Success breeds success, and when the likes of IRON MAN and a revitalized BAT MAN saw big money for the studios, more “indie” comic fare has begun to be translated to the screen. From WATCHMEN to SCOTT PILGRIM, we’ve seen some bold and adventurous films on screen that have tried to reshape the way comic books films are made.
There also are a slew recently of “what if super heroes were real” films. KICK ASS is the most current from Hollywood, but at this very festival there’s GRIFF THE INVISIBLE, about a hapless guy that puts on a suit to try and fight crime.
Into this wave comes something born of the super hero comic book world, but turning that fairly regimented genere entirely on its head. This is the first really successful post-modern, post-comic book Super Hero film. As I wrote in a pithy tweet right after the screening, SUPER truly does out kick KICK ASS, but it does more than that: it takes every expectation we have about these safe, sometimes pedestrian “reimaginings” and smacks it over the head with a pipe wrench.
This need not be a film for those concerned about the prose in the panels, but that’s not to say its without its sophistication. The film plays like some madman from the Troma studios grew up and learned to pepper the ridiculous with genuine craft and wit, and, of course, with Director James Gunn that’s exactly what has been done. What’s truly remarkable is its unapologetic drive, casually eschewing comic book conventions and genuinely exposing them as ridiculous. Where the (fine) KICK ASS still, at its heart, holds true to its super hero roots, SUPER finally unburdens itself from the written page and simply goes for it. Owing more to ICHI THE KILLER than any Chrisopher Reeve film, there’s still a sweetness and warmth amongst the arterial spray that makes it all the more enjoyable.
There’s at least a half dozen compelling and memorable scene, one fabulously incoherent catch phrase (“Shut up, crime!”), and a pitch perfect performance from Rainn Wilson. The rest of the ensemble is great, particularly Kevin Bacon, who chews up scenes in a fashion living up to his last name. However, the filmmakers wisely let festival darling Ellen Page loose in this film, she’s genuinely a revelation (again) in the way she simply explodes with giddy, infectious energy on screen. Her enthusiasm is so catching, so refreshingly carnal and effusive that it becomes an absolute pleasure to watch.
This is not going to be an easy film to sell, and comparisons (even beyond the more obvious ones above) are inevitable. Still, with any justice (ha!) SUPER will finds its audience, it deserves to be rewarded as a clever genre piece that refuses to hold back on the bloody rewards. With SUPER we have a few new heroes, filmmakers that are finally realizing that we can genuinely craft adult comedies with respect for the source genre, will mercilessly delegitimatizing almost all of the well established, canonical tropes. Unabashed, ridiculous fun, excellent rewatchability (and quotability), buckets of blood and violence, and an abundance of wit, SUPER entirely lives up to its name.