Genre: Action, (Black) Comedy, Drama
Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Kevin Bacon
Director: James Gunn
When I first saw the advert for this when viewing 'Submarine' and '13 Assassins' recently, I was instantly drawn into the concept. Constructed on a the B-Movie budget of merely $2million you can toss aside any notion of CGI effects or elaborate set-pieces; taking the gritty realism of the cult classic "SuperGuy," the campiness and classic-comic-inspired effects of the old Batman flicks and toss in some "Dr. Horrible" brand of clumsy comedy from our hapless hero and you aren't all that far from the recipe that makes this so unique. It is our bumbling protagonist in Frank (Wilson) whose life is turned upside down when his recovering drug addict wife (Tyler) is “kidnapped” - albeit willingly – by the local drug baron Jacques (Bacon), and when the Detective (Henry) refuses to help, he turns to the only person he knows could help, God, to give him a sign. Emerging in the form of the budget TV show starring the Holy Avenger (Fillion), he realises his calling as a superhero. Creating the alter-ego 'Crimson Bolt' and soon being joined by Libby, the comic book store clerk and her sadistic sidekick alter-ego 'Boltie,' he sets off with his trusty monkey wrench to fight crime, battle evil and get his wife back!
It never loses sight of realism; this isn't a 'Kick-Ass' clone where things conveniently fall neatly into place; another 'Batman Begins' where he has an infinite amount of money at his disposal. Much of what makes this so entertaining is just who Frank D'Arbo really is; a big, clumsy, passive guy whose been humiliated his entire life, is the very definition of what society would call a 'loser,' and is unsure now where to turn. The fact that he never feels anything more than an ordinary man in a costume, determined to do what he can to change the world; that issues such as how you even go about finding crime take centre stage is something that no big-budget contemporary will ever have. And in keeping with this realism is the well deserved 18 rating; armed with a monkey wrench which he isn't afraid of using, it would defeat the purpose of the film if no blood was shed and so in another bloodthirsty display that shows his signature style of brain bashing mayhem, this altogether different breed of film is no less gory than his last.
But none of this would make it a memorable film without throwing in the combination of a well written and thought out script, neither trying to be too clever in the use of twists yet still managing to create an engaging story brought to life by the all-star cast. Roping in Nathan Fillion and Gregg Henry from his work in 'Slither' to fill minor roles, finding the unlikeliest of superheroes in Rainn Wilson and still finding the time to give the show stealing sidekick in Ellen Page and the comedic bad guy played by Kevin Bacon plenty of screen time to let themselves shine. Their simple yet vivid roles, none of whom are belittled as mere caricatures for good or evil, never feel anything less than human and so quickly they manage to draw empathy for their situation, creating the much needed emotional impact that drives the more serious moments of the film. It'll make you laugh and it'll make you cry; Super is the best film of its kind since 'Save the Green Planet' and you'll probably never have even heard of it.