Super (2010)

I’m not sure if I liked Super, but then, I’m not sure if one is supposed to enjoy it. Here is a film that takes a loser, turns him into a superhero whose weapon is a wrench, and unleashes him against the world, killing those people he judges to be immoral in any way. For instance, if you budge in line waiting to get into the movie theater, you’re going to have your head beaten in. If you know the person who just got beaten, you too become a target for this madman.

Our film stars Rainn Wilson as a cook named Frank. He explains to us in voice-over narration that there have been two perfect moments in his life. The first was when he married his wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), while the second was when a criminal ran past him, and he pointed a police officer in the right direction. He draws these moments and pastes them on the wall so that he can wake up every day happy when he sees them. Sarah ponders whether or not the hands were too big. This will be the last interaction the characters have with one another for a while, as Sarah soon goes missing.

Frank insists that she has been captured. Prime suspect is a man named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). He mainly thinks this because he sees the two together, Sarah as drugged as someone can get, and Jacques just as slimy. She’s a recovering addict, but after Jacques got to her, she ends up stoned for practically the rest of the film. It’s a way to keep her under control, I think. Anyway, Frank wants revenge, but isn’t quite sure how to go about it. After watching a fetishistic Christian television show, he has a vision where God touches his brain and points him in the way of a comic shop. He is to become a superhero.

He’s not quite sure how to go about that, however, so the comic shop seems like a good place to start. It’s here that he meets Libby (Ellen Page), who, if you’ve seen the promos, you’ll already know that she eventually becomes his sidekick. After they both don the silly costumes, we’re already about 2/3 into the film. There has already been some violence at this point, mostly coming from Frank beating up random civilians, but nothing too depraved.

We do get a lot of action, but likely not as much as you might expect going into Super. The obvious comparison to this film is Kick-Ass, although when you look at the two films, this one is less humorous, contains fewer action sequences, but is ultimately more corrupt. It’s also more realistic, and while it falls into the same trap of having an overly elaborate, over-the-top final action scene, this one doesn’t ruin its realism for that. We can believe that all of this could potentially happen, which is something that Kick-Ass missed out on. Because this can all happen, it makes more of an impact, even if it’s not necessarily as much instant fun.

What Super does really well is playing with our expectations of the superhero genre and then crushing them. Things you expect to happen will be sidestepped, while things you’d never think of will happen without even a flinch. This is a theme all that way through, right up to an unconventional ending. This helps the movie feel fresh to us, even if the basic idea of “What if a regular guy became a superhero?” isn’t exactly the most original idea at this point in time.

Early on, Super has a lot of humor. The first scene alone made me laugh four or five times. Slowly but surely, the humor drains from the project. There’s something about the costume which turns Frank from a fairly relaxed and funny man to a deranged psychopath, and while that allows him to perform some of the actions that happen over the course of the film, it’s less enjoyable in terms of the comedy that Super tries to bring to us. By the end, I wasn’t laughing at all.

However, I wasn’t particularly offended either. It seemed like Super was trying to offend me by throwing everything it could think of at me, but it didn’t accomplish that goal. Maybe desensitization has occurred and something like this simply isn’t strong enough to really get to me, but Super wasn’t cutting it. It pushes boundaries but never breaks them. Something like that might have made it more worth talking about. As it is, I was more frequently uninterested than I was considering covering my eyes and ears.

There’s also a poor decision to not include the character of Libby as frequently as you will hope after the film ends. She brings the most life to the production, but only becomes a stable at the one hour mark. It’s then when Super picks up, and I started having a better time. While the film is concerned mostly with having its lead character grow, the simple manic fun that Libby has when the pair fights crime is more enjoyable to watch.

Super is a superhero-without-powers movie that takes a long time to set itself up, but once it gets going, it’s pretty fun. It makes a few errors in judgment along the way, and I can’t say that it was actually all that enjoyable, but it’s an interesting film even if it’s not as offensive as it clearly wants to be. It starts out funny, and ends with a bunch of action scenes. The actors are all strong, and I liked its realistic take on the genre, but it also has a few dull moments and takes a while to get going.

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