IFC Midnight / Entertainment One
Super is the most realistic depiction of real world super heroes we’ve ever seen in a movie. Not only because it depicts the consequences of such a life style choice, but also in terms of the mental state of the people who are drawn into it. This isn’t like Kick Ass, which played lip-service to the concept but added some genuine superheroes and magic gadgets into the mix. This is a story about a delusional, out of shape man in an ugly costume who’s mad at the world, and wants someone to blame for it.
Frank (Rainn Wilson) leads a sad life, his wife (Liv Tyler), while beautiful, is damaged, a recovering drug addict. She doesn’t seem to have any passion for him, but likes the safety and stability that that lack of passion provides. Eventually, the draw of excitement leads her back in to drugs, and leaves Frank alone, and without the one good thing he had in his life. He blames a the drug dealer (Kevin Bacon) that she ran off with for ‘stealing’ her, but he’s unable to do anything about it.
It is at this point that he gets a message from God. It’s not preachy or anything, if that turns you off. His visions of God tend to mimic what he had seen on TV a minute earlier, which in this case involves tentacle porn and a Christian super hero.
So, he sets off on a mission to become a super hero himself. He believes he’s on a mission from God, and like many people who think they’re on missions from God, this creates an absolutist sense of good and evil, me vs. them. All criminals are equal in his new moral paradigm, which not only gives him license of savagely beat minor offenders, but makes a virtue of it. It’s one of those things we can kind of sympathize with on an emotional level, even if we know it would be a horrific way to run a society.
His sidekick is Libby (Ellen Page). He meets her in a comic book store, which would tend to suggest that she’s just an overzealous fangirl; but when the two go out to fight crime, we find that she takes a perverse pleasure in causing pain to bad people, a concept which isn’t really mirrored in comics. She laughs manically after hurting someone, then taunts them. You get the sense that she’s paying somebody back for something in her past, but we never find out what.
Frank, no matter how much physical damage he doles out, does so out of a sense of justice. He is stopping criminals from committing crimes. Libby; however, seeks to punish them. It’s protection vs. retribution, (it’s sort of the guiding principal of our justice system that it’s based on justice, rather than revenge) though the injuries to the criminal are the same.
There is a scene in the movie in which Libby puts on her costume, and asks Frank to go crime fighting with her. After he turns her down she attempts to seduce him, and failing that, forces herself on him. There seems to be a sadistic side to her, which finds sexual pleasure in causing pain. I liked Libby, but I don’t think we ever got to know about her in the film. You could tell there was more to her character than we were seeing.
Everything I had heard about Super suggested that it was a very dark movie, but I don’t think it was. Certainly, if you’re comparing it to other super hero movies, with their noble heroes, triumph, and acts of bravery, Super comes off rather depressingly. But if you look at it as a comedy drama about real people, which is what it is, it’s a somewhat uplifting story about a man learning to stand up for himself.