James Gunn’s Super Review
It may seem like the market is getting saturated with faux superhero stories. But maybe that is because they all seemed to have come out at around the same time. The most notable one was Kick-Ass, since it was very well received and already got a Brit Awards screenplay nomination besides appearing in various film critics Top 10 lists. In reality, there are only about four of these kind of films, all released within the last three years.
Super is one of them. Written and directed by James Gunn, it follows the usual almost predictive plot. An ordinary Joe wonders what it would be like if he/she became a superhero. In this example, it’s Rainn Wilson’s Frank Darbo, after his wife is ‘stolen’ by a drug baron, Jacques. Frank works at a diner with Lawrence (Andre Royo), his life only seems to revolve between his house and workplace. This is apparent after he explains the most exciting moments of his life, which are just two: the moment he married Sarah (Liv Tyler) and an incident that involved him ratting out a fleeing criminal to the police.
Frank’s character is awfully close to Rainn Wilson’s Dwight Schrute in The Office. He is maniacal about stopping crime. He takes it a little too far, but when you think about it, Dwight putting on a costume to fight insecurity and vice doesn’t seem like a long shot. The difference between Frank and Dwight is Frank’s self-consciousness and insecurities about his looks.
The story really begins when Sarah elopes (I think that’s what it’s called) with a local mafia-like fellow, Jacques. After Frank’s attempt to enlist the police’s help to bring her back fails, he decides to take matters into his own hands. He believes that he has been anointed by God to take up the role of ridding the earth of scum. With a nicely fitting costume, disguise and catch-phrase (Shut up, Crime!), he sets off on heroic pursuits, attacking petty drug dealers, child predators and line-butters.
To learn more about superheroes, he visits a comic book shop, where he meets an enthusiastic store clerk, Libby (Ellen Page). His relationship with the girl who looks half his age is complicated and awkward. I liked that Libby’s character was not given the clichéd treatment. A teenage-looking girl working at a comic book store, who seems to gravitate towards an older man, is most likely to be presented as a geek and loner. But in one scene, we see that she truly has a social life and tons of friends. It seems that she just wants more excitement in her life.
There’s only one thing I can point out from the film that would seem negative though I’m not sure myself. I kinda didn’t understand why Frank would take up fighting crime. He is presented as a guy who likes stability and security. The reason, I assumed, is because he wanted his wife back. But the first thing he does after wearing a cape, is sitting out on the street waiting for shared criminals. But then again, we can argue that he truly takes up crime-fighting after his incident with the Finger of God. If this is the case, then it makes sense.
The film, to me, was pretty substantial. No unnecessary scenes and they all built up to the final scene rather well. I expected the final moments to be a balls out, flaming glory kind of ordern, I can’t say it wasn’t, but it wasn’t as much as I’d expected. already with that, it was very satisfying and more philosophical than I would have expected from a ‘comedy.’
The film has a small cast and the performances were all pretty good, except for the African guy at the end. Not that he was bad, his just wasn’t as good. seemingly, John C. Reilly was considered for the rule role (and it truly looks like he’d be the perfect fit) but Rainn Wilson is amazingly good. I already feel he should get an Oscar nomination, especially for the crying scene. But that’s not going to happen. Ellen Page is fantastic. Her excessive giddiness would have very easily bordered on overacting but it managed to come out just right. Her ‘bothered’ scene was pretty convincing and weaker males might need some Kleenex to get by it (and I’m not talking about wiping tears).
Maybe Lawrence should have had more scenes, and more typical lines. His rant at the beginning was very amusing and maybe if they found a way to keep it up, he’d have been a typical Coen-like character. We don’t see much of Liv Tyler, she is coked up most of the time, but that isn’t such a hard role to play considering who her father is. I enjoyed every scene with Nathan Fillion, who truly wears a cape in every of his scenes. His parts come as a part, with him playing the Holy Avenger, a Christian caped crusader taking on evil (or sin).
I like Kevin Bacon’s recent choices and he doesn’t go wrong with Jacques, who despite being a baron of sorts, has an air of nervousness, especially when he’s in shit. My favorite scene is when he’s complimenting Frank’s eggs (not what you’re thinking). The scene almost looks like the Inglourious Basterds opening scene. He is convincing, in a creepy but lighthearted way, just like Col. Hans Landa.
I don’t think the film should be judged as a comedy. Yes, the funny bits were really funny but those they weren’t very many. I found the film darker than the most serious superhero film I know, The Dark Knight. Maybe that’s because most of the things catch you off-guard, it’s not really what you expect from a Wilson/Page film. I realized that is not the first time we’re seeing the two together. In Juno, there’s a short but pretty funny scene but the roles are reversed: Rainn is the store clerk. The film is rotten on Rotten Tomatoes but it’s one of my favorites this year. Maybe to some, the film is confused. It doesn’t know whether it’s a comedy or drama, but it is very entertaining and, surprisingly, thought-provoking.