Had James Gunn’s Super (2010) been released months ago and without the added pressure from the Harry Potter and Transformers series’ it may have had some theatrical success, or at least a longer spell in cinemas. Instead, Super comes to DVD less than a month after it’s debut, realising that anyone beyond it’s niche audience may prefer to watch it at home and without the temptations of the bigger, louder summer ﬁlms.
Rainn Wilson’s ‘Crimson Bolt’ is deﬁnitely a great alternative to Captain America (2011). Unlike many other superheroes his origin is simple: angered by his wife’s affair with local drug dealer, Jaques (Kevin Bacon), Frank (Wilson) costumes-up and hides behind dumpsters waiting for crime to happen in an effort to bring down Jaques’ organisation and win back his wife. Armed with only a pain-inﬂicting monkey wrench and a sidekick, ‘Boltie’ (Ellen Page), The Crimson Bolt quickly comes to be labelled as a public menace, setting him back from his mission to get crime to “shut up”.
Rainn Wilson will be a relative unknown to most, aside from his part on the American version of The Ofﬁce, but his heartfelt portrayal of the lonely Frank is incredibly touching and gives the ﬁlm a lot more personality than it would have had without him. His world is darkly humorous, approaching life in a very matter-of-fact way that is often incredibly funny to watch. Beyond the humour though, Super tackles some of the problems found in modern superhero blockbusters, coming out a better ﬁlm for doing so.
When Lee Cassanell reviewed Super for it’s cinematic release he was quick to mention the nature of violence in the ﬁlm and how its gory and bloodied use addresses the comic approach of Marvel and DC’s superhero franchises. Rather than tumbling with a loud ‘THWACK’, the victims of Frank’s monkey wrench have their heads smashed and their arms broken. Although the level of violence may seem excessive at times it’s purpose in illustrating the desensitisation of violence in cinema is justiﬁed and well executed.
The ﬁlm also touches on the sexualisation of women in the superhero genre. In one pseudo-rape scene Boltie completely emasculates Frank, dispelling the image of the damsel in distress that the female role is so often pigeon-holed into. As a general critique of contemporary superhero ﬁlms, Super is effective without ever overstepping the mark or hammering home the issues it raises. Much of the ﬁlms appeal comes from it’s wickedly humorous approach to such serious concepts.
Despite some of it’s broader issues it can’t be forgotten that Super is still a wryly funny comedy. Although it’s blend of humour and contentious subject matter won’t work well for some it’s still worth seeing if only for it’s wonderfully slapstick take on how to become a superhero. What would Spider-Man do waiting for crime to happen? Super doesn’t answer the question and he probably doesn’t hide behind a dumpster but the ﬁlm does do a great job of showing the mundane aspects of the life of a caped crusader.