Published Sep 26, 2010Super is the bitch-slap reality check the superhero genre was supposed to get from Kick-Ass. It's also one of the year's best films and sight drops better comic references (Wasteland, B.P.R.D.).
James Gunn, the brains behind one of the best horror comedies in recent memory (Slither) has, along with an unfalteringly dedicated cast, created a genre deconstruction unafraid to go all the way while remaining ridiculously entertaining.
As Frank D'Arbo, Rainn Wilson (The Office) has his official coming out party as a serious actor. Of course, he's also seriously funny. Pushed around and humiliated all of his life, Frank has always wanted to be a do-gooder, but lacked motivation and testicular fortitude. The former arrives and the later sprouts when wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) succumbs to her recurrent drug addiction, falling in with dealer douche Jacques. Kevin Bacon is pitch-perfect in the role, coming across as kind of a genuinely nice guy, for a scumbag drug dealer.
After a few pathetic attempts to get Sarah back, Frank has a hallucination while watching a cheesy Christian superhero program called The Holy Avenger. Geeks will be thrilled to see Nathan Fillion embody the awesomely lame inspiration for Frank to create his Crimson Bolt persona. Frank's manga-influenced hallucination is one of many golden moments in the film, stupefying in its audacity.
To learn more about the Holy Avenger and superheroes without special powers, Frank visits a comic shop where he befriends hyperactive geek Libby, played by Ellen Page. It's a career-altering performance by Page; if anyone's been on the fence about her range before, the depths of awkward manic insanity she digs into for Libby will sway you. Or she will crush your skull.
On that point, Super is gory as hell, with the mouth of a Scottish sailor. It's also remarkably tender and moving, and always refreshing in its refusal to lazily sink into clichéd payoffs. There's much more that could be said about the greatness of Super, but it's difficult to convey just how uniquely satisfying this movie is.
James Gunn has emerged as a vital genre iconoclast, capable of nurturing career-best work out of his actors. See Super by any means possible. (Ambush)