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New on DVD: “Super”

Peder Aalgaard | Staff Writer | 1-25-2012

The early twenty-first century seems to be the time of superhero movies to gain popularity in the media. The more mainstream of these movies are usually based on comic book characters like Batman, Spider-Man, and Thor. However, there are a few super hero-based films that do not rely on other material for a plot and characters. Enter “Super”, an independent movie written and directed by James Gunn. “Super” follows Frank (Rainn Wilson), a fry cook who feels that there have only been two perfect moments in his life: the day he married his wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), and the day he assisted a police officer catch a purse snatcher by pointing out where the thief ran to. Eventually, he sees his wife fall back on her drug addiction and she begins to date a drug dealer named Jacques (Kevin Bacon). After Sarah leaves, Frank is inspired by a Christian super hero show, The Holy Avenger, and a vision from God that possesses him to become the Crimson Bolt. Armed with a pipe wrench, Frank begins to take a brutal brand of justice to drug dealers, child molesters, and people who cut in line at the movies.
One thing that sets “Super” apart from the other super hero movies is its dark comedy. While movies like “Punisher: War Zone”, “Sin City”, and “Watchmen” all feature dark characters and excessive violence to target a more adult audience, “Super” uses the violent and adult aspects of a realistic crime fighter and uses them for the comedic purposes. Fans of the movie “Kick-Ass” may find this familiar. Rather than being a coming-of-age story for a comic book fan or a breakdown of the superhero genre, “Super” looks into the mind of a very unhappy man who uses his costumed persona as a way to try and get his life back in order. He knows he must use his identity as a way to rescue his ex-wife from her addiction and is convinced by his hallucinations that he is on the right path.
While Frank does have a level of insanity, his side-kick Boltie (Ellen Page) proves to be a ball of crazy and almost manages to steal the show. Boltie is the alter ego of a person named Libby, who starts out working at a comic book shop and helps Frank familiarize himself with super heroes without superpowers. She later decides to team up with the Crimson Bolt and reviles an inner sociopath who is willing to kill in the heat of the moment when the two of them are beating up someone who may or may not have keyed a car.
The levels of dark craziness in the movie allow for plenty of laughs that are either genuine or uncomfortable. The level of violence and force that Frank is willing to use to fight “crime” can be a bit scary, but Frank never comes off as a bad guy or as unsympathetic. The movie keeps the audience interested to know how far Frank will go and how far the script is willing to go for the sake of a joke. “Super” is by no means a bad movie and can be very enjoyable. Its cast has plenty of big names for a small budget film, which helps to make some of the darker scenes work better with the comedy aspect of the film. While it was well done and struck a good balance between the grim tone and positive moments, the movie is not for everyone and any who sees it should be prepared for some possibly uncomfortable moments. It does walk away with a positive recommendation.