A film review: 'Super'

Origin: United States · Language: English
Director & writer: James Gunn
Genres: Superhero, black comedy, drama  
Release: September 12, 2010

Casts: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon,
Liv Tyler, Nathan Fillion, Gregg Henry,
Michael Rooker, Andre Royo, Sean Gunn,
James Gunn, Stephen Blackehart, Linda Cardellini

More info: IMDb

It is finally time, after a couple of weeks of watching it and pure laziness, to review this indie superhero feature made by the big Gunn (get it?) who directed and co-wrote Marvel's surprise hit of a bottom-of-the-barrel-residue called Guardians of the Galaxy. However, this is not his first try at exploring the superhero mythos; the first one was The Specials. While it shares similarity with another superhero film also released around the same time called Kick-Ass, this one is less loud, almost absent of Hollywood's fantastical elements (save for that dream sequence of course), far more grounded, and moodier (yes, moodier)!

The leads here are Rainn Wilson, fresh off the American version of The Office TV series, as the face of the poster above, Crimson Bolt, the vigilante persona of fry cook Frank Darbo and Ellen Page as Libby / Boltie (creative, right?), his foul-mouthed and overly-enthusiastic sidekick who is a comic book store clerk and a horny teenager in real-life. In Super, Darbo tasked himself through the Crimson Bolt mantle to rescue his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering drug addict, whom he assumed was taken away by Jacques (Kevin Bacon), a man who was later discovered to be a drug dealer.

As opposed to being a hero just for fun like Dave Lizewski from Kick-Ass, Darbo here instead felt the need for it after getting a "calling" from a lame superhero he saw on television who called himself the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) after some cheesy advice he gives at the end of his show. His marriage was on the verge of falling apart. His life is lame. He's not an overachiever. Being a self-appointed superhero who armed himself with a wrench looking for petty crimes before going for Jacques is the only way to make his life less painful than what he sees as just fine in the beginning. Damn! It's depressing just talking about how Darbo's motivations are severely different from Lizewski's who is just a teenager looking for some excitement in life. Basically, Darbo's more miserable than that rich orphan we all know as Bruce Wayne. At least he has a badass butler to his aid, damn it.

Also, the heavy themes and topics that are explored here made it a whole different league than Kick-Ass. We can see depression (which what drove him to become the Crimson Bolt in the first place), a girl-on-guy rape (although brief, still a powerful testament where dudes are just as vulnerable and terrified of getting one due to the lasting effect of keeping that to yourself or risk getting ridiculed for opening up), and the blurred lines between what is right and what is wrong, in a language that is easier and more relateable than what is seen on big-budget movies.

Soundtrack wise, the funky indie music that usually resonate with the situations that are currently displayed onscreen are well-used. And now we all know where James Gunn's affinity for catchy music came from!

On the acting department, for what the film needed the actors to be, they all excelled at it. Rainn Wilson, looking already like the stereotypical loser of a nerd much like his Office character Dwight Schrute, nailed his role. Ellen Page, although she spoke like a sailor, managed to charm audiences with her character's sunny, yet profane, disposition. The others, including the cult actor Kevin Bacon? All are serviceable in their roles. Nothing too bad or too excellent about them.

Oh yeah, I just realized that I didn't at all talk about the dark humour aspect of the film. Why did you ask? It's because they're rendered as if it's non-diegetic. I mean, it's the characters that are subconsciously funny, not the script nor the plot. For most of the time, the funny stuff occurred when bad shit are going down during or after the punchlines. Which means, the characters felt real. And when the hyper-realistic violence just come smashing on your face, you're really not sure how to react, since this is no Tarantino movie in which the aim is to incite some sort of giddiness inside his audiences.

I don't know if I should recommend this to anyone. But if you feel like looking for a reason why James Gunn was picked as the director/co-writer of Guardians of the Galaxy, you can look for the heart and some upbeat aspects of that film in Super.

P/S: Damn, this is a tough one to write about. It's so... mature!

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