James Gunn’s version of the superheroes-are-really-pathetic-losers film didn’t, on paper, seem to cry out for my attention. People said it was a lot more Travis Bickle than Kick-Ass, which was less deconstructive than delirious about the silliness of certain genre set-ups. And while most of its cast made my eyebrows go up (Andre Royo! Michael Rooker! Nathan Fillion! Kevin Bacon as the baddie? Ellen Page as a lunatic sidekick?) I was a little nervous about star Rainn Wilson. It is hard to displace Dwight Schrute’s high cheekbones and fake hard smile. But Super, while hitting a lot of familiar notes, also hits them with a wrench, repeatedly and confidently bashing expectations, shifting tones.

It manages a level of emotional engagement and complexity that is impressive, largely because of Wilson and Page, who are each excellent at turning from outsized insanity and mayhem to a pervasive sadness; their actions almost seem a continual surprise to themselves, and at heart the film isn’t troping the creaky superhero trope about good and evil (and the thin line, ye innocents!, between the twain); Super (like Taxi Driver) is about alienation and loneliness.

Which makes it sound grim, when it is often quite funny; bloody in a manner that teases a Troma-like eccentricity but also critiques the comic-book indifference to consequence; cautiously hopeful despite its dark worldview. I thought it was really pretty darn good.

One thought on “Super

  1. Yes, everything that Mike says (especially about critiquing the comic book indifference to consequence). The baddies all seem to be having fun while Wilson is perpetually sad. The movie resists the lure of Kick-Ass escapism to explore lost love and rage. Excellent.

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