a critiQal film review Super (2010)

  • DVD
  • Blu-Ray

Plot: After his wife (Tyler) leaves him, a fry cook (Wilson) emulates a TV superhero and transforms himself into a costumed vigilante.

711 words (Est. Reading Time 3m 33s)

While we thought we were up on movies, there are a couple of films that, at first, escape our notice anyway. After the hype over the recent Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017), we heard about a previous film from director James Gunn we had missed: Super, starring Rainn Wilson.

The trailer makes Super look a bit reminiscent of a fun film we watched awhile ago called Kick-Ass (2010), so we figured we could be in for some quirky fun. But, would this earlier film from James Gunn be worth our while? Or should we have just watched Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017) instead?

Rainn Wilson stars in Super, and seems to be an ill fit for the role. While we like him in The Last Mimzy (2007), we bypassed his boring role in “The Office” (TV), and this film presents more of the latter than the former. Dour and depressed, his character is obviously a prime candidate for the mental ward, yet viewers are supposed to gather behind him in support? Like his dull performance, it just doesn’t seem worth the effort.

Liv Tyler, who has never been a site fave, actually isn’t half-bad as his drug-addled wife, although that pairing never makes any sense in Super. Sure, they try to explain it away (he’s basically “safe” for her recovering drug addict), but it still seems like kind of a stretch. While she still seems a bit distant and aloof from the audience, her character spends most of the time in a drug-induced state, which seems more up her alley, at least performance-wise.

Kevin Bacon is misused as well in Super, but that seems to have become the norm for him. After turning himself into an icon in films like Footloose and JFK (1991) (among others), he seems lately to be playing his own version of “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon” and picking films solely because he hasn’t worked with the actors and/or director before, instead of trying to choose smart roles. It’s an unfortunate trend, as even when he picks bad roles (like this one), there’s a bit of that ol’ Kevin magic that still shines through – though it is badly muted.

Sadly, Michael Rooker and Gregg Henry are so underused in the film, it’s almost a shame to add their names to the review. Super is a film they probably are both wishing they never starred in, as the viewers are left with a bad taste in their mouths after these performances, especially since they know these two can do so much better.

Ellen Page and Nathan Fillion, as a store clerk-turned-spastic-hero Boltie and The Holy Avenger, respectively, are the only saving graces in the film. While Ellen’s manic turn as a wannabe superhero sidekick with a violent streak points to a societal dulling of morals in the wake of violence at every turn, Nathan Fillion’s Holy Avenger seems a bit of a tongue-in-cheek ode to his Captain Hammer from the little-seen (but fondly remembered) “Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog” (TV). Ellen and Nathan are the only ones that seem to be having fun in Super, and the only reason the audiences will want to stick around at all.

Director James Gunn doesn’t seem to have a concrete vision for what he wants from Super, and it shows. While Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) was a film where every sequence fit the pacing of the film perfectly, this film instead gives the appearance of being disjointed throughout. The pacing varies from sequence to sequence, almost as if the viewer is getting a glimpse inside the mind of a mental patient. The thoughts aren’t so coherent, and most of the choices the characters pick don’t make a bit of sense.

Sadly, while the cast and storyline seem to offer so much potential (look what Kick-Ass (2010) did with less star power), the viewer is never quite sure what point Super is trying to make. Is it (like the afore-mentioned better film) a commentary on a society swept up in superhero-fever? Or is it more of a commentary on the flawed justice system, who didn’t manage to lock up these lunatics before they started killing everybody? Who knows. And, after watching Super, with it’s extreme violence and gore without substance, most viewers will agree on only one thing – who cares?

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