In the wake of, shall we say, an interesting turn of events, Rainn Wilson’s Frank D’Arbo, who has christened himself a crime-fighting superhero called Crimson Bolt, rushes to his bathroom and throws up. I nodded. That’s how your movie made me feel too, Rainn.
Written and directed by James Gunn, Super feels a bit familiar in the beginning, even if ominous warning signs of where it will eventually go crop up continually. Wilson’s Frank is a socially awkward, geeky and devoutly religious line cook who married Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering drug addict, because he seemed good-willed and willing to help her keep on the right path. This doesn’t last long. She returns to drugs and turns to crime in the form of the film’s villain, Jacques (Kevin Bacon, suitably over-acting), who whisks her away. Frank goes after her. It doesn’t end well. But he doesn’t end there.
He catches a few TV episodes of The Holy Avenger, a superhero story with decidedly Christ-leaning overtones. This leads to a moment in which, more or less, Frank receives a message from God, a message that he intuits to be that it’s time to go out and kick ass and save Sarah. He goes to a local comic book shop to do research and meets the young, equally geeky but extraordinarily foul mouthed Libby (Ellen Page). She opines as to why no one has ever attempted to be superhero. Fancy that.
Frank makes himself a crimson-laden costume, fashions a seriously souped-up wrench and goes on the attack. Sort of. Even when he succeeds in beating the tar out of a drug dealer he is sloppy about it. But things get worse when he not only bludgeons an irritating man who has cut in a movie line, but bludgeons his girlfriend too. And the movie grows darker. And continues to grow darker as Libby forces her way into Frank’s existence as Boltie, the Crimson’s Bolt kid sidekick.
Still, the movie grows darker. And weirder. And unpleasant. As the movie progressed the less it came across like a twisted take on the superhero genre than a subversive commentary on mass murderers who more often than not seem deluded in the sense they are representing some sort of greater good, that they are on a mission from God, etc. If this is truly the case then Super is entirely effective. Which is why I found it so grotesque.
On The Lars von Trier Scale Of Unsettling I give Super eight out of a possible ten dog collars. The movie totally has the right to exist, I just wish I could wash the memory of its existence from my mind.