Starring: Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page
Directed by James Gunn
Not Rated (graphic violence, strong language, sex/nudity)
Runtime: 90 minutes
I’ve put off writing this review for about 2 weeks now because even after all this time, I don’t know exactly how I feel about it. The movie follows an average guy, played by Rainn Wilson of “The Office” whose wife leaves him for a drug dealer one day. Distraught and lonely, he decides to become a superhero after watching a corny Christian super-hero TV show. He makes himself a crappy suit, dons the title, “The Crimson Bolt,” and goes out to beat random criminals to a pulp with a pipe wrench, convincing himself he’s doing the work of the Lord.
This is an absolutely brilliant setup for a dark comedy that simultaneously provides satire of various religious and comic book principles while potentially remaining a fun action movie, much like last year’s terrific “Kick-Ass.” Unfortunately, “Super” is nowhere near as ambitious or entertaining as “Kick-Ass” was, and also nowhere near as good, even on its own merits.
The problem is that the movie tries to go too many places within its scant running time, and because it tries to tackle a mixture of dark comedy, tragedy, satire, and love story, the tone is way too scattershot and confusing to allow anyone to connect with the film. The film is unbelievably dark at times, especially in the second half, but it doesn’t change its story at all to adjust for it. It simply nonchalantly shows people getting their heads split open for such horrendous crimes as cutting in line or selling weed to some twenty-somethings on the street. I personally enjoy these disturbing, cynical dark comedies, but this is one that’s so dark that it just starts getting depressing.
The ray of light in this film is attributed by the dual performances of Rainn Wilson as the Crimson Bolt and Ellen Page as his comic-book store worker turned psychopathic sidekick, Boltie. Page’s truly insane character serves as a reminder of how fantastic the film could have been had it been in the hands of a more experienced filmmaker. Wilson pulls his weight as well, playing more of a tragic straight man to Page’s sadistic rapist psychopath, but is mostly an uninteresting protagonist.
The thing that really bugs me about “Super” is how close it is to being a truly great dark comedy. It has some very clever crime fighting sequences, some extremely funny moments, and some fantastic performances, but is so self-satisfied and scattershot with itself that the movie just doesn’t ever really come together as a whole. While most of this can be blamed on the writer/director James Gunn, I wouldn’t label him as untalented. He’s good at incorporating stylized, Scott Pilgrimesque visual comedy into his films, and his previous work “Slither” is a criminally underrated gore fest. Gunn’s main problems are consistency in tone and pacing, which as of now is lopsided and often off-putting. “Super” is an interesting effort, and deserves a watch for Page’s brilliant but underused performance, but is not a good film.
**(out of four)