A blog about movies and filmmaking.

Shut Up Crime | SUPER

In action, comedy, comic books, cult film on March 23, 2011 at 12:48 am

James Gunn’s twisted take on the superhero genre does pretty much everything KICKASS meant to do last year, without losing the focus of it’s message. Adhering more to the ideal that a person who actually might take up being a crime-fighter – in a complex costume – would not only have to have some deeply-entrenched ideals on right and wrong, but that they’d also have to be pretty messed up in the head. (Possibly some, fundamentalist Christian beliefs as well.)

As I sat watching SUPER, it occurred to me; if Bruce Wayne’s parents had just been mugged, maybe knocked around a little bit, there’s no way he would have become a superhero. People with just middling political beliefs aren’t the ones that stand-up for justice. In leotards and masks. We (yeah, I’m definitely one of the people in the middle) hold fund-raisers to save the poor, or text in ten dollar donations to save tragedy stricken lands. (I realize that sounds like I’m being critical of that sort of thing…) We don’t jump in front of buses to save people, or see a person being mugged and jump in. We stay safe. We keep our distance.

But Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) puts on a mask, not because his parents are murdered in front of him, or because he miraculously develops some kind of special skills. But, because the two best things that have ever happened in his life are ripped away from him. He doesn’t have a mass resource of money behind him. He doesn’t even know any kind of martial arts. He just knows that crimes are being perpetrated and he’s got to stop them. A key message in the movie is the phrase, “all it takes to be a (super)hero, is the choice to fight crime” and yeah, maybe there’s some delusion to think there’s a message in a silly movie that features a man whose brain gets touched by God (literally). But where you least expect it, and all that.

The movie is a dark, twisted look into a man’s soul that just can’t bare the idea of his wife leaving him – and is even taken to task for that early on when he tries to report his wife missing to the police. So, it takes a vision from God to awaken him to the idea that some people are chosen. Of course, he could just be hallucinating all this. But what does become real is the Red Bolt. The vigilante cloaked in red that brutally beats people with a monkey wrench, spouting phrases like the title of this post and, “no buts in line”, before caving in a person’s skull. Then everything takes another turn once he takes on a child sidekick…

A turn for the worse.

What absolutely makes this movie amazing – from the perspective of a nerd that loves comics and movies and all that escapist entertainment – is that it draws a clear line in just what we cheer on while watching movies of people dole out their own personal justice. It’s not good, it’s not enjoyable, and it’s certainly not all for laughs. Which does make it sad in the few moments where SUPER seems to forget this message and delivers the very off-putting images of people getting slaughtered and blown up beside the cartoon graphics of the cliched comic book sound effect. (Though, if that was meant to be an ironic part of the message, it just really turned me off.) The point is clearly driven home with the character of “Bolty” – played by Ellen Page. She covers all the bases of the eroticism and sexual (I hesitate to say) deviancy of characters dressing up; not to mention the strange cohabitations of superheroes and their child sidekicks; and finally, the enjoyment that she gets from severely injuring people. (She laughs maniacally while repeatedly stabbing people. Even Hit Girl wasn’t having this much fun.) Meanwhile, the superheroes in Super, never become the cartoons they sought out to satirize (?) as they did in Kickass.

And it’s the ending of this movie that was the major twisting point. Not in how our hero dispatches of his final adversary (actually that was quite predictable), but in the final ennui of what Frank learned as the Red Bolt. It’s touching and amazing and really paints a perspective of life in general that, well, I actually have thought about a lot.

I really enjoyed SUPER. Yes, the violence grabbed me in a few moments and had me giggling like the rest of the audience; the humor is a riot – from the catchphrases, to Kevin Bacon talking about eggs, to Ellen Page’s seduction of Frank; but it was the message behind the movie that I really liked. What it said about superheroes and fantasy lives, and how we effect other people. Something, I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting from a James Gunn movie. (And there’s a Nathan Fillion appearance, I’m not even going to talk about.)

Definitely check it out.

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