Monday, 25 April 2011


Imagine Kick-Ass was less about a nerdy kid and more about a middle aged man. Imagine that there were no special training involved, no huge amounts of money to be squandered on fast cars and no neon effects but rather a tale of personal vengeance with murder, rape and prostitution high on the agenda. Then make it stupidly funny and call it a superhero film and you have "Super".

Super has to be the one of the most 'out-there' superhero films in that it's not 'out-there' at all. Rainn Wilson (Dwight from The Office) plays the Crimson Bolt who believes he is chosen by God to strike vengeance against those who do wrong. This epiphany comes after his wife, Liv Tyler, is stolen away by Kevin Bacon's slimy drug dealer and to which Ellen Page playing a comic store worker helps give him ideas.

For anyone who loves Dwight in The Office, Wilson gives a more in-depth but similar character to the much-loved character within this film. However, what he is lacking is Dwight's self-belief - something the Crimson Bolt can help with. Effectively, his superhero guise is a mask for his insecurity and complete emasculation at the hands of his wife and of Bacon. He is but a mere burger flipper working alongside Bubbles from The Wire and is a very simple, sweet natured man. So what makes this so strange is that he's a borderline psychotic.

Wilson's character Frank is practically brain-raped by God and under-used Nathon Fillion as a Jesus loving superhero seems to be his inspiration. This all seems well and good and could fit into any superhero origins story, however Frank is clearly deluded. Not only about God, but about his wife who does not care for him and, as we later find out, basically uses him as an excuse to go straight after a drug and booze fuelled past. Frank has clearly not lived a happy life, or one with much excitement, yet his moral compass is set to good - to the point where a lot of people get hurt along the way. It could be said that Frank is almost a metaphor for America in general - a superpower that believes it is banishing evil in God's name when in fact it's selfish, violent and horrendous behaviour arguably does more harm than good. However, my main issue is that there is no real redemption - Frank does not see the real folly in his ways and near the end the media almost glorify him. Great for the story, but not for the morally conscientious.

Frank literally knocks people's teeth out and goes to town on the most petty of crimes while Bacon's henchmen try and track him down by bumbling about and faffing around. Soon, once Ellen Page comes onboard, he starts to realise the psychotic behaviour of what they are doing and the grim reality behind what it must be like to fight crime. People get hurt and die. But this swinging from humour to tragedy is almost too regular and often leaves me confused - should I be laughing at the guy bleeding on the floor or at the man on fire while getting stabbed? One seems more funny than the other and although I did laugh, it was such dark humour that it was slightly uncomfortable. However, it's this point exactly that I love it.

Throughout the film, there's a lot of gruesome violence but all done with a tinge of comedy. It's lucky that they have clearly let Wilson go free on a lot of the scenes and the director (ex-husband of Pam from The Office) has a good eye and ear for what works. It's a stark, dark, twisted contrast to the ultra-glossy Kick Ass which it will undoubtedly be compared to and, although it's not as well-formed as Kick-Ass, I would probably watch Super more times than the latter. It's simply funnier and doesn't hold back. It brings it all back to a more personal, dramatic ending as, after quite a horrific Tyler rape scene, Frank looks back on his exploits and the reason behind all this and although he's no superhero, he's a hero in a lot of other ways. The epilogue sequence is a sad paradox to the superhero film because even though it works out, it doesn't work out at all. Frank is a sweet, simple man and for all his faults, he only tried to do the right thing. His memories and the life that he has been left with might be something others would sniff at but, for him, he's happy.

I enjoyed the film thoroughly and is a lot better than Defendor (a similar film in a lot of ways) but still lacks the oomph that could have made it spectacular. The humour was spot-on but the pace was somewhat lagging and I felt like there could have been more. It's clearly a well-loved piece of work and I would recommend it to the quirkier film-lovers out there who enjoy watching something a bit different. It simply won't work in front of a mainstream audience, but then, it was never meant to.

Rating: 7/10

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