Monday, January 2, 2012


Happy 2012!  For our first review, we have "Super"!  "Super" is the first film in the long-running Super franchise, which recently this year reached its zenith of popularity with its eighth installment, "Super 8".  Wait no... that's not right...

"Super" is actually the other movie to come out in the last few years to ask the big question 'what would happen if a real person became a Superhero?'  Last year's heavily overrated "Kick-Ass" came out and did the same thing, entertaining  audiences with its ridiculous action and high school humor.  I hated "Kick-Ass", I could not have thought it was more stupid, and honestly at this point I'm really tired of the idea of deconstructing the Superhero genre.  The idea of an average person putting on a Superhero mask and cape and fighting crime sounds like the stupidest thing I've ever heard.  If you want to help your community, just become a cop, or join the neighborhood watch, or find a radioactive stone from space that gives you super strength.  You don't need to make a fool of yourself.  And people making fools of themselves is precisely the kind of comedy I don't like.

So this is really tired ground, but I have to say that "Super" does the whole 'real life superhero' idea better than its many competitors.  Because unlike "Kick-Ass" and "Watchmen", I can actually believe that this movie takes place in the real world with real people.  "Watchmen" brought up the idea that its heroes except for Dr. Manhattan were all regular humans... then they did ridiculous superhuman stunts and jumped thirty feet in the air.  "Kick-Ass" gave up half-way through to be grounded in reality, and instead tried to pull the Silly Action Comedy Meter Up to 11 (and failed, by the way).  "Super" instead points out that a real Superhero would basically be Travis Bickel from "Taxi".  They aren't going to be positive role models, they will be badly lonely and psychologically broken characters.  It also doesn't concern itself much with Superhero tropes, its not really much of a meta-comedy, and I think that's an improvement.

Most importantly, "Super" is the only movie you'll ever see where Rainn Wilson beats people over the head with wrenches.  And then he gets raped by Ellen Paige.  So on that level alone, "Super" is movie I'd recommend.

"Super" is a film directed by James Gunn, a director you may not have heard of if you live in the civilized parts of the cinema world.  He is most notable as the man who had the grand creative vision to make "Tromeo and Juliet", which I believe is the only adaptation of Shakespeare to have incest, transformations into futa cows, and um... this.  James Gunn has definitely toned himself down for Super", because the plot itself is not entirely insane.  In fact, this movie actually turns very very sad, and has several dark turns, telling a strong character study in the nature of loneliness and escapism.

The main character, played by Rainn Wilson, is a desperately lonely person, trying to get his wife back with whom he has no chemistry at all.  When you need an actress to create no chemistry with her co-stars, hire Liv Tyler, her lack of acting skills are perfect for that.  Rainn Wilson's life has been nothing but a long series of humiliations, leading up to his wife leaving him for an extremely greasy piece of Kevin Bacon.  Kevin Bacon was formally the amazingly 60s villain in "X-Men First Class".  He's less awesome here, but then again, this whole movie is less awesome than "X-Men First Class"*.  So Rainn Wilson sits and watches his TV, and gets inspiration from "The Holy Avenger", a right-wing Christian Superhero show where the cheesy effects and ludicrous plots give us all key Conservative messages, like don't have sex before marriage.  And don't pierce your nipples.

I'm going to interrupt the summary for a moment, to explain what I just said.  If you aren't in the know, "The Holy Avenger" is a parody of the even more ridiculous real life TV show, "Bibleman".  Yes, that show exists.  James Gunn did not make any of this up, and the real thing is as insane as it sounds.  In fact, in more sane universe, "Bibleman" would be the parody of "The Holy Avenger".  But "Bibleman" doesn't star Nathan Fillon, who comes equipped with HAIR OF RIGHTIOUSNESS!  I don't care how how badly the Christian message is perverted by your political beliefs, if you got Nathan Fillon with those heavy metal locks, I will watch every episode of your TV show and buy the DVD box set.  You know, forget the "Super" plotline, I want to see a "Holy Avenger" movie.

Returning to the review:  At this point, Rainn Wilson has a vision.  Hentai tentacles come out of his walls, wrap around his body, pop our razors, and they scalp him.  Then the finger of God comes down from the Heavens, and strokes Rainn Wilson's exposed brain, giving him the idea to become a Superhero.  Now if the entire movie had been like the scene I just described, "Super" would have been the best movie ever made.  Unfortunately the rest actually makes sense and is grounded in reality.  "Super" kinda roller coasters from desperately sad to over-the-top insane, and really, its hard to love the entire whole.

