TIFF Movie Review: Super (2010)

Rainn Wilson in Super
Photo: IFC Films

Riding a wave of acclaim following its midnight premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival, I stepped into a screening of James Gunn's Super four days later with cautious anticipation. Super is the story of yet another everyman taking to the streets as a superhero along the same lines as the recent Kick-Ass and Defendor. The selling point here is over-the-top violence peppered with a few solid one-liners, but most important, a commitment to its subject matter that brings the packaged together. Little else could be expected from the writer/director of the highly entertaining, yet ignored 2006 sci-fi horror Slither.

Grade: B

Super"Super" is a IFC Films release, directed by James Gunn. This film has not yet been rated by the MPAA. The running time is .

The cast includes Rainn Wilson, Liv Tyler, Ellen Page, Nathan Fillion, Linda Cardellini, Michael Rooker, Gregg Henry, Kevin Bacon and Zach Gilford.

Following the overlong title sequence, that admittedly has a very funny conclusion, we're introduced to Frank (Rainn Wilson), a burger flipper whose one-time junkie of a wife (Liv Tyler) has just left him for Jacques (Kevin Bacon), a local drug dealer whose name Frank comically believes to be spelled "Jock". Not having the wherewithal to stand up to Jacques as Frank, he quite literally believes he's been touched by the finger of God (voiced by Rob Zombie) and has been chosen to stand up to not only Jacques, but all crime as The Crimson Bolt. As a result, Frank fashions a uniform out of whatever he can find and decides "Shut up crime!" will serve as his motto and a giant pipe wrench will serve as his weapon. And you better believe he isn't carrying that pipe for show.

Beating drug dealers into bloody heaps and bludgeoning a couple that tries to cut in line at the movies -- "No butting in line!" -- The Crimson Bolt becomes a news sensation, drawing the attention of a local comic book store psychopath played with perfect comedic timing by Ellen Page (Juno). Adopting the role of The Crimson Bolt's sidekick, Page adds the boost Super needs about midway through and helps bring the film home.

While the story sounds dramatically familiar, Super's commitment to its content is where it stands above other films like it. Super keeps to its slightly heightened-reality with only a flair for the violent. Gunn doesn't turn to overly fancy gadgetry such as jet packs and ridiculous kung-fu as much as his characters take to the Internet and the local gun outlet for their elaborate weaponry ideas and still find they aren't indestructible.

Considering all the positives, walking into a film like this with the adoration of the midnight masses in my head, Super didn't appeal to me in the same way. I respect the comedy, such as Page's delivery of one line that is just as inappropriate as it is hysterical, and the over-the-top violence does well to service the characters' frustrations. However, too many dull moments in-between caused me to fade in and out of the story.

We're not talking about a narrative filled with complex turns in plot, but instead a straight-forward vigilante story that follows its established path. I imagine had I been in a theater filled with the film's target audience I would have enjoyed my time a bit more, but you can't always get a large group of comic book fans together at just the right moment and we can't control our theatrical viewing environment as much as we'd like.

As such, I can't second the sentiments of the panting horde that carried Super on their shoulders coming out of the Toronto midnight screening, but I can definitely say I enjoyed it.


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  • aj

    what would u give this as a rating for those who sawe it?

    • Steve Baker

      For those panting hordes of midnight as he so lovingly puts them (like I am) I'd rate it as a solid B++.. It wasn't the best of this years midnight madness line up (I'd put it the 4th out of the 10) but for the type of crowd and what were used to seeing, damn fun time...

    • http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/article/movie-review-super-2010 Alex

      I just saw this movie last night. It was awsome. A++ in my book. Much deeper content than kick ass or even the wacthmen(movie). It puts humanity in the movie, where as the others the super heros are extra-human. It's ratings will probably get pulled down by people turned off by its violence. But I liked it because you don't need anything special to be a superhero just the will to do it and a blunt object. Any discription of the movie may sound like other movies, but it is its own beast. Needless to say, I'm dieing to see it again.

    • rockafella

      Stupid storyline, sad ending...

  • Adu

    It sounds like this could be a good compliment to Kick-Ass. I loved the for, and this one I'm definitel going to watch as well.

  • http://www.troma.com Gabe Friedman

    Uh, this movie blows. Rip-off of "Kick-Ass." This review reads like a plant. Without major stars this film is destined for obscurity, the dollar bin at Wal-Mart.

    • Igor

      Troll harder.

    • Steve Baker

      Just wondering, what time did you show up to the Ryerson to see the film??? I don't remember seeing you in line.. (Do you even know where I'm talking about??) You're sitting in your house saying that this movie blows and you have no idea what you're talking about.. It is true that it is very similar to Kick-Ass but the similarities with the every-man turned to a superhero plot is pretty much it.. Kick-ass was more of an action film with comedy added in where Super is the other way around, Comedy with action.. IF Kick-ass didn't exist this would be on its own level.. But because it does exist it will be compared.. It's a disturbingly funny movie..

  • darkknightfan12

    I am far more interested in this film than I ever was in Kick-Ass. Kick-Ass was a second-rate film.

  • Ian

    Obviously the Kick-Ass comparisons will be flying around, so I'll just throw in that this sounds very similar, but without the darker, satirical subtexts that Kick-Ass has. This sounds more like a straight hard-R comedy, which Kick-Ass was marketed as, but really wasn't. That's not a dig at Kick-Ass; I love it and think it's one of the better films to come out in this very lackluster year. But I guess this could strike a better chord with the fanboy crowd because it sounds like it is exactly what it says it is, whereas Kick-Ass turned out to be more than just a hard-R superhero comedy.

    • Steve Baker

      I'm looking at all of the comments that have been posted about Super and you're one of the first people that have actually made sense of it at all.. As the problem with most of these people blogging like they have a clue about something that they know zero about.. At its core super is a very dark comedy and as I've replied that to most of the clowns that say it blows, rip-off so on, so on, so on.. I do agree with the reviewer that the film that the drooling hordes at midnight madness at Tiff (I am one of them) might have enjoyed it better than he did, I did rate it slightly higher but it wasn't the best that Midnight Madness had to offer for this year, it was a fun ride though.. Kick-ass was action with humor where Super was disturbingly dark humor with action added in.. IFC apparently bought it after the screening so it should get a theatrical at some point in the future..

  • Seiko

    Kick-ass was great. I will still watch "Super" but it probably won't compare.

  • James

    I'd rather compare this to Defendor.

  • Brady

    Whoa whoa whoa... I have to make sure everyone saw the same movie I saw...

    What I saw in "Super" was a sad, lonely, delusional man with visions of grandeur and, at times, the bearer for qualities of a schizophrenic. There are a lot of references to God, this man's belief in seeing people as demons, the comic book girl Libby even rapes him at one point. This movie is incredible, and depressing and it left me feeling sad. At the same time, it's amazing to watch the only type of person in the world who would become a super hero (a crazy radical child-like innocent christian man) and how it honestly crashes down around him. I think it was very realistic and was a bit painful to watch at many points