Super (2010)

Super (2010) – I have met a lot of people who will say they didn’t like a movie because they “didn’t like the main character.” Now if it’s a case of bad character development or unmotivated action, I think this is a valid argument. If it’s just objecting to the fact that the main character was unsympathetic, that’s somewhat less cogent. (Of course then again since there is no objective criterion for art one doesn’t really need a very cogent argument I suppose, though it still irks me.) With comedy there especially seems to be a need for people to root for a “good guy” main character. This has been subverted a few times. Off the top of my head the HBO television series Eastbound & Down has an unapologetic jackass for a main character and it maintains a level of popularity. The show’s co-creator Jody Hill also made a movie called Observe and Report, about a heavily troubled and unlikable mall cop that was significantly less popular though so it’s still not exactly an easy sell.

In case the lead-in wasn’t clear, Super is a movie that does not feature a main character who is especially relatable. Sympathetic? Well, you feel sorry for his circumstances, but in the main role Rainn Wilson is very alienating. That’s unquestionably what the movie is going for though. Wilson plays Frank, whose wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon, whom I am six degrees removed from [no, really]). Frank takes it badly. Eventually inspired by a Christian superhero TV show (starring Nathan Fillion as The Holy Avenger!) he begins to wage a one-man war on crime as The Crimson Bolt! This consists mostly of hitting criminals with a wrench. Eventually a young sociopath who works at the comic shop joins him as his “kid sidekick” Boltie (Ellen Page). Naturally, things escalate.

Something felt off to me while watching Super. Granted, it’s a movie that makes it a point to be off-putting. There’s a commentary on the glamorization of violence as a good chunk of the violence is not glamorized (but other parts very much are). The movie never once pretends that Frank is a mentally well-adjusted person and Wilson ably portrays a man who is seriously fucked in the head. The end of the movie seems to dabble in justifications though. Can good from bad? Is that moral ambiguity good for this movie? I don’t know. Truthfully this is a comedy that I just didn’t find overwhelmingly funny. There are a few great laugh-out-loud moments and the energy that Page brings to her role buoys the movie every second she’s on screen but overall, the comedy didn’t work for me. I’m into dark humor. I’m into cringe comedy, but it just didn’t feel balanced here. That’s not to say there aren’t some seriously funny things here, but the the movie goes to some seriously twisted places (not a bad thing in itself) and in the end the darkness seemed to outweigh the comedy…  I was a big fan of writer-director James Gunn’s previous film, the horror-comedy Slither, and had high hopes for this one. Unfortunately, for me Super didn’t soar so much as fall flat.

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