Is it me or are film studios literally falling over themselves to turn just about every super hero into a movie at the moment? This year alone we have had Green Hornet & Green Lantern, Captain America, Thor, X-men first class to name but a few. The latest Batman is in production along with the Avengers and Spiderman is being re-built from the ground up in an alarmingly quick re-boot of Sam Raimi’s vision from just a few years ago. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy them as much as the next geek (I can say that since we are all geeks here at Jonny’s cult films!) but the whole formula seems to be getting a bit stale. I will admit that some directors have tried a different approach with varying results. Ang Lee’s 2003 portrayal of Hulk was a mixed bag let down by some poor CGI. The Dark Knight, although fantastic was a teeny bit overrated whereas Zack Snyder’s epic Watchmen was in my opinion one of 2009’s best releases. I just feel that maybe we need a break from all that Spandex. At least I did until SUPER clunked me on the head with his pipe wrench of awesomeness!
The brain child of its writer/director James Gunn ‘SUPER’ tells the story of Frank D’arbo, a simple man with a decidedly downbeat existence. His life is divided up into his two happiest moments. Marrying his wife Sarah and helping the police thwart a bag snatcher. When Sarah leaves Frank for the dangerous Jacques he hits rock bottom. Just short of a nervous breakdown he has a ‘unique’ vision from God, voiced by Rob Zombie no less! Frank’s epiphany leads him to assume the role of ‘The Crimson Bolt’ a powerless super hero taking back the streets from crime. Starting small and hilariously inept he quickly attracts the attention of the media and comic book store worker Libby, a frustrated soul who needs Crimson Bolt to harness her potential as kid side-kick ‘Boltie’. Dividing public opinion with their violent backlashes Bolt & Boltie have Jacques and his henchmen firmly in their sights for a violent and surprising showdown.
By now you are probably thinking that everything sounds a little ‘Kickass’ and you would be right. Super and Kickass have large similarities and were in production around the same time, although it has to be said that James Gunn has been working on his script since 2002 so there is no imitation here. Instead we have two like minded movies that take you on different journeys. When James Gunn was asked about the comparisons with Kick ass he said this: ‘’It sucks on one hand but then on the other hand who gives a shit? There are over 4000 bank heist movies. We can have five superheroes-without-powers movies’’.
The film has gained some very negative views for its violent nature but I never felt that ‘Super’ really glamorised violence. Whilst we are supposed to be entertained by Crimson’s acts against crime we are also made to feel equally uncomfortable by the characters wrong doings. The scene where Frank nearly kills a man for cutting in line at the cinema or when Boltie laughs maniacally after running a criminal into a wall with her car make you feel almost alienated for liking their earlier antics. It certainly gives the film an unbalanced feel but if anything it is at least different to just about every other superhero movie out there.
I have to say that I loved ‘Super’. It gave a much needed breath of fresh air to a rather stale formula and it’s nice to have a good hero film that isn’t for the kids! Tyler Bates deserves a special mention for his work on the soundtrack, which is perhaps one of the best I have heard in years! Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page are also perfect as Crimson and Boltie but top marks go to James Gunn for making such a wonderful film. This is probably his best work since his screenplay for the Dawn of the dead remake went into production.
Big Man Gav.