Reel Straight SXSW: ‘Super’ Review

Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, and James Gunn on the Red Carpet of Super. Photo by Monica Castillo

Rainn Wilson. Ellen Page. Liv Tyler. Kevin Bacon. Nathan Fillion.

Oh my God, eight degrees of separation with Kevin Bacon is going to get so much more easier.

Seriously, Super is what I’ve come to expect from indie comedies, but overdone and possibly even well-done (as in charred steak, not just the way you ordered it). This is not a movie for the regular, mainstream audience looking for a superhero movie to pass their Sunday afternoon after church. This is for the kids out of school on a Friday night looking for something that isn’t The King’s Speech in a crowded theater.

A lot of Super is juvenile comedy. The ever-growing man-boy, Rainn Wilson, decides to stand up for himself and fight crime after his wife falls into a life of drugs and abuse. Inspired by the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion in a Jesus wig), Wilson’s character suits up, grabs a wrench, and hits the streets in order to yell, “Shut up, crime!” Line cutters and pedophiles beware, that wrench does some bloody damage all over. And it’s that deep red color too, not the classic bright red comic book blood, in case you thought this film was going into the realm of camp.

Wilson does his homework for his makeshift hero, the Crimson Bolt (anyone here watch the “Fairly OddParents” and think the Crimson Chin? Okay, I did), at a local comic book store. There, employee and resident maniacal psychopath, Ellen Page, asks to be his sidekick, Boltie.  Crime-fighting becomes much more difficult when the Crimson Bolt has to reign in his sidekick from killing people they are only supposed to be maiming. It’s a new take on the Batman and Robin relationship I guess.

Rainn Wilson, star of Super. Photo by Monica Castillo

In all of its fun, “gushy,” blood-splattering good times, I felt the movie moved almost too quickly from fun to pain, creating that awkward “is it okay to laugh?” moment. With the two women sitting next to me groaning at the almost grindhouse-level violence, I found that even I began wince as the movie went on. There’s only so many burst kneecaps, leg shots, and nearly-headless injuries one can stomach. Also, was there a reason for a rape scene other than to further disgust the audience? I’m still trying to figure out if helped or hindered the plot, but it really does feel unnecessary. We never get to really enjoy the funny parts, or even work over the violent ones because the pace of the events are practically at breakneck speed. However, I felt the beginning did a great job setting up the story and the tone. So there is some breathing room, but hold on to it.

Obscene violence aside, the movie is rather witty and well-written. We’re never spoon-fed back story, and it keeps the interest. We only need to know as little as possible of the one-dimensional characters. But with such a large cast, it works. The casting is superb, with Wilson operating on two levels of extremism, super-violent or super-upset. Page leaves the Juno trope well behind and turns into some sort of blood-thirsty pixie. Bacon makes for an excellent creep, and Tyler sits pretty as the junkie/damsel in distress. Fillion is wonderful as the muse, Holy Avenger. One of the best highlights for me was his namesake TV Series in which he would to teach high school kids to be good Christians and to vanquish the Devil, played incredibly by director James Gunn.

Topsy-turvy and stomach churning, the ride isn’t easy, but the laughs at the end are worth the torture we watch to get there. Super-worth it. if you’re into that sort of stuff. There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of good old fashioned independent fun, but Super is more of a fleeting fling than an everlasting classic. It has all the awkwardness and darkness we expect from our indie scene. Plus, it’s ability to move through extreme emotions in short bursts left me practically dizzy and unsure of what the hell I was supposed to be feeling. If you can divide your feelings from whatever comes onscreen, your experience might be much more enjoyable.

Nerds will rejoice with all the comic book references and Rainn Wilson tentacle sex. Okay, maybe not that last one. The laughter’s still there, but Super is really meant for the young-at-heart, and the twisted-of-mind: B-

About Monica Castillo

Monica Castillo (CAS '11) is a Film writer for the Quad. Drawn into the world of film studies accidentally, she's continued on writing, writing, and writing about film since. She also co-writes on another blog,, which is about even geekier film stuff. If you have the time, she would love to watch a movie with you.

View all posts by Monica Castillo →

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