James Gunn finally makes another movie after the awesome 2006 effort Slither (if you haven’t seen it, you really should if you call yourself a monster movie fan).  Admittedly when I first read a bit about the movie I wasn’t that excited. The whole “normal guy decides to become a super hero with no so good results” thing had already been done in Kick Ass, Defendor, and of course Watchmen, the original deconstruction of the superhero archetype.  I wasn’t sure how Super could offer anything new to the sub-genre and... admittedly it doesn’t really add muhtmlch. 

Everything that was said in Watchmen, Kick Ass and Defendor is said again here, albeit with a slightly darker sense of humor, some additional weirdness in the form of bizarre visions experienced by the protagonist, and a funny mockery of Christian morality (Nathan Fillion as the Holy Avenger is hilarious just to look at, not to mention the awesomely terrible dialogue they give him). Like the other films mentioned this has some surprisingly graphic violence.  Where Kick Ass was much more hyper stylized and cartoonish in its depiction of violence, and Defendor was more restrained, this movie is more in line with the graphic practical effects (for the most part) driven violence of Watchmen.  Quick, unexpected, unflinching and brutal.

That said, Super is a good movie, that upon seeing for the second time at the Dark Bridges film fest, I have to say I enjoyed thoroughly.  It just isn’t an original movie.  But then considering I watch slasher films on a regular basis, originality is not a pre-requisite for enjoyment.  If a movie is done well, I will likely enjoy it, despite it being derivative of more trail blazing efforts.  I think I might’ve even liked it better the second time because seeing it with an audience you get the added humor of the audience’s shock at the bloodiness and weirdness. 

Like Defendor, Super follows the adventures of Frank D’arbo, a poorly adjusted (although not mildly retarded) weirdo who decides he’s going to dress up like a super hero and fight crime, this time using a pipe wrench instead of a trench club to bash people’s heads in.  His end goal here is to “save” his wife (Liv Tyler playing Liv Tyler) from an evil drug dealer (Kevin Bacon, chewing scenery as always) who has "stolen" her from him.  Of course, fighting crime in the real world has much more disastrous consequences than it does in the comic books or on Frank’s favorite Christian super hero TV show The Holy Avenger, and in that respect this is where I think Super nails it a little better than either Kick Ass or Defendor did: people get FUCKED UP in this movie, inlcuding the heroes.

Gore hounds, although this isn’t your typical action or horror outing, this is a movie you should check out.  You get plenty of head bashing action courtesy of the aforementioned pipe wrench, along with stabbings, shootings, people being exploded, and someone even gets the top of their head pulled open to expose their brain.  Good stuff, and for the most part it all looked to be done with practical effects and a minimum of CG enhancement (think Alexander Aja’s Hills Have Eyes or Piranha 3-D for the style I’m talking about, which I think is a nice balance).

I also have to give props because this is another of those rare films where a man gets raped by a woman.  The perverse sexuality angle of dressing up as a super hero was of course already covered in Watchmen, but nowhere near as gleefully awkward and humorous as it is here via the rape.  Also I think it is the first I have seen where a character has a vision formed by the pieces of their vomit floating in a toilet, so there’s that also.

The comedy is nice and dark in this one, just the way I like it, and if that is your cup of tea, you will definitely have a good time with Super.  I thought Rainn Wilson was pretty funny in the lead role. My favorite line in the movie was where he says people look stupid when they cry as he’s crying in front of a mirror and not the whole “shut up crime” tagline that most of the rest of the audience that was way more awesome than I did, but whatever. However I actually think it was Ellen Page as Libby that really worked.  She just goes batshit insane and it was cool to see her in a role totally unlike anything else I’d ever seen her in (unless she’s done other roles where she mauls someone to death with Wolverine claws, if this is the case please let me know as I’ll have to check that out). 

I definitely recommend it, and it’s nice to see James Gunn making a smaller and mightily gory movie that’s perhaps a little closer to his Troma roots than his recent divergence into children’s films (Scooby Doo 2).