Shut Up Crime!
Far too dark and grisly to be a comedy and too bat-shit crazy to be a drama, Super is a hard one to call. Overall, I’m really not sure if I like it or not. At times it was genuinely hilarious and a shining example of what a low-budget independent release can achieve and other times it went completely overboard and wholly alienated its audience. So, what we’re left with is a confused, puzzling release that never really establishes a steady drive for its lead characters – and the second it starts to come together, they pull a complete one-eighty in an attempt to shock you. The whole thing felt as if the project dramatically spiralled out of James Gunn’s control before a last ditch plot device to try and justify the entire effort.
The main plot thread focuses on the exploits of timid nobody, Frank D’Arbo [Wilson]. After losing his drug-addicted, alcoholic wife, Sarah [Tyler], to crime lord Jacques [Bacon], Frank seeps into a deep depression. Whilst watching TV, flicking through channels, Frank comes across a cheap, poorly acted, pro-Christian super hero show named The Holy Avenger – with the title character played by the wholly underused Nathan Fillion. Later that night, Frank experiences a vision in which the finger of God touches his brain — this is a very literal description of a very graphic scene and the exact moment where audience members who were in any way unsure of this film, instantly made up their mind about it. Inspired by God (or mental illness), Frank goes to his local comic shop to research superheroes who don’t have any powers and from this becomes The Crimson Bolt. After a few failed attempts at fighting crime, Frank arms himself with a wrench and proceeds to viciously beat muggers, dealers and paedophiles. One of the comic shop employees, Libby [Page] quickly catches on that he may be The Crimson Bolt, which Frank denies right up until he is shot and needs somewhere to hide. During the recovery process, Libby hounds Frank, continually offering her services as a kid side-kick, Boltie; after time Frank reluctantly agrees (I’ll expand on Libby’s character in the highlighted character section below). Both Libby and Frank take to the streets, fighting petty crime as best they can before addressing the issue of what to do about Jacques. As you’ve no doubt guessed, a comparison with last year’s Kick Ass is inevitable but I will try to avoid that until the final line – namely because they were filmed around the same time and I don’t want to get into any form of debate of what came first.
For a largely comedic release, the humour is questionable and solely intended for those who laugh at outbursts of graphic violence and the extreme – what your average prudish cinemagoer would call ‘sick’ jokes. But every time they take it too far; jokes quickly get out of hand or played out longer than necessary and the violence continues long after the initial narrative and shock values have faded leaving a thoroughly flogged dead horse. In truth, they should have focused more on the comedy behind the dementia that drove Frank to suit-up rather than his ultraviolent exploits. Then there’s the supporting characters, who seem to serve two dimensional purposes before (more often than not) violently exiting the story. Each is reasonably well-played but they lack full development to make their presence any more than something for Rainn Wilson to riff off.
On the positive side, the juxtaposition of violence in comics and the real world is nicely handled, as is the strange, extremely strict nature of the battle between good and evil. Additionally, opting for a recurring indie theme (the name of which utterly escapes me) was a nice touch and cemented the running small-town feel populated throughout. I realise I mentioned the humour earlier but it’s very much both a positive and negative element – as stated, if you’re a fan of graphic black humour, there is plenty to laugh at here. Also, the notion of vigilante justice is reasonably well handled, littering elements of sheer discouragement and dissuasion, providing a visual representation to the classic, “Don’t try this at home” note.
Ok, here’s the only Kick Ass comparison I’m willing to make: almost every single element that made Kick Ass a rowdy, eccentric joy is taken here and pushed over the line. Sometimes, this works in a films’ favour but more often than not, it serves only to push audience tolerance levels. There’s plenty within this film that serves as genuine entertainment but much like Slither, people are going to be split three ways between those who love it, those who hate it and those who have no idea how to process it.
15th July 2011
The Scene To Look Out For:
Two scenes for you, one hilarious and one that made me really really really fucking uncomfortable. Without a doubt, Nathan Fillion’s wooden Holy Avenger clips are some of the best cut-away moments; detailing ridiculous plots with awfully cheesy religious messages crow-barred in and brilliantly terrible acting. The other scene will probably come up in most reviews. I’ve expanded on my thoughts pertaining to the Libby character below but she’s a bit of a sadist and gets off on the superhero thing – this leads to a very sexually frustrated Libby forcing herself on Frank. Ever since Hard Candy, Ellen Page has creeped me out and this whole masked rape thing kinda pushes it over the edge. I’m pretty sure I haven’t seen a forced sex scene played for comedic value ever working (bar same sex jokes, for some reason they seem oddly alright with the public – one of which is used in this very film) but this was just horrific. From Libby’s odd dance and “It’s all gushy” line to Frank’s refusal and eventual submission, it’s just awkward and adds to my complete dislike of Page’s character.
**Nasty spoiler at the end**
Emotionally, Rainn Wilson channels a great deal with Frank and makes the character borderline endearing. Gliding back and forth between manic determinism and tearful penitence, Wilson manages to project an impressive range with his performance. Ellen Page as Libby, on the other hand, is an entirely different matter; her character was mostly annoying with her overzealous enthusiasm and sadistic tendencies, combined with a grating forced laugh and over-acted glee. If the Kick Ass comparison was ever justified it’s here because they have desperately tried to create their own twenty two year old Hit Girl and failed. As such, her fate is kinda obvious because she was never fully crafted as a character — as if the creative forces behind this piece said, ‘what about someone like Hit Girl but older and more insane?’ to which the only logical response seems to have been, ‘awesome but I can’t think of any way to write a device to redeem her.. so let’s just kill the crazy bitch’ Then they high five or some shit.
“You tell everyone you know! That anytime some stupid fucking bastard wants to commit some gay ass crime that Crimson Bolt and Boltie are gonna be there to crush their little fucking evil heads in!”
In A Few Words:
“Relatively amusing take on the comic vigilante sub-genre but always seems to take the humour and violence too far, turning most of the audience off in the proceeding”