For example, at one point, Rainn Wilson has a horrifically depressing scene where he prays to God to bring his wife back, and also fix his face and personality and boringness.  This is all very tough and very touching, I think we've all had moments - usually in our childhood - where we've begged the universe to do the impossible.  When the worst happens to us, its hard not to blame God for making our lives so awful.  Then Rainn Wilson mentions that he's worse-off than "Starving African children, because their parents at least love them", and suddenly the scene is hilarious.  But still, the fact that Rainn Wilson is such a pathetic little man completely delusional, fighting a hopeless battle for a woman who doesn't love him, that makes it hard to sit back and have fun with this movie.  At least for me.

The movie hits its stride when Rainn Wilson has been superhero-ing for awhile.  He's a lot more competent at the Superhero business than Kick-Ass, because unlike Kick-Ass, the main character here isn't a scrawny loser teenger, he's a six-foot-five man with a wrench slamming into your forehead.  "Super" actually is able to use its main character in action scenes, it doesn't need to conjure up real Superheros to save the day like in "Kick-Ass".  Naturally the new amateur Superhero, "The Crimson Bolt", becomes something of a media sensation, and Rainn Wilson attracts Ellen Page into the movie.  She works at a comic book store and has always wanted to be a Superhero to live out her psychopathic fantasies.  In a long series of events, Ellen Page becomes The Crimson Bolt's "kid side-kick", basically a Robin to the Batman.  She's Boltie!

I need to interrupt again to mention that Ellen Page is very hot in this movie.  Seeing her in yellow spandex is probably alone worth renting this movie.  Ellen Page may not be the most ridiculously hot supermodel actress in Hollywood, in terms of pure physical perfection she's inferior to say, Megan Fox or her lippy replacement in "Transformers 3".  But Megan Fox isn't really hot, she's too perfect, she's so fake its not even attractive anymore.  Like, you're not going to have sex with Megan Fox, you have as much chance with her as you do with the Queen of England, (though maybe if Megan's career keeps crashing we may one day be able to afford her "services"), but you might have sex with a girl like Ellen Page.  Seeing Ellen Page in spandex is like seeing a girl you went out with from high school stripping.  And that's hot.  Plus Ellen Page clearly massively turned-on when she's acting as Boltie, and it gets to the point that she rapes Rainn Wilson towards the end of the movie.  And that's even hotter.  Ellen Page was actually my favorite part of this movie, which is a shame because... well, I'll avoid spoilers here.

Still, I can't say that "Super" is entirely a good movie.  Every actor does a great job, even actors who only have one scene.  Even Rainn Wilson's feisty co-worker, who has only like thirty seconds screen time is awesome.  But for a black comedy, I didn't laugh enough.  Just about everything works in this movie, but its slightly disappointing.  Like, right after the darkest turn in the entire film, I'm feeling really low.  It was a punch in the balls, to be honest.  Then James Gunn has an action scene punctuated with comic-book sound effects like "BLAM!" and "POW!" like we're watching the old Adam West Batman TV show.  At any other moment in the movie, that would have been funny, after the last scene, it just feels inappropriate.  And that's really part of this movie's problem.

I'd say, ultimately, it just wasn't insane enough for me.  The ending should have been a bit more nuts, it reached a logical conclusion, had a few dark turns, and it all fit the characters.  What I think "Super" really needed was a bit of "The Last Circus"-style madness.  Rainn Wilson should have gone more insane, the ending should have been completely out of its mind.  It had some craziness, but not enough.

To conclude:  "Super" isn't a movie that's good all the time.  Its a movie you can best enjoy at three o'clock at night, just around the time that every movie, no matter how weird, looks awesome.  You know the feeling, when you're all alone in the dark and you lower the shades because you're afraid that Slenderman might be waiting outside your window?  When you're in the mood to enjoy movies like "Lord of the G-Strings" or "Return of the Living Dead", that's when you need to see "Super".  Slightly delirious from being really tired, with a few beers in you, you need to be in a specific state of mind.  I watched it at 7 o'clock at night with a bowl of popcorn, that's too focused.  Too intellectual.  You can't watch "Super" as a movie critic, you need to watch it as a movie-lover.

So... here's a movie you've never heard of, and its not a movie you'll completely enjoy, I guess.  What was the point this review?

* Amazingly "X-Men First Class" was actually directed by the guy who made "Kick-Ass".  Its a small world after all.


  1. The point of the review is that you introduced me to the marvels that is Nathan Fillion and his magic hair... I will watch this movie... I must see this hair in action...

  2. The hammer is Nathan Fillion's hair.

  3. I forgot to wish you a happy 100th movie review. Shee-it.