We’ve seen a few ‘Superheroes who aren’t really superheroes’ type films recently, not loads, but enough all at a similar time to be classified as market saturation. Super is one of these. Unexpectedly high level of violence and strong language places Super firmly within an adult audience. Kick Ass was more geared toward teenage markets (except the C-Bomb uttered by a child which put some off). Unfortunately, whilst written after production of Super, Kick Ass wiped the floor with Super at the box-office. I’m going to try and remain impartial, as reviews at the time compared Super to Kick Ass because of the closeness of release dates. I have the advantage of seeing them separately (I think it’s been about 2 years since I saw Kick Ass) so hopefully I am able to write a review which is not biased.
Super is about boring Frank and his drug addict wife Sarah. She’s recovering from her addiction, but she somehow ends up leaving Frank for Jacques, a drug lord/strip club owner. Frank decides to create an alter-ego, The Crimson Bolt, to get Sarah back. In the process of researching The Crimson Bolt’s attributes, he meets Libby, a foul mouthed hyperactive comic book store clerk who later becomes his kid sidekick Boltie.
Super is a very odd film. I found it really inconsistent. Firstly the styling of the film swings backwards and forwards. The comic book references (Bam! Pow!) appear intermittently, almost like someone in the SFX department used them in the beginning forgot about them, and then could only be bothered to go over the last third of the film and use them. I’ve never been against animated effects in live action cinema, but what they do need to be is consistent. If youre going to use things like this, make sure it’s not sporadically placed just to suit the scene. And because of this Super felt like there was several different films going on all at once. The pace is uncomfortable and difficult to remain engaged. There are so many things about this film which don’t make sense (emphasised by the inconsistency in scenes) for example, the huge amount of violence and body count is difficult to realistically digest. There is a police presence throughout the film and SPOILER ALERT the main detective is killed half way through the film. Oddly enough he is seen later on in a TV news report condemning The Crimson Bolt’s actions, but no mention of exploration of the after effects of his death is shown. I’m not too sure if this is a huge glaringly obvious error (if it is then shame on the editing department) or if were meant to assume this is stock footage.
The choice of actors is another oddity of Super. Ellen Page is effectively playing Juno (again) but this time a bit more mentally unstable and with a mouth like a sailor, Liv Tyler is not entirely convincing as drug addled Sarah, and Rainn Wilson (primarily known for his role in The American Office) is an exceptionally odd choice. Not to say he is a bad actor. I just don’t think that he was right for this role. There doesn’t seem to be too much chemistry between then actors, rather they’ve shown up to work, done their lines and gone home. One of the most awkward scenes is where it can only be described a Libby raping Frank, was monumentally uncomfortable to watch. Libby performs a sexual act on herself in front of Frank, whilst dancing, it’s simply so awkward and made me cringe and I’m no prude, it’s not the ‘act’ that made me cringe, it could possibly only be the way the scene was directed.
The moral judgements of the Crimson Bolt are a little different to standard superheroes, and instead of fighting big heads of criminal gangs, The Crimson Bolt tackles petty drug dealers and people who jump queues. But the way in which some of these incidents are dealt with are problematic. Is it really ok to half bash to death people who jump queues? Probably not. Super equates jumping queues with child molesters. At one point Libby and Frank reference ‘what happens between the panels’ in comic books. And I hate to say it but I think Super is an entire film of the ‘stuff between the panels’.
It’s a shame, because I think done in a different way, with a more meticulous eye, Super could have been fantastic. I am a huge fan of comic book and superhero genres, I’ve grown up with comic books (thanks Dad!) and now I’m older I can definitely appreciate the more adult themes within comics. And Super definitely has a lot of potential. I suspect had the running time been longer, Super would have been less frantic, more refined and coherent. I’ve actually saved Super to watch another time, with my boyfriend to see what he makes of it. And I hope that given some time to reflect on a first viewing, the second viewing will be more enjoyable. It’s an odd little film, which may need more than one chance (upon second viewing, I will update this blog with my thoughts again) I really really wanted to like Super, and hopefully I’ll change my mind, but unfortunately I’m not entirely convinced that I will. My advice would be to watch Super without thinking of Kick Ass (an exceptional film in a very similar vein) and you might be able to appreciate it for it’s own merit.