Super (2010): A Critique of Vigilantism



James Gunn is great. After watching “Guardians of the Galaxy” and the celebration of super heroes and vigilantes it is great to see such an excellent critique of vigilantes…not quite “Watchmen” level critique, but still a pretty amazing deconstruction.

“Super” is directed by James Gunn as well as written by James Gunn. The film was produced by Ted Hope and Miranda Bailey.

The story is about Frank (Rainn Wilson) who is a character with mental issues who becomes a vigilante calling himself the Crimson Bolt after his wife gets involved with a drug dealer Jacques (Kevin Bacon) he becomes a vigilante after a vision of the Finger of God touching him and the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion) telling him he is chosen to be the hero, along the way he picks up Libby (Ellen Page) who works at the comic book store and becomes his sidekick Boltie. From here the story unfolds.

Here is the assessment of the film:

The Pros: The cinematography – James Gunn knows how to capture a scene. There are beautiful visuals in this. From the comic sans words of POW during certain violent fight scenes, to the picturesque image at the end…the film is beautiful to look at.

Music – Much like “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Super” has an amazing soundtrack. The songs and music are catchy and bring a raw energy to the film. Tyler Bates did an amazing job with it.

Abe – Michael Rooker is one of the guys that Gunn uses in a lot of his films. He was Star-Lord’s adopted mercenary Father in “Guardians of the Galaxy,” and here he is Abe, Jacques head bodyguard. He’s always eating sweets and even though he’s a thug he has some tender moments, you wonder why he’s doing the job in the end as he appears conflicted in quite a few scenes.

Sarah – Liv Tyler plays the wife of Frank and she is the one who the movie is really about. She is the “Chosen One” that Frank believes God called as she starts a family and moves on after all the events of being pimped out by Jacques, she moves on fully…both from her relationship with Frank and how tied down she was by the past. Her story is beautiful. Her family gives Frank meaning beyond the vigilantism that he grows past.

Jacques – Kevin Bacon makes a great bad guy. I’d like to see him play more villains after this. He’s a drug dealer and pimp who emotionally manipulates Sarah and tries out new drugs on her. He is also presented as smooth, suave and comes off as one of the normal characters. He is the one who calls out Frank on his Crimson Bolt persona and how he’s crazy…which he’s right. Frank took the black and white world to the extreme, which I’ll go into later.

Libby / Boltie – Ellen Page is nuts. When she is killing or beating up people she laughs maniacally. She is also the one who critiques Frank as she beats up someone who may have keyed someone’s car. Her death by Jacques’s thugs shows Frank the cost of what he is doing and how there could have been another way, as Libby would still be alive. She also has one of the darker scenes in this as as rapes Frank as the Crimson Bolt…

Frank / The Crimson Bolt – The protagonist isn’t all there. He watches tentacle porn and that is how God touches his brain making him believe he was the Chosen One to enforce the rules when The Holy Avenger speaks to him. He sees people as literal demons and acts on it. This leads to him taking out some bad people, but also a lot of innocents as people who but in line are also targets to be abused. He does eventually grow past his identity, largely because Libby shows him how he’s taken it too far. The Super Hero persona consumes her identity to the point where she thinks Frank will consent to sex if she makes him the Crimson Bolt, much like he thinks what he does is right if it is in the form of the Crimson Bolt. In the end he find his reasons to live and you get that he may have fully registered the amount of damage that was done to psyche when he went on the rampage to save Sarah, as well as the actions he’d done prior as the Crimson Bolt. For him it was worth it because Sarah was able to move on finally though, that was what helped him grow beyond his own reasons for taking the identity in the first place.

Deconstruction of Super Heroes – This movie does a great job deconstructing vigilantes and the super hero genre. Frank is really violent, even though he doesn’t kill, and he never seeks outside help which leads to his kid sidekick Libby getting killed. It can do good, which is recognized but to do it in the first place you have to have some mental issues for the world to be in such clear good and evil terms. Frank does…from his visions of the Holy Avenger and people as demons, to his targeting all people who are jerks or disobey the rules. For him everything is so stark and it has taken a tole on his psyche.

The Ending – Sarah’s kids send him pictures and he buys the bunny he’d been thinking about at the beginning of the film. What we see at the end is a man trying to move on who is grateful that he was able to help another move on and may be able to finally let himself move on too in the process. One of the best visuals in the film.

Cons: The Rape of Frank – This didn’t need to happen for Frank to wake up. It isn’t shown as positive thankfully, but there could have been another way for Frank to realize what he’d become. That his violence on others was similar to what had been done to him and how his identity allowed him to mask himself from responsibility.

Libby’s motivation – I wish we’d gotten more of Libby’s backstory. The reasons why she is the way she is and super violent are never explored…which I wish we could have got. She’s a fascinating character and Ellen Page does a great job in this role.

Would I recommend this movie? For sure, it is a great deconstruction and all the actors do an amazing job. James Gunn also shows why he was chosen to direct “Guardians of the Galaxy.” Can’t wait to see more of his work that he does later and has made it big…I also can’t wait to look back at more of his work.

Final Score is 9 / 10. Another favorite.

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