Director: James Gunn
Genre: (Black) Comedy
The most underrated, and often hated, film of 2011 is Super, a black comedy about a troubled man who decides to take the law into his own hands and become a superhero.
If you’ve seen Kick Ass (2010) you’re probably thinking that you’ve seen this story before, but you haven’t. Not like this.
Kick Ass takes the story of an ordinary guy’s journey to become a ‘real’ superhero and turns it into the colourful spectacle we expect to see in most traditional superhero films. Super is Kick Ass‘ dirty uncle, presenting a more dull and gritty environment which exposes the shocking consequences of a vigilante’s actions. Violence is not slick and sexy in real life; it’s unpredictable and horrific. Not that I have a problem with glorified violence on screen; it’s one of my favourite things about cinema. My point is that Super is different, whether you like it or not. It puts you inside the head of a sick individual who feels justified in his violent actions against wrong-doers. We empathise with the poor sod, yet director James Gunn presents his scenes with enough objectivity for us to distance ourselves and see things as they really are.
The spectacle of this film is hidden within the mind of our protagonist Frank D’Arbo, played boldly by the beloved Rainn Wilson. Through him we get to experience the comic book elements you expect to see in most superhero movies and more. The excitement of becoming a super hero (in his case, The Crimson Bolt!), an emotional character journey (if you choose to accept it), and surreal dream sequences. Outside of Frank’s mind and into the arena of the film’s mise-en-scene we are presented with an odd and edgy character study. James Gunn gives us a healthy balance of comedy and drama. Whilst the story is bleak and shocking, Frank’s general demeanour provides enough laughs and enjoyment to satisfy a fanboy’s sweet-tooth.
I won’t bother going into the plot of this bad boy; the less you know the better. What I will tell you is that, lo and behold, Super is NOT based on a book, comic or graphic novel. It’s an original piece of cinema from the sick mind of James Gunn, writer of the impressive Dawn of the Dead (2004) remake and writer/director of the hilarious (and also underrated) cult sci-fi/horror Slither (2006).
Super is a unique comedy/drama with balls. It’s a true deconstruction of the superhero story with a strong character at its centre. This film is not for the squeamish, but if you’re looking for a challenging alternative to the sea of superhero films we’re being flooded with, and you don’t mind having a few laughs on the way, get Super!