Fight Film Friday: Super

Posted: April 29, 2011 in fight film friday
Tags: ,

USA, 2010
Genre: Action, Superhero, Dark Comedy
96 minutes

Rainn Wilson stars as a hapless cook moved to a life of vigilantism after his wife leaves him.

The definitive “indie” film, director James Gunn’s twisted look at the superhero genre is much like his protagonist: completely well-meaning, but still incredibly strange and disturbing. Like the films Kick Ass and Watchmen before it, Super is an exploration of what would happen if ordinary people in the real world decided to don the cape and cowl to fight for justice. Unlike its predecessors, however, Gunn’s direction lacks any sort of charm or energy, and is only minimally entertaining. It simply doesn’t maintain a firm sense of tone or structure, existing more as a character study or bizarre improv premise. The humor stems almost entirely from the incompetence and absurdity of the cast and script, contrasted against the grim subject matter, eventually turning to a generous helping of uber-hip cartoon graphics to further drive the point home. By the end it feels like Gunn is looking for some kind of message or moral to send the audience off with, but it ultimately ends up as much too little too late.

Wilson does an impressive job demonstrating Frank D’Arbo’s transformation from pathetic weirdo to murderous weirdo and beyond. It feels like Wilson was born to play this role, thanks to his perfect combination of physical and social awkwardness. He has a handful of genuinely moving moments in the film, but they are quickly overshadowed by the rest of the ridiculous plot and dialogue. Ellen Page joins in as Wilson’s junior sidekick, a character that injects some much needed life and enthusiasm into an otherwise flat story. Other welcome additions to the cast include the ubiquitous Kevin Bacon as the hotshot villain and Nathan Fillion as a Christian television superhero. In segments, the movie’s cast is brilliant and feature perfectly as interesting and engaging characters. Strung together, however, it quickly becomes a disjointed mess of nonsensical creatures trying to live in a sensible world.

To be blunt, the film is disturbingly violent. Lacking the budget to do real high-visibility guts and gore, Gunn does well with what he has to work with. The digital effects are a little obvious, but are much less noticeable with the horrifying nature of brutality on screen. This is not a movie about trained operatives or martial artists; even Kick Ass attempted to contrast the bumbling hero against real professionals. Like the story, this ends up being played for laughs due to the sheer ridiculousness of the situation. The concept of Super was definitely a good idea, and the actors really save it from being completely unwatchable. Unfortunately, the script and story is too inane, too strange, too incoherent to really work well as a film.

  1. Eric Jacobus says:

    This one was definitely disappointing. It sort of had the “Very Bad Things” syndrome. Trying to be funny, violent, and thought-provoking all at once. And mostly just being violent.

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