Monday, June 11, 2012


Directed by James Gunn.
2011. Rated R, 96 minutes.
Rainn Wilson
Ellen Page
Liv Tyler
Kevin Bacon
Gregg Henry
Michael Rooker
Nathan Fillion
Don Mac
Andre Royo
Sean Gunn
Linda Cordellini

Meet Frank (Wilson), a fry-cook. We get the impression he didn’t have a lot of friends growing up, didn’t get out much and was the butt of the jokes when he did. We can tell there was a time when he thought he’d never find a woman that would marry him. Yet, here he is married to Sarah who is every bit as beautiful as Liv Tyler. No wonder he counts the second they tied the knot as one of his life’s few perfect moments. Sadly, his happiness is fleeting. He comes home one day to discover her and all of her things gone. After asking God what he must do to win her back, he has a vision suggesting he become a superhero. This is how The Crimson Bolt is born.

Frank dons the costume he’s made for himself and hits the streets looking for villains to thwart. Shortly, he realizes that if he’s going to fight crime he better get a weapon. He also needs to brush up on his new craft and finds himself frequenting a comic book shop with an enthusiastic young female clerk named Libby (Page). She informs him of what certain superheroes are and are not capable of since he’s obviously not into comics. He uses this information to decide on his weapon of choice: a pipe wrench. With that, he takes the city by storm, clubbing anyone he thinks is involved in a crime. Eventually, Libby gets her own costume and becomes his overeager psychotic sidekick Boltie.

Director James Gunn makes sure Super is never dull, but certainly challenging to watch. It’s filled to the brim with bizarre and graphic imagery, dark to the point of being morbid humor and questionable morality. By questionable I mean there really is no problem that can’t be solved by a wrench to the face. Our hero is rendered little more than a violent sociopath. However, this seems to be the intent. He is supposed to be what we wish we were: unrestrained in our dealings with those we perceive to be doing wrong. It works to an extent. The problem is he does some things that are repulsive even to us. What’s supposed to endear him to us is his awkwardness, both as a superhero and in regular life. When he’s in costume this works fine. Out of costume, it’s uncomfortable to witness.

As I said though, this is dark comedy. It is not to be taken too seriously or literally. It’s a fantasy for us everyday weaklings. At this, Super succeeds. We can tell this is all tongue-in-cheek. As uneasy as it may make us feel, there are laughs to be had. For instance, right before one of his disturbing outbursts we can’t help but chuckle as he rushes off to his car for a not so quick change into costume in broad daylight.

Super does a number of things well. However, it shies away from really examining our hero’s behavior. It starts down the very Batman-esque path of having The Crimson Bolt hunted as a criminal. With Frank’s social awkwardness and conviction that he’s doing the right thing there are potentially some very dark depths to be mined. Alas, this storyline gets abandoned to keep the sappy ending intact. It leaves Super very uneven, a bit of a mess. The film doesn’t think that matters. It simply wants to be like the first Spiderman movie and so it is. Like that one, this is really all about a girl.

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