REVIEW: James Gunn's Super from TIFF

REVIEW: James Gunn's Super from TIFF

REVIEW: James Gunn's <em>Super</em> from TIFF

Is James Gunn's Super kick-ass or just a cheap imitation? Read an early review by Diep Tran from the Toronoto International Film Festival!

Even though on the surface director James Gunn's (Slither) new movie, Super, may appear to be a knock-off of Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass, Gunn has been developing the movie since before Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar doodled his first sketch of Hit-Girl blowing away a bad guy. Gunn wrote the original script back in 2003 and got financial backing from The Dark Knight producer Chuck Roven to turn it into a feature, but the project fell apart over disagreements about the lead actor.

According to Gunn, he and Millar are "email buddies" and shared an "Uh oh" when they first found out about each others' similarly-themed concepts. Despite the similarities, Gunn recently said that there's plenty of room for Super to co-exist alongside Kick-Ass:

"There's 3,000 bank heist movies. I think the movie could live with four superhero movies of guys without super powers. I don't think that they're exclusive of one another. I think they're very different. So ours is a little darker and he's an adult. I think Mark's a great guy and a completely talented guy, and it's something that comes up in conversations like this, but at the end of the day, it makes absolutely no difference to anything."

Images from the movie began trickling out several months ago and the first clip from the movie was released only last week. The movie debuted at this weekend at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and was promptly snapped up by IFC for distribution. Unfortunately, I was unable to attend TIFF, but here's an early review of Super from CDInsight movie blogger Diep Tran:

"When a director takes the stage at TIFF and tells you that his newest film is a '(expletive)-up little film but it’s our (expletive)-up little film,' you know that you are in for a wild roller-coaster of a cinematic experience.

The low-budget, indie film, Super does that and more, to leave you breathless, shocked and gasping with laughter in the end.

Written and directed by James Gunn (Slither), Super follows the latest trend (Kick-Ass, Watchmen) in superhero movies where the neurosis of the average Joe is more powerful than any superpower that they can have. Besides, powers are overrated.

Frank (Rainn Wilson, The Office) is an average guy whose wife Sarah (Liv Tyler, Lord of the Rings) runs away with a drug dealer (Kevin Bacon, Animal House). Determined to save her, Frank dons a red suit and mask, paints a monkey wrench red, and then proceeds to dole out his own brand of head-smacking justice as the Crimson Bolt.

On the way, he gets a sidekick in the form of Libby (Ellen Page, Juno), a petite comic book store clerk, who acts like she was raised on an unhealthy dose of violent video games, comics and caffeine.

We don’t find out much about her background and in a rare instance in film, it’s not important. Libby doesn’t seem to care about Frank’s back-story and he doesn’t care about hers. So naturally, the audience doesn’t care either. We just want to see them kick ass.

Anything else, any sentimental and tragic background, would have given a jarring tone to the movie. And as soon as the Crimson Bolt and Boltie team up, in no time at all blood flows, legs are smashed and villains blown up. And the audience cheers.

The dialogue is fast, witty, slightly offensive and sure to satisfy the deepest comic book nerd. Gunn knows his comic culture and it’s obvious the film was made with love and a deep respect for the genre. How else do you explain the use of purple tentacles in one disgusting and hilarious sequence?

Page deviates from her standard role of the precocious young adult to deliver a character that is infantile in manner at some parts, yet also disturbingly mature in others. It’s an unsettling combination and one that will erase the image of Juno from the audience’s mind.

Wilson perfectly portrays Frank’s awkwardness and ambiguous motives, there may be some insanity there and Wilson does not shy in portraying that. Yet in the end, it’s not about whether or not Frank is right by bashing people’s heads in for butting in line.

Instead the film is about the feasibility of being a superhero in a world grounded in reality. Unlike Kick-Ass, there are no jet packs and child assassins to save the day. This is real life and in it sometimes the hero’s motives will be questionable because he himself is human and prone to mistakes. Reality is not as black and white as the comics will make it seem.

For a film to take that approach and embrace it, it’s courageous.

Some will hate Super for its graphic, sometimes extraneous violence (accompanied with a nice dose of cartoons “Pow!” and “Bam!”). It’s not for those with overt sensitivities.

But for those accustomed to watching and loving superhero movies, Super does not disappoint.

It brings back the essential aspects that have been lost these days in the superhero genre in favor of post-modern gray gravitas: wild, visceral and campy fun where you thoroughly enjoy seeing the heroes smash in the faces of crime.

Let’s do that again!

It sounds like this movie is right up the alley of most CBM fans out there!

If you haven't already seen the new clip, here it is again:

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