Super [Review]

by Shihang

We might as well get this out of the way.

Some other reviews have noted that Super is basically an extended riff on one big joke: a psychotic loser clubbing people with a pipe wrench in a silly suit. But that is being unfair, not only because the violence does come in MANY MANY WAYS (at one point, Boltie, Page’s character, stabs a henchman with X-23 claws), but also because the nihilism underlying the film is exhilarating.

The plot is as simple as it is ludicrous. Frank is a cook in a diner whose greatest moments in life come from marrying Liv Tyler (no, I mean her character Sarah) and from helping to stop a burglar. But his marriage unravels as his wife becomes hooked on drugs, eventually leaving him to be with drug dealer Jacques (or Jock, as Frank knows him). After watching an episode of Bibleman the Holy Avenger, he becomes convinced that he is chosen, and dons the mantle of the Crimson Bolt to club people who cut the line at the movie theatre.

There are three main reasons why you should watch the film: 1) the actors are very entertaining, 2) the violence is very entertaining and 3) the way it laughs at how sententious Frank is while exposing the hollowness of his ethic. It is not a film with a message or with some special significance, and those who like that sort of thing might want to give this a miss.

1. The acting here is pretty good. Wilson here is so pathetic and unlikeable that I would pump for Jacques, even though he is a stereotypical douche, just because I hate Frank’s delusions. There is obviously a religious parody here, how some Christians take unto themselves some notion that they are brave crusaders for God’s good (or the chosen as Frank puts it). Ellen Page plays Libby as absolutely psychotic, entering a sort of berserkergang after she hurts people. (One glorious scene when she crashes a car into some guy and runs out in her bra shouting and gloating.) It works because it’s a pretty good contrast to the indie chic that she pulls off so effortlessly.

Unfortunately, this is not some superheroine bondage scene but Boltie about to smash a vase over some guy who may or may not have keyed her friend's car.

2. Glorious violence. It is the return of the slapstick school of violence, which involves: too much violence, unexpected violence, disproportionately harsh violence, and pointless violence, as we see from a rather Burn After Reading scene where the inspector gets shot by Jacques’s thugs.

3. What this all means that this film is meant to be a good time watching silly humans be misled, killed and deluded. Take the faux feel good ending, which is silliness by parodying earnestness in the mode of the players at the end of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The Crimson Bolt, an utterly violent maniac, ends up with a sort of happy ending (with a pet rabbit) and Sarah the junkie goes on to have a family, playing on everybody’s sense of justice for this maniac to be punished in a cruel and hilarious way. In a way, a reverse-Hamlet making the same point that sometimes things work for no particular reason, and that it is silly to read karmic account-keeping to how things happen.