What We’re Watching – 12/21/2011
What have I been watching lately? Well, let me tell you…
Written and directed by James Gunn, Super tells the story of lowly man Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) who, after his wife (Liv Tyler) falls under the oppressive influence of drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon), flies off the handle and develops a superhero alter ego whom he names The Crimson Bolt. Sporting a homemade costume that actually looks like it was homemade, and wielding a weapon that’s pretty much a wrench dipped in red ink, Frank/The Crimson Bolt swears to a life of crimefighting, no matter how dangerous or violent it may be. Along on his journey is his sidekick Boltie, who in real life is comic book geek Libby (Ellen Page). Although Frank at first hesitates to have this young person join in his vigilante ways, he relents, and the two combine to create a unique dysfunctional duo.
Here’s the thing about this movie. While I don’t feel it was executed as well as it could have been, and the lack of a large budget is clearly noticeable in its production values, I really dug how Gunn attempted to approach the tone. I would even say that this film is more realistic in regards to what a “real” person would be like as a superhero compared to, say, Kick-Ass (2010). The reason why I say that is because, while the latter film tried to tackle the superhero genre in a satirical way, its tone flipped halfway through and it became the very thing it was trying to make fun of, and as a result I felt unsatisfied. With Super, it took its approach and went with it all the way through. If you were to see a person dress up in a costume and attempt to fight evil, you would think that they had some serious mental issues, and that’s exactly what happens in this film. It’s clear that Frank is a mentally disturbed and troubled person, and I appreciated the way the film depicted him as such. The violence here is not cartoonish but rather very brutal and realistic, which goes to show how very wrong it is for Frank to be doing what he does. Even Libby, whom you would think is the more rational of the two, is even more disturbed, creating extreme discomfort with her enthusiasm for killing and mayhem.
I wish the film were not marketed as a comedy, because it’s not really that funny. I wish a particular “love” scene weren’t included, and if you’ve seen this movie you’ll understand why I think Gunn could have somehow worked around it. But with those issues aside, I did like the idea that the film presented. It’s a very dark character study of a person who has many demons inside of him, and unleashes them against those who never saw it coming.