In the current landscape of filmmaking the number of films that are created within a calendar year is at an all time high. With shifting models of production budgets and distribution plans, the roadblocks that had limited the number of films are being cleared from the cinematic roadway. While this could surely open up a quantity versus quality debate, the real phenomenon worth considering is the number of quality films that slip by our communal consciousness, if they even register at all. In a less congested landscape, films are given more room to breathe, to hang out a bit and make our acquaintance before they’re shown the door to the discount bin. In the current, over saturated model, a quality film can pass by in a moment. Whether it was due to limited release, bad-timing, or something more nebulous, this seems to happen in increasing numbers. Take the film, Super, by James Gunn, which is currently available on Netflix streaming, for example. It has the names of James Gunn, Rainn Wilson, Kevin Bacon, and Ellen Page attached, involves superheroes, and is generally a comedy. Ready made audiences right? Nope, for some reason this film slipped by the majority of us, including myself. Warranting a casual ear-perk when you hear the synopsis and talent involved, it quickly slipped into the vacuous space of “meh”. So, looking back on it, is it worth getting acquainted with?
That all really depends on how you enjoy your humor. Are you a broad comedy person? Maybe you like a little slapstick with your superheroes? Or, on the other hand, do you like your comedy jet-black? That tricky moment when something slips from tragic to hilarious? If you’re in the second camp of comedy, you’re probably gonna love this thing. From the opening scenes onward, Super never takes a safe turn. All of its narrative is on a crash-course with devastation, all while making sure to disturb as much of the sacred as possible along the way.
Super tells the story of Frank Darbo, an average(less than average actually) man who finds himself in a dark spot. You see, he has recently lost his wife to drugs and the local drug dealer, Jacques(Kevin Bacon). Finding himself searching for some justice in the world he becomes the The Crimson Bolt and begins to fight crime. Along the way, he unavoidably finds a kindred spirit, and eventual sidekick Libby(Ellen Page). Seems pretty standard right?
This general set-up comes along with the added feature of uber-realism. Meaning that Super, unlike actual superhero films, is based in the logistical reality of humanity. This ultimately results in serious injuries, botched fighting, and death. Kind of like a “Kick-Ass” from the bad side of town, Super is more interested in the direct impact of violence and crime than in the idol-building that most superhero films wallow in. This differentiation is what will make Super either loved or reviled by any given audience.
Pulling no punches all the way to its very “Taxi Driver”-esque ending, Super isn’t here to coddle the audience with a tale of bravery. It is an examination of human desperation on both sides: the side of the victim and the criminal. Nothing is clean in life, and everything is especially dirty in Super.
Super, perhaps more than most of its cinematic peers, demands to be accepted on its own terms. If you can’t get on board with this world, which is drearily similar to our own, you are not going to enjoy this movie. If, on the other hand, you can get into some gratuitous violence with a nihilistic message, Super is your movie.