by Greg Lamberson
The deceptive trailer for Super portrays the film as a quirky indie spoof of the big budget superhero films cluttering multiplexes but fails to acknowledge the film’s excessive, downright gleeful violence and gallons of digital blood. Writer-director James Gunn, who cut his teeth on the Troma films Tromeo and Juliet and Terror Firmer, and who spoofed the superhero genre in the far gentler Rob Lowe vehicle The Specials before scripting the remake of Dawn of the Dead, has delivered the unrated gore extravaganza of the year. For the target audience, this is reason to celebrate; others may beat a hasty exit.
Rainn Wilson of TV’s The Office stars as Frank D’Arbo, a short order cook whose miserable life has only been brightened by his marriage to Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering addict. When Frank loses Sarah to drug dealer Jacques (played with sleazy, comical relish by Kevin Bacon), he does what any heartbroken male in his situation would do: He dons a ridiculous red superhero costume and becomes “the Crimson Bolt,” with the expectation that battling criminals will win back his one true love. This leads to several comical situations, and I never tired of seeing Frank stiffly run away from unimpressed thugs. After suffering a beating at the hands of one foe, Frank decides he needs a weapon to fight crime, and the wrench he selects causes several heads to split open. From this point on, one outrageous gore gag follows another.
Gunn knows his comic books, and Super explores some of the same themes that Alan Moore, Frank Miller, and Rick Veitch mined when they introduced adult subtext to comic books in the 1980s and 1990s. Just how crazy must a person be to run around in tights beating up bad guys? Watching Wilson and Ellen Page (who almost steals the show as Frank’s overenthusiastic sidekick “Boltie”), the answer is: pretty crazy. The bloody climax echoes that of Taxi Driver, and Frank may be the darkest screen hero since Travis Bickle. Super is essentially a Troma film with smarts and heart, bound for cult status, but I doubt mainstream viewers will make it beyond the half hour mark, when Frank hallucinates that monstrous tentacles have opened his skull to plant the seeds of inspiration in his exposed brain.
Watch the trailer for Super
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