Why I think the under appreciated “Super” (2010) is now one of my favorite movies.
(Warning: Spoilers and a long in-depth interpretation of the movie’s themes ahead)
Finally caught up to this movie on the Netflix queue and I’m glad i did. It was a very polarizing movie at parts, was over the top, had unconventional dark humor, displayed realistic but gory violence showing the real nature and pain of death, it wasn’t a feel good movie but had silly and humorous that made you think otherwise: I can see exactly why it wasn’t well marketed or appreciated by critics and the general public when it hit theaters. What I didn’t like at first was how the character sense of purpose was religious, but showing how it was mockingly silly gave it an extra layer of editorial on religious-driven purpose. I appreciate tragic character melodrama, but I like how it had the characters humorous while knowing exactly what they are as people.
After much contemplation with developing what I got from it I liked the story and themes that I removed from James Gunn’s film (maybe its my habit of deconstructing and creating meanings that I picked up during film school). I think I wasn’t fully satisfied by it until I spent a couple of minutes really thinking about it after the last shots of the film and how it overlayed the overarching themes of happiness, boredom, desires, and choosing to save someone before you saved yourself.
From what I took from the film was Frank (Rainn Wilson) aka Crimson Bolt’s acceptance of his life of disappointment and his willingness to give up happiness in order to save someone before himself.
The whole movie has each of the characters becoming bored with their situations and trying to latch on to the people who can fulfill the “boring parts in between the panels.”
Even though the right thing to do was to save his wife Sarah (Liv Tyler), she ends up leaving him in the end because she never really appreciated him and only began to love him because she saw him as her way of being saved from her drug fueled ways. Sarah’s sense of obligation from being saved by Frank was the only thing that kept them together. Frank believes that by doing so she can save him in return but Sarah ends up having the happy ending, but alas it isn’t with him.
Frank meets with the police detective when his wife disappears and he assumes she left him saying, “Listen, pal, sometimes you just got to accept these things. Sometimes the best thing you can do to forget about someone you care about is to fill the void with someone you don’t quite so much.” Its a sad look on relationships, but it becomes the decision for a lot of people we know in real life to settle and be happy with what you have.
Otherwise some people have outlooks on relationships much like the protagonist Jacques (Kevin Bacon) who says, “she loved me more because I am fucking interesting.” We could see that even though Jacques would pawn her off in order to further his business, she cared for him up to the end as he could fuel her addictions. Though we know they aren’t healthy to our well-being, our dark sides are always apart of us.
In turn the person who really appreciated him was his sidekick Libby aka Boltie (Ellen Page). She felt like a representation of the insanity of being in love (much like a fan of a comic book or pop culture can be) thus her character was fun but mentally unstable.
Frank and Crimson Bolt represented the life of a superhero and she was in love with the notion that he/they can bring that to her. Even as Frank comes into her home disheveled and wounded during her party, she gets rid of her friends and even boyfriend at her party because she cared about keeping his interesting life a part of hers.
After their first adventure came the defining moment where she saw Frank as a person that was interesting, excited her, and fulfilled her life. Attracted to that she wanted to kiss him, and he immediately shoots her advances to reminds her he’s married and should to celebrate a different way (“bake a cake!”).
Libby becomes a rejected and underappreciated by her superhero peer and damaged people as such force themselves to be addicted to what can satisfy their needs to be happy (a parallel to Sarah being a drug addict), and falls in a deranged obsession with Frank’s Crimson Bolt role, but because he had his duty to Sarah as a husband and hero they couldn’t have more than that. Eventually, as a human-being that cannot suppress extreme actions and desires, she forces things to get what she wants- She convinces Frank tagt he needs a sidekick to make her own life interesting (only he realizes he needs her after she saves him). She tries to get revenge to the point of almost murdering someone who didn’t really deserve it or may not have done anything, but only attacking the guy because she had the power to. She defiles the purity of their relationship beyond figurative terms by forcing herself upon him physically (rape) as well. Though she genuinely cares about Frank from the beginning when he wasn’t so special, but she soon unexpectedly pays for acting upon those desires.
Being a person who likes happy endings I hated that Libby’s character was killed and it wasnt explained what happened to her body, but in retrospect as a person who likes the language of film I felt her death was needed and respected in favor of symbolism; It conveyed her punishment for tarnishing her duty as a sidekick of justice and as a human being who cannot control desires. Because Libby pays the ultimate price for doing evil in the side of good however, she also fulfills the role of Frank’s realization of lost love and purposeful happiness for the end of the movie.
The defining moment was how Frank described to Libby the romanticized life of living a comic book in describing life between panels. It was anything but boring, it was purposeful, interesting and exciting.
in the end, Frank comes to terms of leading a life of continuous disappointment in his monologue upon the focus of last shots of the film: his happy moment drawing of Libby leading him to tears. Frank finally realizes that to her, he was the person who can make the expected boring life “in between the panels” beyond exciting (in other words ‘super’).