Super Review
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Who wouldn’t want to be a superhero? After all, they get to wear cool costumes. They’re adored by the masses. And they always get the girl. So it’s no surprise that geeky teenagers (like Kick-Ass) and other lovable losers are putting on their super suits and taking to the streets to fight crime. But these everyman superhero adventures don’t get much darker than writer/director James Gunn’s Super.

All his life, Frank D’Arbo (Rainn Wilson) was bullied and beaten down. Then he met beautiful recovering addict Sarah (Liv Tyler)—and, by some stroke of pure luck, he managed to get her to marry him.

When he loses Sarah to her dirt bag boss (Kevin Bacon), Frank is inconsolable. But he finds inspiration in the form of a cheesy TV hero, and a bizarre vision convinces him that he’s being called to be a superhero. Dressed in a homemade costume, he takes to the streets as the Crimson Bolt, determined to stop criminals—like the one who took his beautiful Sarah away from him.

  
 
Now, here’s where you’d expect the Crimson Bolt to head off on some awkwardly hilarious adventures—to take a beating or two on his way to becoming everybody’s hero and (eventually) getting the girl. That’s the way it’s supposed to work, right? Well, not this time.

Super is a whole lot darker than you might be expecting. Instead of fighting bad guys by sheer luck and determination (with help from some movie magic), he decides to use a pipe wrench to release all of his pent-up anger and frustration while beating the living daylights out of drug dealers, child molesters, and other bad guys. Though you won’t necessarily feel sorry for the criminals who face his wrath, it’s all a little too dark and violent and graphic. It’s just a little too real.

At first, Frank’s enthusiasm for crime fighting is cute. Sure, his mission may be misguided, but he’s so passionate (and even well-meaning) that you can’t help but cheer for him (at least a little bit). And while Wilson’s usual shtick is better suited for a supporting role, he actually manages to hold his own this time around. But the more extreme Frank’s actions get—the more he gets caught up in battling those he deems “evil”—the more uncomfortable it is to watch. The same is true for Ellen Page’s Libby, the comic book geek who begs Frank to let her join him in his mission. For a while, her geeky eagerness is oddly endearing. But once she becomes Boltie, the Crimson Bolt’s kid sidekick, her enthusiasm turns irritating—and she takes off on an annoying power trip.

Maybe it’s all completely honest. Maybe this is how mild-mannered fry cooks and comic book store clerks would really act if they decided to put on a costume and become something great. But that doesn’t make them characters that you’ll enjoy watching. Instead, it makes for a pretty uncomfortable experience.

Super is definitely an intriguing movie. It has moments of brilliance, thanks to some clever screenwriting and a talented cast (including Kevin Bacon’s best role in years). And its geeky frankness does give it a certain dark hipster charm. But the darker it gets, the more awkward it becomes. So unless you’re in the mood for a strange indie twist on the usual superhero thriller, you’re probably best holding out for this summer’s more traditional adventures—like Green Lantern—instead.

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