The Amazing Wrongness of Rainn Wilson's New Superhero Movie

If Quentin Tarantino directed a superhero movie on speed, you might end up with something like Super, starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. We caught an early showing of this demented gem at South By Southwest. Here's a spoiler-lite review.

If you've seen the trailer for Super, then you already know much of what to expect: Rainn Wilson is a poor ordinary guy whose wife falls into the orbit of a scumbag played by Kevin Bacon. So Wilson decides to become a superhero, the Crimson Bolt, and fight crime. With the slogan "Shut up, crime!" And Ellen Page becomes his kid sidekick.


So without any further spoilers, here are some things about Super that you might not have gotten from the trailers:

1) It's really wrong. In the best way — at least, if you like movies that go way too far and then just keep going, you'll like this. It has insane ultra-violence, plus some pretty intense sex and general weirdness. James Gunn, the psychopath who brought us Slither, has managed to mash up religion, ultraviolence, fetishism, and a slew of social anxieties into one horribly disturbing package. There are some moments in this film that'll stick in your mind for quite some time afterwards.

2) It's scream-out-loud funny. Especially every time Nathan Fillion comes on screen as the Christian superhero, the Holy Avenger, you'll fall out of your seat. There will be Holy Avenger T-shirts everywhere in a couple months, if not sooner. But also, Rainn Wilson is pretty freaking on top of his game as a well-meaning nutcase who really believes that whacking people in the head with a lug wrench will make the world a better place. And he and Ellen Page have a ton of scenes together that mix frenetic silliness with the sort of loopy banter that wouldn't be out of place in your average "quirky" Sundance comedy.


3) Kevin Bacon is a scary good sociopath. I can't actually remember the last time a Kevin Bacon performance registered with me one way or the other, but he's fantastic in Super. As Jock, he's sort of a narcissistic, affable, sadistic fuck who banters nonstop — of all the characters in this film, he's the one who could be plunked down in a Tarantino movie with the least surgery. Actually, the whole cast is doing some of their best work, including Liv Tyler as Rainn Wilson's wife.


4) It's a really intense emotional ride. It's not just a zany oddball comedy. Rainn Wilson's character suffers a lot, and goes through a lot of soul-searching. It's a very character-based film with a strong emotional core, and there were several scenes where the audience was both laughing and cringing, or laughing and feeling moved at the same time. Or just getting sucked into feeling what Frank (Wilson's character) is going through. If you're expecting a zany superhero romp, you're in for a bit of a surprise.

5) It's weirdly optimistic. A lot of very terrible things happen in this film, and everybody is morally grey, and yet Super doesn't just spoof the optimism of superhero stories — the film also manages to make you feel that optimism. You may be left questioning whether bludgeoning people with a blunt instrument is a good way to fight crime, but you'll still be left with a feeling of heroism.


6) This film may actually freak you out. It's not just your standard super-violent film with nudity and Ellen Page saying "cocksucker." If you have any buttons, Super will probably manage to push them a bit. The violence is quite gory, the sex is really messed up, and the social satire goes about as far as a movie can get away with these days. Some people will be offended by this film, possibly including you. Just FYI.


We'll have a full review of Super closer to April 1, when it opens in a number of U.S. cities.

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