Movie Review: Super

About a month ago we mentioned a new superhero film slated for release called Super. There was a Super panel this weekend at WonderCon along with the limited release premiere of the film with a post-show Q&A with the director, James Gunn, and I was fortunate enough to attend both events.

Super has been aptly referred by its leading man on several occasions as a "fucked up, raw version of Watchmen" and I'd agree. This is a film that is not for everyone. It's unrated; they couldn't get the MPAA to give it an R rating without major cuts. Though, you know, I think that's a little unfair. I have never really understood the MPAA's rating system and I feel like the violence in this film isn't that off from the stuff you see in other R-rated films. Super is wicked funny, majorly messed up, kind of blasphemous, and actually has quite a bit of heart. It's an "indie" film in the respect that all the actors worked for scale. Everyone who did this film did it because they wanted to make it, this was certainly not a paycheck film.

It stars Rainn Wilson (from The Office) as Frank, a cook at a diner married to super hot Liv Tyler (Empire Records, Lord of the Rings trilogy) who has a history of substance abuse problems. She leaves him for slimy (and obviously enjoying himself) Kevin Bacon (Footloose, Wild Things) and Frank is desolate at the loss. He is touched by the finger of God (voiced by Rob Zombie) and happens to watch a local all-Jesus TV show starring The Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion from Castle and Firefly) and realizes that he's been called to clean up his city and rescue his wife by becoming the Crimson Bolt. He's a man with no superpowers, only his wrench and his catchphrase "Shut up crime!" He eventually pairs up with the always adorable Ellen Page (Juno, Inception) who becomes his kid sidekick Boltie. And weird, funny, twisted, graphically violent messed up stuff happens.

In short: I enjoyed it. Which is much, much more than I can say for other films I've seen recently. *cough*Sucker Punch*cough* There were a couple of things that I didn't see coming, which was really quite lovely. There are a lot of fast shifts in tone: it goes from funny to EEEWWW very quickly. There are a couple of really nice moments from Rainn. He does actually flex his acting skills in this and goes from sorrowful to vengeful in a flash, and for me it worked. Ellen Page is always delightful, but in this she really goes to some messed up dark places and she does it with gusto. Boltie is one messed up little sidekick. Kevin Bacon and Liv Tyler were clearly doing this because they enjoyed it and that enjoyment shows in their acting. And there's a fast cameo by William Katt - yes, that's right the Greatest American Hero is in it!

I think James Gunn was right in saying that to cut it down for that R rating he'd have lost much of the point and impact of the film. It's caught some flack from critics for being unfocused and messy but that's actually kind of the point. I thought it was very clear that the tonal shifts were deliberate and intentional.

In any case, if you want to see something that's like Watchmen mixed with Pulp Fiction then you should see Super. It's being rolled out slowly like many art house films. If it's in your part of the world go see it and bring a friend. You can see if it's coming to a theater near you by checking out the list on James Gunn's site here.

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