I don’t think his character arc is fully fleshed out. In my opinion, Frank is the same loser at the end of the movie that he was at the beginning of the movie, despite an unusual epilogue that tries to justify Frank’s actions.

I already discussed Page’s performance, which I think will be a big factor in whether you like or dislike this movie, but I will give her credit  for coming up with one of the most insane laughs in recent movie history. It’s clearly a low-budget production, and Gunn gets kudos for assembling a mostly A-list cast. Still, while the other actors are fine in their supporting roles, nobody stands out.

I’m perfectly willing to concede that I missed the point of Super. Those more familiar with James Gunn may argue that this movie offers countless insights into the director’s own psyche, and they’d probably be right. However, if Super is simply an arthouse film, then it’s one that ignores story in favor of a nihilistic philosophy that is too far removed from my personal beliefs to be engaging.

Super is in limited release around the country. You can also rent the film via video on demand. While I did not enjoy the film as much as I would have liked, I would encourage those of you who are interested in the movie to seek out a theater playing it or download it (legally). The only way indie filmmakers like James Gunn get to make these kinds of projects is if you support them.

Check out the trailer for Super

Our Rating:

2.5 out of 5
(Fairly Good)

TAGS: Super
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  1. I want to see this film, but I can’t find a theater that is playing it. And I live in Columbus Ohio. So… It’s not a small little town. lol

    • Columbus-dweller: the Gateway Film Center is playing it. It is located at the intersection of 10th and High Street!

  2. Great review, I was looking forward to seeing this but wasn’t expecting it to be nearly as good as Kick-Ass.

  3. Seeing it at the Florida Film Festival Saturday after Hesher!

    • Follow up: It was great! You could tell it was low budget but it was well made. I give it 4 out of 5. The end speech that Rainn gave to Kevin Bacon was VERY well acted.

  4. I hope the movie works, too. But, the very real depiction of violence coupled with the storyline of a normal guy thinking he could be a super hero set up red flags for me.

    I am glad that Ellen Page’s performance helps it a long — however, like many motion pictures I’ll wait to rent it. Just wasn’t sold on the context.

  5. Ellen Page’s character (in it’s description here) hints of her role (slightly) in “Hard Candy”.

  6. Hard to watch? Sociopath hipsters? Kevin Bacon? I’ll give it a shot, if not because this review did not call it the insufferably indie version of Kick-Ass, as I expected it to be.

  7. It really feels like the “darkly edgy comedy” thing has run its course. Most of the trope-driven energy of this genre has been watered down and co-opted into network comedies by now, so we’re left with big-budget offerings that all seem like they were originally pitched to, say, Seth Rogen or Adam Sandler or Steve Carrell, back when those guys (and this sort of ironic dramedy) actually mattered.

  8. I am watching it on deman for the third time. I watched it twice in a row last night. I love the movie. I really don’t get the half bad reviews. If you like Troma and superheroes then you will love it. It reminds me more of the movie Special than Defendor and it I see it as a more ‘realistic’ take on a superhero than Kick Ass.

  9. kick-ass sucked. book was better in every way. the jet pack scene was so stupid and cheesy i almost puked. at least in the book, the events were more likely top happen. big daddy being a good person (?), the girl pretty much saying oh, you’ve been pretending to be gay so we can hang out, constantly lying to me, sure i love you now!?!?!?!!?! what a load of crap. defendor was so much better, i’m sure this is as well.

  10. Just saw this movie last night and really liked it a lot. Funny at times, dark for the right reasons, with a cast of bizarre characters full of surprises who will remain with you long after the credits roll…

  11. Excellent movie but yes it was a bit depressing. Reviews are great for reading peoples opinions but you shouldn’t decide to see a movie or not based on someone else s opinion go c it for yourself.

  12. This movie sucked

    • wrong cu_ntface

  13. It’s D’arbo, dude.

    Movie is fantastic.

  14. The film’s ending had a clear message… The mission of a hero may require sacrifice. The rest of the movie leading up just shows the hero’s “call to action” but he does not exactly know his purpose.

  15. Worst comedy ever?

  16. Great actors they all must have needed money real bad the movie sucked dosent deserve the 2.5 stars it got a complete waste of time!

  17. saw it yesterday here in germany on the fantasy film festival and my friends and me pissed our pants. this movie is soooo hilarious funny and well made with loads of ideas all over the place. all thumbs up for this movie! will see it again and again. i think this movie will become a classic (at least for me). reminds me a bit of “the big lebowski” or in general of the humor of the cohen-brothers…

  18. I could not agree more. I just wrote this same “rant” nearly word for word. And I’m a person who likes nearly EVERYTHING. I’m glad to see a kindred spirit (or at least a kindred spirit for this film.)

  19. We will leave you to your ridiculous Johnny Depp pirate trash,cartoonish Resident Evil drivel,or maybe the yawn inducing Star Wars series for your action fix.I would much rather Saturday morning cartoons.Ellen Page doesnt follow the cookie cutter safe roles most of these “starlets” embrace and I applaud her for that.I want to be stimulated,suprised,and maybe somewhat appalled when I lay out my hard earned cash.

  20. I have seen this movie twice now and loved it both times – the second time even more.
    I think it defies expectations and this is why it was not well received. While I loved Kick-Ass, I think this is ultimately the better movie. It tread a fine line between horrifying and funny and sad and was all the better for it. As a writer and film maker myself, I can truly appreciate this film. Not everybody’s cup of tea, granted, but an excellent and memorably film nonetheless. Cult classic as far as I am concerned.

  21. I can appreciate how a lot of people wouldn’t like this movie, but to say it ignores story? That’s just nonsensical. Super juggles several plot threads, and all are tied up in satisfying and unpredictable ways by the end. Plus the entire movie is a metaphor for dealing with divorce and one’s personal quest for significance and validation.

    Highly recommended for those who prefer something more offbeat than the standard superhero fare.