Super

  • Reviewed by: Tim Salmons
  • Review Date: Feb 21, 2012
  • Format: Blu-ray Disc
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Director

James Gunn

Release Date(s)

2011 (August 9, 2011)

Studio(s)

IFC Midnight (MPI Home Video)

Review

My other favorite film of 2011 is James Gunn’s little-known darkly-comic film Super, which while turning the superhero genre on its head, also manages to connect with a touching and funny tale about a loser who’s on the road to change and self-discovery.

Super tells the story of Frank (Rainn Wilson) and his recovering drug addict girlfriend Libby (Liv Tyler).  After her kidnapping by a wayward drug dealer (Kevin Bacon), it’s up to him to get her back.  Inspired by the bible-based superhero he sees on TV (Nathan Fillion) and with the assistance of his newfound sidekick Boltie (Ellen Page), he becomes the Crimson Bolt, and sets out to both save his girlfriend and to tell crime to shut up.

When most people heard this synopsis, they wrote it off as nothing more than a Kick-Ass clone.  I’m not blind and I can certainly see the comparison on the most basic of levels, but Super is a much more engaging, thought-provoking and less formulaic effort than its so-called predecessor.  It contains its fair share of gratuitous violence, but at the same time makes you feel almost guilty for enjoying it, especially in the third act of the film.  There’s an enormous amount of pathos for the lead character and you feel real sympathy for him.  It isn’t about having fun by going out and fighting crime, but instead it’s about helping someone else and getting himself out of the hole that he’s dug for himself in his life.  As the film goes on, you also question his sanity but continue to follow him anyway.  If I had to make a comparison then it would be to Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, at least on a character level (a controversial comparison, I’m sure).  Overall, Super is a fantastic character study that manages to maintain a consistent tone all the way to the end.  Everyone gives fantastic performances, the soundtrack is great and the story leads to a satisfying and heartfelt conclusion.

As for Super’s A/V quality, it’s quite outstanding.  Shot at 4K resolution with Red One cameras, it’s an extremely healthy picture on display with an enormous amount of picture detail.  As for the transfer to Blu-ray, there are no signs of digital manipulation anywhere to be found.  There are a few instances of softness, particularly in the scenes much later in the film, but they probably stem from the original photography and not the transfer itself.  While the color palette is slightly muted to give it a lived-in quality, shades pertaining to things like the superhero costumes (reds, greens and yellows) burst with deep color.  Because this is a digital-to-digital transfer, there’s a lack of grain texture but the clarity more than makes up for it.  To say the least, the presentation is flawless and to my eyes is a perfect transfer.  The audio track included is an English 5.1 DTS-HD track (not a Dolby Digital 5.1 track, as is advertised on the cover art).  It also boosts a high level of clarity.  Everything from LFE moments to simple background ambience or to just simply clear and distinguishable dialogue are present.  The bullets really whiz by back and forth and you can really feel the impact of the violence when it kicks in.  I wouldn’t say that it’s a terrific surround experience, as the sound does tend to hover around the front speakers during most scenes, but when the surround moments do kick in, they’re very impressive.  It’s not a film that demands much rear speaker attention really, but what’s presented is a great soundtrack and should leave little to complain about.  There are also subtitles in English SDH and Spanish.

The extras that have been included are certainly decent for this seemingly low-key release.  There’s an audio commentary by director James Gunn and Rainn Wilson, a Behind the Scenes featurette, The Making of the Main Titles featurette, the How to Fight Crime at SXSW featurette, a deleted scene, the theatrical trailer, and finally, a TV spot.  These extras aren’t a gold mine but there are some good nuggets to be sifted out. The How to Fight Crime at SXSW is probably the best featurette included and the audio commentary is both entertaining and informative.  I’m sure this isn’t the last we’ll be seeing of this film on home video, and I’m also sure that plenty of additional material can be culled for a special edition release sometime down the road.

In closing, I can safely say that if there’s one thing 2011 certainly gave us it was a lack of interesting and entertaining films with any sort of aesthetic or artistic value (at least in my opinion).  Even the summer blockbusters busted.  Thankfully, there were enough smaller films with enough merit that were actually worth seeing.  Just referring to Super as a mere superhero movie is too much of an oversimplification.  It’s certainly not for everyone, as the violence can be pretty brutal, and the film can just be flat out weird at times.  However, if you’re in the mood for something that’s well made and has something to say, then you’ll appreciate Super.

Tim Salmons

 

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