MFR Rating: ★ ★ ★
With a premise strongly resembling 2010’s big hitting Kickass and a title easily confused with JJ Abrams’ summer blockbuster, it will be easy for audiences to feel a little lost finding Super. Receiving a fairly limited release in the UK, it’s certainly gone under many people’s radars taking a disappointing $325,000 in the US despite starring Rainn Wilson (well known as Dwight Schrute from the hugely successful American remake of The Office) and the ever sweet and quirky Ellen Page.
Super follows the life of Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson), an introspective oddball whose wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him, finding himself at a loose end in life. Both he and his wife are presented as damaged individuals. His wife’s drug problem leads her to elope with an unpleasant individual, whilst Frank is an unhappy man with only two memories he can look back on with fondness; marrying his wife and exposing a a petty shop thief. Following his wife’s departure, Frank receives a surreal, spiritual epiphany leading him to assume the role of a crime fighting superhero (without superpowers) to try to find some meaning to his life.
Wilson works well playing oddballs, but its Frank’s self awareness that completely separates him from his persona on The Office. It’s especially nice to see a more emotional and serious side to his acting and that’s presented nicely in a couple of scenes. Ellen Page jumps on board as a sidekick but unfortunately her character is never really explored and her outrageous craziness could have used toning down as the film struggles to balance its fantasy comic book elements, its absurd comedic parts and its desire to tell a real-life story. Kickass always knew it was absurd, but sometimes its difficult to remember with Super just what film we’re watching. The levels of blood and gore did catch me a bit off guard. I wouldn’t say the dark elements and the comedy particularly mixed to create dark humour, more a ‘bittersweet comedy with traces of gore on the side’, which is an odd mix which doesn’t always feel completely cohesive. But the end is truly refreshing and manages to just about pull the film together again, even if it’s overall message remains less than clear.
Super is a heartfelt film with a lot to enjoy and while it may never completely reach its potential, it nevertheless manages to feel fresh amongst all the comic book inspired escapades in the cinemas. Just a pity no one’s giving it a go.
Super is out now on limited release in the UK. Certificate 18 (UK). Running time 96 mins.
Review by David Rank