I had reservations while viewing this film. Like a previous statement I made “You can’t judge a film by its trailer,” so it is with this film. It seems to be billed as a comedy, but plays out in an entirely different way. I can see where some might be turned off and find it unlikable. But if you put away any preconceived ideas and expectations you may have (like expecting something funny and upbeat) and open up to what the film is, it might just be bearable, or even enjoyable. And, despite its themes and explicit action, Super does have its merits.
With this film, writer-director James Gunn appears to ask the question, “What lengths would go to if your wife fell under the influence of bad people?” He takes a real situation and turns it into a somewhat authentic reality. There is some humor in the film, but again, the trailer seemed misleading here. I don’t think Gunn intended this to be a straightforward comedy, or even a black comedy. And while the film turned a corner and strayed off the comedy path, the characters stayed true to themselves and played through the story’s action throughout the film.
While themes may be blurred and the film’s purpose may be unclear at times, it does have varied and somewhat interesting characters. And since the characters are more or less drawn into a seemingly real situation, one might wonder what someone else would do in a similar situation. Maybe not to the extent our main character goes to in the film, but some other similar action.
Super is a character driven film and seems to be driven by the lead character, a short-order cook, Frank (Rainn Wilson). Frank is an average guy and is married to, what he thinks is the woman of his dreams, Sarah (Liv Tyler). Sarah is a recovering addict and is then caught up in the hands of a slick drug dealer, Jacques (Kevin Bacon). When Sarah goes missing, Frank is determined Jacques had something to do with that and is determined to get her back. While watching a Christian cable channel, he gets a notion to emulate a superhero that stops evildoers with the power of God. Looking for more inspiration, Frank goes to a comic book store where he meets Libby (Ellen Page), a lively clerk who knows her comic superheroes. To get to Jacques, Frank dons the identity of a masked superhero, the Crimson Bolt, and takes the motto, “Shut up, crime!” Armed with a large wrench, he takes on evil wherever it may be by hiding behind dumpsters all day waiting for crime to happen.
What Frank becomes seems more like a mad man beating people senseless over petty things. But ultimately what drives him is stopping the ultimate evil, Jacques, and getting Sarah back. Libby finds out Frank is the Crimson Bolt and then becomes his junior sidekick, Boltie. She then helps Frank take on crime and go after Jacques.
The performances here are nothing stellar, but they do provide interesting enough dynamics in their character relationships that add enough to the story that kept me involved. As I said earlier, the film takes the audience for a ride by teasing one type of film and then exploding in a different direction. That may be off putting to most people, including me. But as a viewed the film, Frank became a character I connected with and wanted to see the outcome to the end. Super is not your ordinary superhero movie. Nor is it a laugh-a-minute riot. It may not be super, but it does have some merit.