First there was Kick-Ass...now we have..the Crimson Bolt....hooray?
Surprisingly better than anticipated. In hindsight, "Super" may seem like an obvious rip off of "Kick-Ass", where it explores the concept of normal people becoming real life superheroes; while begging the question of why nobody has ever tried it before. Well, this movie explores that very same concept, but in a rather different way so to speak. Unlike the protagonist from "Kick-Ass" though, Frank actually does have a valid reason to become a superhero....well sort of. Frank D' Arbo (Rainn Wilson) is just another typical average guy that works as a cook in a small diner, who cherishes only two moments in his life, as the rest of his life kind of stinks. One of those moments is the day he married his lovely wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), and the other is when he pointed out where a shoplifter ran off to for a police officer. He cherishes these moments so much that he's drawn pictures of them to remind himself of how special they are to him.
Sarah is a recovering drug addict, who met Frank when she was still in rehab, and they've been together since. To her, Frank is essence of stability and safety; which led her to marry him, as he was different than the other guys she met before. However, does that mean she married him because she thought he was safe? Or was it because she genuinely loved him too? I can't really say without giving it away, but lets just say this whole ordeal they're about to experience helps them figure that out. For you see, Jacques (Kevin Bacon) is a notorious drug dealer who lures Sarah away from Frank. Promising her a better life, and all the illegal drugs a ex-addict could want. Needless to say, this doesn't bode well for Frank, as he's determined to do anything to win her back. Unfortunately, with the law unwilling to help him, he's isolated and alone.
Like all of us in these situations, Frank blames himself for this incident, as the woman of his dreams leaves him for another man. Fearing that he may never be able to care, or love anyone again. Then one day while watching TV, he sees a public access show called "The Holy Avenger" (Nathan Fillion). "The Holy Avenger" is essentially a story about a superhero who is a direct messenger of God. During his episodes, he preaches to two kids constantly about the right way of living one's life, and typical Christian values; while battling the evil forces of Demonswill (James Gunn), who happens to be the devil's right hand man on Earth. Anyways, to make a long story short, Frank has a dream that same night, after the show, where he not only meets the Holy Avenger...he also meets god himself. Or, what he believes to be god (Rob Zombie). It's from there Frank asks why does his life suck. What purpose could he have if the woman he loves doesn't even want anything to do with him? Then divinely god tells him that we are all chosen for a reason, and he wakes up the next day with new found inspiration for life.
Sure, some could chalk up his dream as pure nonsense, in light of the fact that he fell asleep watching a Christian based programming; which might've influenced his dream. Or, one could interpret it as a direct message from god himself. Or perhaps, it could all be one huge coincidence. Whatever the case may be, the events that transpire from here is where the real story begins. Seeing the world for what it is, Frank ponders what the police have told him in the past on how s*** happens, and how he should just accept it like everyone else in society. Then again, why should he?
Would any of us do nothing if the person we loved left us for a drug dealer, who obviously didn't give a rat's a** about them at all? Is it right that we see injustices everyday in society from cutting in lines to child molestation, rape, murder, drug dealing and etc, yet we still do nothing? Why? Because s*** happens, and there's nothing we can do about it...right? Or maybe we should do something about it? Sure, we may have to resort to violent means that most people wouldn't consider to stop such atrocities; which in hindsight might make us look just as bad as the criminals we're fighting against. Then again, sometimes how something looks isn't always what it is. Therefore, why isn't it okay for us to use any means necessary to bring about justice in an obviously unfair society? Maybe there's something wrong with the people that would disagree with that logic. Perhaps, things happen for a reason. Maybe we're meant to be with someone for a short time, and have our hearts broken for a reason. After all, doesn't everything happen for a reason? Or is it just a freaking coincidence? Is it right that s*** happens everyday, and we just accept it because that's what's expected of us? Or should we actually do something about it? These are just some of the many questions about society that "Super" raises, and plays on quite well.
To get back to the story, Frank decides to become a superhero, after his vision of meeting god. Although he lacks the basic fighting skills needed for such a task, he is willing to do whatever it takes to become a crime fighter. Doing anything and everything to prepare himself from reading comic books on how heroes with no powers deal with crime, to carrying a wrench to whack people over the head. Unlike "Kick-Ass", Frank's alter ego The Crimson Bolt isn't afraid of hurting people obviously, as he's literally shown busting peoples' heads open with a wrench and even a freaking brick too! Although some of these crime fighting heroics of beating up line cutters, drug dealers and rapists do land the Crimson Bolt in a lot of legal trouble, nothing compares to the issues he lands into when Jacques and his goons find out his true identity.
Now, with nowhere to hide, he's forced to hide out with the only girl that he knows he can trust at the moment. Libby (Ellen Page), is a young girl who works at a comic book store, and happens to help Frank in his efforts to become a crime fighter. Intriqued by his story, Libby also wishes to join in on the fun; in spite of Frank's protests. Thus, she becomes the Crimson Bolt's new sidekick, "Boltie." Although her enthusiasm is encouraging, she tends to often go a bit overboard with her crime fighting, as she nearly kills a guy who she thought keyed her friend's car. To make matters even more interesting, she seems to have a very strong sexual attraction to Frank and his superhero alter ego. Unfortunately, Frank is still madly in love with his wife, Sarah, so he's forced to refuse many of young Boltie's lustful advances. Although she did manage to dry hump the guy, so I guess that has to count for something. If you don't know what that is, then you'll have to look it up for yourself. Besides, I don't want to get in trouble for explaining it.
Anyways, without giving away too much, that's basically the entire story in a nutshell. To be honest, I really wasn't expecting much from this film, as it's fairly obvious it's a rip off of "Kick-Ass"; with more of a indie vibe to it. However, it's because of the indie vibe to this movie that makes "Super" that much more believable, and grounded. If anything, I think this probably works better as a superhero satire than "Kick-Ass" does arguably. Not only does it poke fun at all the typical superhero film cliches, it's also not afraid to show that sometimes reality, and what you read in comics aren't always the same. To quote Rainn Wilson from the film, "we don't often see what happens in between the panels of comic books."
As "Super" reminds us in life, the person we fall in love with won't always love us back, nor does the hero always end up with the girl. And, in spite good intentions, it won't always lead to a typical cliche Hollywood ending that we all yearn for. No, sometimes in life, we have to simply embrace whatever opportunities that come our way, and remember that sometimes bad experiences can help us grow as individuals. Helping us realize what's really important in life, as sometimes things just happen for a reason. Sure, we can cry about it, but it's how we react to the situation is what really matters. Whether you believe Frank was acting on orders from god or not is irrelevant. What is relevant is that Frank acted with the best of intentions to try to make the world a better place. Sure, one could say his methods make him look almost as bad as the criminals he fought, but who are we to judge? Maybe it's those that would judge his actions as being being evil are the ones that need to reevaluate their lives. After all, how do you know you won't be able to make the world a better place until you tried.
In the end, I would have to give this film a three out of four. Although I doubt this will generate the same level of success as "Kick-Ass", it's definitely a great satire of the genre. One that I would highly recommend if you're looking for a truly great superhero film that not only pokes fun at a lot of the cliches of the genre, but also speaks volumes about how reality is versus what we read in comics.