2010’s Super is a black comedy/superhero film about a loser called Frank (Rainn Wilson) whose wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) is a recovering drug addict. Despite Frank’s attempts to keep her sober, she leaves him for a charismatic and dangerous club owner called Jacques (Kevin Bacon). After seeing visions and a religious TV show featuring a superhero called the Holy Avenger, Frank decides the best way to clean up the city and win his wife back is to become a superhero himself. He creates a persona and costume and becomes The Crimson Bolt. His methods of crime fighting turn out to be quite un-PC and his only weapon is a wrench which he hits people across the head with, to the catchphrase, “Shut up, crime.” Later he is joined by Libby (Ellen Page), a slightly unbalanced comic book store employee who becomes the Crimson Bolt’s sidekick, Boltie. Together they try to get Sarah back.
Super unfortunately came out in the same year as Kick-Ass which is a far superior film and a film with a larger budget ($28m to $2.5m) and more hype. While the films share a similar idea, they are in fact quite different. Super is a much darker and more unhinged film with themes of religion and mental illness. It is quite strongly hinted that both Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page’s characters have mental problems and is not more apparent than when Page jumps around and screams with delight at cracking someone’s skull open. The film is very violent and deserves its 18 Certificate. As well as the graphic violence there is also racially inappropriate language and laughs at rape, which occurs twice, on one occasion firmly cementing Page’s mental problems.
There are plenty of laughs with most coming from Rainn Wilson. For anyone familiar with his The Office character, here he plays something quite similar. He is geeky and insecure but also has a dangerous religious side to him. He has vivid visions and believes that God talks directly to him as well as asking for signs as to whether he should continue with his path of violence. Ellen Page is also good. She seems totally on edge and you are never quite sure what she will do next. She also looks fantastic in her provocative superhero outfit.
I think this is a fairly good film but could have been so much more. It is true that there have been other Superhero without powers movies (Defendor, Kick-Ass) but I think there is still scope for the genre. The message was quite confusing and it felt rushed and unfinished. It is easy to forget that this is an adult film which makes the violence and language feel surprising and sometimes nasty. We are so used to the 12-A Superhero that it feels odd to see one crack open a skull with a wrench. I’ve had mixed feelings since I finished watching it. On one hand it is darkly funny and interesting but on the other it feels ill-judged and rushed. The performances are good and it is worth seeing for Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page alone.