A few months ago when I discussed Take Me Home Tonight I said there was one other film from 2011 that would be appearing on this list. It was this. I probably watch somewhere in the realm of 1,000 new movies every year (thank you Netflix and occasional unemployment). While I enjoy most of the movies I watch for either the reasons they hope for (the movie is well made) or ironic reasons (it’s so awful that it’s incredible), but few tend to leave an emotional resistance with me; this list is obviously compiled of those films that left an imprint on me and Super certainly does that and more.
Super tells the story of Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson), a short order cook who lives a rather bland and disappointing life. The only piece of joy in it is his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler), a recovering addict whom he met at work. One afternoon Sarah is missing, Frank discovers she’s run off with a drug dealer and strip club owner named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). After the police won’t help him Frank decides to become a super-hero.
He goes to a local comic book shop looking for inspiration when he meets the energetic comic shop employee Libby (Ellen Page). Frank creates the persona The Crimson Bolt and starts fighting crime armed with a wrench. The Crimson Bolt quickly becomes a media sensation although he’s viewed as a violent psychopath. When he’s wounded in a botched attempt to rescue Sarah he goes to Libby for help.
Libby immediately wants to join forces with Frank and become his Robin. While he’s originally not for the idea due to her emotional instablity, she eventually convinces him that with his wound he needs the help. The two of them storm Jacques home to rescue Sarah. Libby is killed by a stray bullet and Frank stabs Jacques to death.
In the end Sarah and Frank don’t end up together. She does however stay clean, marries a man she loves and has children. Frank lives alone, but remembers fondly his days as The Crimson Bolt and being Uncle Frank to Sarah’s kids.
Super was written and directed by James Gunn, who has a track record that most writers would dream of. Super is his masterpiece. The levels of subtext and emotion are beyond impressive as well as his lack of fear at making his characters potentially unlikeable.
The film is constantly being compared to Kick-Ass, this is unfair for a few reasons. Super was originally written years prior to the Kick-Ass comic’s creation for starters. But the biggest difference is that Kick-Ass‘ sense of realism starts to crumble mid-movie, Super keeps it going from start to finish. It shows the psychological aspect of what would happen to someone if they decided to take the law into their own hands. Frank goes from sad and pathetic to being short-tempered and resorting to violence to solve even the simplest situations (like butting in line).
None of these characters are 100% good people. Kevin Bacon (the villain mind you) is the most likable character. Frank you sympathize with, but you also get the feeling that he’s mentally not all there. Libby is completely insane and her death is justified and necessary.