SUPER: The Film Babble Blog Review

SUPER (Dir. James Gunn, 2010)

Add The Crimson Bolt to the growing list of superheroes that aren’t really superheroes.

Just like KICK ASS, this movie wonders out loud ‘why don’t people actually try to be superheroes,’ gives us an ordinary schmuck who dons a costume, and has him get his ass kicked before he ultimately saves the day. However, the tone of SUPER is completely different. 

Rainn Wilson is our ordinary schmuck here, a short-order cook whose wife (Liv Tyler) leaves him for a slimy drug dealing kingpin played by Kevin Bacon. Rainn takes us into his deprssing existence by way of dry narration (“People look stupid when they cry” he says over a shot of him sobbing), with the film starting off darkly, but a blaringly bright cartoon credits sequence seems to announce that the film is going to be an outrageous romp.

It is and it isn’t – there are some funny bits here and there, but once Rainn takes up bashing people’s heads in with a wrench, the film’s laughs get fewer and fewer.

As a comic book store clerk who is implausibly infatuated with Rainn, Ellen Page overacts like crazy, as if she’s trying make us forget her graceful performance in last summer’s INCEPTION. Page makes her own costume, which she poses in creepily, and despite Rainn’s insistence that he needs no sidekick, asserts herself as “Bolty” – her Robin to Rainn’s Batman.

  In one of many unpleasant moments, Page forces herself sexually on Rainn – why on earth did the film makers feel they had to go there? The pathetic duo arm themselves with heavy weaponry to take on Bacon’s thugs, and the movie’s final act is a ultra-violent shakily-shot shoot ’em up in which the film beats its premise into a bloody pulp. It’s an unamusing assault on the senses with a flimsy conclusion. 

The only strength is Rainn’s unwavering commitment to character. This guy definitely has more layers to him than Dwight Shrute, and Rainn fleshes them out intensely. It’s a character that deserves a better more rounded narrative, not these worn out conventions.

On the sidelines Liv Tyler doesn’t have much to do but look drugged out, Bacon seems to be having a ball probably because he could’ve done the role in his sleep, and as one of the heavies Michael Rooker just looks uncomfortable. Oh, I almost forgot the odd cameo by Nathan Fillion (Firefly, Castle) as a Christian superhero named the Holy Avenger that Rainn is inspired by when watching him on an religious cable channel. 

Really don’t know what the point of that means either. SUPER is a tired take on superhero pipe-dreams that has nothing new to say satirically. I rolled my eyes more than I laughed, and I cringed more than I smiled. 

I guess those are fitting reactions to a film written and directed by the guy who wrote the live action SCOOBY-DOO movies. 

More later…

KICK-ASS: The Film Babble Blog Review

KICK-ASS (Dir. Matthew Vaughn, 2010)

Aaron Johnson, as geeky high school student Dave Lizewski, wonders in a world where millions love comic book and movie superheroes, why don’t more people actually try to become real-life superheroes? His mother has just died, he’s invisible to girls, and chronic masturbating is his biggest hobby (yeah, I know – TMI) so we can see why he fantasizes so vividly about being a superhero. Not letting the fact that he possesses no special powers get in his way he orders a green wetsuit online, dubs himself “Kick-Ass”, and sets about fighting crime on the streets of New York City.

Kick-Ass gets his ass horribly kicked by a couple of petty thugs on his first outing enough to put him in the hospital. He’s not deterred from his superhero pursuits though, because he’s now reconstructed with metal grafts and with his deadened nerve endings he can fight without pain. So when another brawl is captured by camera phones he becomes an internet sensation via YouTube and a household name.

A girl he has a crush on (Lyndsy Fonseca) suddenly takes an interest in him, but as his snarky friends (Clark Duke and Evan Peters) suggest it’s because she thinks he’s gay. Fonseca has no inkling of Johnson’s infamous alter ego when she emails Kick-Ass’s MySpace account (the only aspect of the film that feels out of date) asking for help. A dangerous drug dealer is harassing her at the needle exchange clinic she works at and immediately Kick-Ass is on the case.

However, the pile of bodies that results in a ghetto showdown comes not from Kick-Ass, but from the surprise appearance of “Hit-Girl” (Chloe Moretz). The foul mouthed and fast acting Hit-Girl (who’s 11 by the way) takes no prisoners, killing every attacking lowlife and leaving Kick-Ass stunned. She’s the real deal he sees, and she’s the protégé of another real deal – her father Nicholas Cage as “Big Daddy” whose shiny black costume makes him look like Batman’s brother and he has lethal weaponry out the wazoo to match.

From here out Hit-Girl and Big Daddy steal the movie from Kick-Ass and he never quite gets it back. The villains they all go up against are big time mob boss Mark Strong and his son, McLovin himself – Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who has his own mock superhero guise: Red Mist.

Kick-Ass calls it quits now that shit just got real (not a line from the film but it just as well could be) and comes out as straight to Fonseca – the old pretending he’s gay in order to get closer to her premise you see. Of course, he’s gonna have to get back in the game and join Hit-Girl for the inevitable action movie climax.

KICK-ASS has so many successful sequences going for it that I can overlook the myriad of problems I have with it, but for the record here they are. The satirical nature of the material replaced with predictable noisy bombastic mechanics in the last third, with the laughs sadly fading with the satire. And in the words of Grandpa Simpson: “The romantic subplot felt tacked on.”

That said, KICK-ASS has a great cast – Johnson, Mintz-Plasse, and Strong are all solid and it’s great to see a porn-stached Cage chew up the scenery with Moretz whose Hit-Girl poise, presence and power, as I said before, really steals the show. That is, if you don’t mind the extreme profanity and ultra violence that she brings.

Don’t bring the kids, or even the kid inside you to see this movie; it’s an dark adult shoot-em up with a high body count packaged as a teenage superhero comedy – it’s SKY HIGH as directed by Quentin Tarentino. It might not kick ass as much as I thought it could, but, as it’s the first major movie to use the internet popularized phrase that something or someone “owns”, for the most part it does indeed own.

More later…