Wednesday 27 July 2011

Today's Review: Super

Super is a bit like Kick-Ass. Let me get that comparison out of the way first, as it's the one that most people are likely to being up. Yes, they both involve random citizens dressing up in silly costumes and fighting crime, but the two movies are actually quite different.

Super follows Frank D'Arbo (Rainn Wilson), who is a pretty unhappy guy, as his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) has left him for her drug dealer (Kevin Bacon). So, in his desperation he decides to become a superhero named The Crimson Bolt and beat down criminals with a wrench, hoping to one day work his way up to the point where he can "rescue" his wife. Perfectly normal reaction. Problem is, when he decides to save her, he find the odds stacked against him, mainly because the drug dealers have guns and he only has a wrench. So he begrudgingly recruits a sidekick in the form of Libby (Ellen Page), a slightly crazy comic book clerk who discovers his secret identity and also cannot wait to crack open villains' heads as superhero sidekick Boltie.

The main difference between Super and Kick-Ass is the overall tone and message of the movie. While Kick-Ass had over the top action scenes with thumping music and witty dialogue, Super is a much grittier take on the theme. There are still overly violent moments, lots of blood and gore, but it all seems a bit off. The Crimson Bolt doesn't really seem to know what he's doing, and there are times when the pain he doles out is probably not as necessary as he thinks. There's a certain incident where he inflicts his wrath on a person who cuts in line, and at this point the viewer is really forced to think about whether the protagonist is really a hero after all, or just a mentally unstable man. This feeling never really goes away, and increases quite dramatically once Boltie arrives on the scene ready to indiscriminately beat the crap out of people. There is normally a point in these vigilante movies where it becomes clear that the heroes are finally being accepted and praised, but there isn't one in Super. It leaves a lingering thought that vigilantism is probably not the best way to get the job done, and is open to a lot of bad calls and unnecessary violence.

Gritty messages aside, Super is still a comedy, even if it is quite a dark one. Ellen Page in particular does a great job in portraying Libby, managing to be quite funny yet undeniably psychotic at the same time. Rainn Wilson is also good as The Crimson Bolt, spouting his catchphrase "Shut up, crime!", and while there aren't tons of laughs packed into the movie, it's still very fun to watch.

But Super is not perfect. At times it can be quite slow, especially with the introduction of Boltie, who is only really in the last half hour. Showing more of the pair working together would have been quite entertaining, and while the relationship between the two is firmly established, I'm sure there was more fun to be had. The main plot line itself feels quite flimsy, it's basically just about a guy going after another guy. The four main actors are great in their roles, but adding just a few more people could have done really well as far as character and plot development was concerned.

Super is a good movie. It certainly doesn't match the quality of Kick-Ass, but there's a much deeper level that I really appreciated. It actually confronted and made me think about the ramifications of what the characters were actually doing, and there are certainly some slightly shocking scenes that really drive the point home. So while Super may not be entirely great on the production side, it kind of makes up for it as far as the underlying message is concerned.

My rating: 3/5

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