The past few years have been very kind to the superhero genre. We have seen directors manage to successfully recreate the tone and feeling of classic comic book characters like Spider-Man, Blade, Batman, X-Men, Watchmen and even Thor, but with these adaptations comes a wave of talented filmmakers that want to add their own spin on the genre. People like James Gunn. Gunn is a talented director who just can’t seem to get a break. Slither was a very fun time at the theaters, but barely anyone saw it and now he capitalizes on the recent superhero genre that has been taking film by storm and he not only accomplishes something very special, but something very personal.
Super isn’t your normal superhero film in any sense. The main character isn’t rich and he doesn’t actually have any superpowers. He’s just a man down on his luck that has nothing else to lose. What makes Super different than other recent vigilante films like Kick-Ass or The Punisher is that it is very grounded and very real. Super is a brutally honest film with an extremely flawed batch of characters who all have some serious mental problems in one way or another and that is what makes it so damn good.
Frank (Rainn Wilson) is your everyday man who has the wife of his dreams. I should say had, because his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler) decides to fall under the influence of a sleazy drug dealer by the name of Jacques (Kevin Bacon). After a series of scenes involving Frank crying and sobbing he decides to drastically change his life due to a wakeup call that encourages him to dawn a cheaply made costume and become The Crimson Bolt. Not knowing much about superheroes, Frank decides to visit a comic shop to get some tips. It is there where he meets Libby (Ellen Page), an odd girl who has a lot of spirit.
Frank takes a bite out of crime one step at a time as The Crimson Bolt, hoping to eventually get his wife back and continue his life or hoping to find a purpose in his new, lonely life. Where Kick-Ass would take a turn for a sequence of action scenes, Super stayed grounded with violence, but violence that is more realistic and actually more brutal. Instead of The Crimson Bolt taking on crime in hand to hand fashion, we see him assault drug dealers and pedophiles with his trusty wrench.
The film continues to stay on the path of realistic for all of its running time. The Crimson Bolt eventually partners up with Libby, who becomes Boltie, his trusty sidekick. Boltie lets out a lot of rage and anger and it’s very funny watching Frank’s reactions to the wild and crazy Libby. She’s off the leash and out of control for the majority of the film and it’s almost scary at times to watch. Clearly Frank has problems that could possibly get fixed by visiting a shrink, but Libby needs to be locked in a padded cell for life.
James Gunn manages to craft both a superhero film full of blood and violence and a dark comedy. Most of the comedy comes from Rainn Wilson, who plays the very sad and depressed Frank. Wilson transformers himself into Frank and then into The Crimson Bolt without any hesitation. There is a scene in the film when The Crimson Bolt beats up an innocent bystander just for budging in line at a movie theater and it is at that very moment that I was completely sold. The film never holds back or tries to tread light water; it comes at you with full force, guns blazing. Just when you thought you figured out how the last chunk of the film was going to play out, it changes right up without any sign.
It’s this fresh approach that really makes Super stand out from the other superhero films that are currently being pumped out. Sure, those other films are great on the surface and even on a few deeper levels, but none are as brutally honest as Super. It really is the exact result of someone deciding to be a superhero in real life. If you ever really wondered what would happen, don’t watch Kick-Ass, watch Super. You might not like what it given, but that’s only because it’s the truth. It’s not sugar coated in any way, it’s simply presented as is.
To read my full theatrical review of Super, click here.
Video: IFC Films provides Super with a super clear 1080p transfer. For a film with such a low budget I was actually surprised by how clean the film ended up looking on Blu-ray. The image is very detailed, with very stitching on The Crimson Bolt’s costume being visible. The bright and vivid colors of both The Crimson Bolt and Boltie’s costumes really make the picture pop. The bulk of the film is covered in dull grays and blacks, but the colors are represented exactly how director James Gunn wanted.
Audio: Super features a DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that is very serviceable for the film. Most of the action takes place in the front speakers, but every detail can be heard, from glass shattering to guns shooting, everything has its own sense of clarity. Dialogue comes across the front channels and can be heard fine. The back channels are reserved for background effects for when the action picks up. The last chunk of the film utilizes the back speakers very well, with tons of activity coming from all angles. It’s sort of like the activity of the channels progress as the film does. It starts focused on the front channels while Frank slowly embarks on the journey of a superhero and then as the action picks up the channels get more active!
Super contains a few interesting special features, that are presented in HD.
- Audio Commentary with James Gunn and Rainn Wilson: This is a good little commentary that really shows the passion and care both Gunn and Wilson have for this project.
- Trailer (HD): Theatrical trailer for the film.
- TV Spot (HD): TV spot for the film.
- Deleted Scene (HD): A deleted scene that includes Rainn Wilson and Liv Tyler.
- Behind the Scenes (HD): A fun feature that includes a lot of good footage between Gunn, Wilson and the rest of the cast.
- Making of the Main Titles (HD): The animation supervisor discusses how he made the opening titles. Neat little feature.
- How to Fight Crime at SXSW (HD): The Crimson Bolt shows up at SXSW and shuts up crime!
Overall, Super is a very dark and honest film. It pulls on some emotional strings while hitting you in the face with a wrench. James Gunn directs Rainn Wilson unlike anyone else has before and it really does come off as a very sincere project from all talent involved. You can tell that this was a very personal film for Gunn and Wilson. Both gentlemen give it their all and deliver a fantastic dark comedy that packs an emotional punch. Ellen Page does fine in her supporting role but Kevin Bacon tops her as the sleaze ball villain. It’s a film that will cater to a specific crowd, so I don’t suggest you blind buy it without doing a little research. IFC Films give Super a surprisingly clear and crisp video transfer with a good audio track that is quiet for most of the film, but picks up when the action does. The special features aren’t amazing, but there good for fans of the film. The commentary is very insightful and a few of the behind the scenes features are fun.
Video – 9/10
Audio – 8/10
Special Features – /10
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