Super

16 Jan

Title: Super
Year: 2011
Director: James Gunn
Writer: James Gunn
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon, Nathan Fillion, Michael Rooker
MPAA Rating: R, strong bloody violence, pervasive language, sexual content and drug use
Runtime: 96 min
IMDb Rating: 6.8
Rotten Tomatoes: 47%
Metacritic: 50

I think I liked Super more than I was supposed to. Maybe it’s because I’m a huge fan of pretty much every single person involved in this film, first and foremost Ellen Page, but I just liked this film a whole lot more than what a 47% on Rotten Tomatoes and a 50 on Metacritic would suggest; it’s no Kick-Ass (which I gave an A to) but it’s better than Defendor (which I gave a B+ to), and it continues the trend of having the films about ordinary people becoming vigilantes being all pretty damn good, or at least certainly appealing to my personal taste. But yeah, I liked Super quite a lot; it’s far from perfect, and is actually pretty damn inconsistent, but it’s just so perfectly over-the-top and thoroughly entertaining, with such fine performances from so many cool people that it’s impossible not to love every single second of it.

Another thing that sets Super apart from the other DIY-superhero films is the fact that the violence shown here is just super grotesque and macabre, as we get into the story of Frank, a loser kind of guy played by The Office‘s Rainn Wilson, a great comic actor who has a good face to put under a mask, since his eyes just seem to pop out, and his sarcastic tone goes great with the superhero identity he assumes and which he names Crimson Bolt. He’s a short-order cook who doesn’t have much going for himself except for the fact that he once helped some cops catch some criminal and that he married a woman that’s way out of his league, played by Liv Tyler, but who’s a former addict. However as a drug dealer played by Kevin Bacon takes his wife away from him, his world changes and he decides to adopt this new personna, basing it all on whatever information comic books could provide.

It’s just so much fun watching Mr. Wilson do his thing, waiting behind dumpsters in alleys until some crime starts happening so that he can jump out of nowhere and hit the criminal over the head with a pipe. And then of course comes in Ellen Page, an actress who I love to bits and who’s her usual awesome self here as Libby, a girl who works at the local comic book store and who catches wind of Frank’s hidden identity and comes aboard as Boltie, his sidekick, a sexually intimidating kind of Robin to his Batman. Ms. Page is so, so good here, it made me realize how much I had missed seeing her (last time I had was in last year’s masterpiece, Inception) and how much fun it will be seeing her next year in Woody Allen’s Nero Fiddled. The stuff she brings to Boltie is the best thing about this whole movie, always being just super excited about (very graphically) beating the hell out of people.

Like I said, though, I do think I liked Super much more than I probably should have. I loved this because I like violent films about crime fighting regular people, because I love Ellen Page, because this was kind of tailor-made for me. But the thing is, films like these aren’t for everyone, not to mention that nowadays a plot about an ordinary guy becoming a superhero, superpowers or not, isn’t the most creatively stimulating premise around, and as such the familiarity of this film may hurt it for the eyes of some. I was just at a point in which even the faults of this film made it work all the better for me; the fact that it’s so blunt, so nasty in its violence, the fact that its tone is just so off, makes it really entertaining to watch. It’s the lack of balance that made me love this film.

Director James Gunn seemingly doesn’t mind all that much about that unbalance. It gets to the point in which the playful satire turns into just a gory, dark kind of film. And I liked it when it got dark, when it got pulpy; a neo-noir kind of film that’s also played for laughs but that, as it presents the extreme violence and super bloody images, is also unafraid in getting you to realize the moral troubles stemming from the characters it presents you with. It gets to the point in which you become uncomfortable watching this film, the comedy is kind of uncomfortable at first, but then you get to know these characters and you’re really uncomfortable, being turned off by them (but in a weird good way).

I really, really liked Super, I’m not entirely sure if you will too, and it’s fine if you don’t, it’s fine if you hate it, because this film really isn’t for everyone. But Ellen Page alone made this a great film for me, she’s playing something that’s different from what we are used to seeing from her, she’s not the coolest girl in the room, not the smartest, she gives a performance that’s frankly all over the place and it works so damn well because of that, as you see her being super physical and violent and just super unabashed about it all, which works all the better as she plays it off Rainn Wilson who plays Frank super straight and is all the funnier because of how serious he is, much like in The Office. They’re natural born killers for the hipster crowd.

Grade: A-

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