TIFF Movie Review: James Gunn's Super

I was one of the many who really loved James Gunn's Slither, and have been highly looking forward to his follow-up. Super premiered on Friday night as part of the Midnight Madness line-up of the Toronto International Film Festival.

The film stars Rainn Wilson as a man who decides to become a super hero after a series of events which include his wife (played by Liv Tyler) leaving him, literally being touched by the finger of God in a dream, and seeing a morally-preachy superhero named the Holy Avenger (played by Nathan Fillion) on catholic television. Ellen Page, who usually plays the know–it-all smart ass, has a wonderful turn as a annoying know-nothing immature vulgar comic book clerk who helps Wilson "research" and later begs to become his kid sidekick.

Gunn said in the intro that the film cost very little and everyone involved worked for almost nothing — and it shows. The movie looks and feels like a weird mixture of a feature length SNL digital short, Kick-Ass and a Troma Film (in fact Troma creator Lloyd Kaufman even has a cameo in the movie).

There are moments of brilliance, surrounds by moments of bad sketch comedy. The highlight of the film for me is Ellen Page, who is just hilarious as the psychotic sidekick who is just looking to fight crime (even where/when it might not exist). Super also has some good character-based emotional moments which I'd better expect in a Jason Reitman film, but feel a bit out of place and unearned in this movie.

The gore and special effects are top notch. I felt like the film really works best when it focuses on the more R-rated politically incorrect vulgarity-laced humor. Gunn inserts comic book-styled BLAM, POW, and SPLAT explosions on screen, which look more Batman: The old television series than Scott Pilgrim. I'm not sure what he was going for in these moments, but whatever it was just didn't work.

I wish I liked this movie more than I did (that's not to say I didn't like it...). Comic Book and Rainn Wilson fans will definitely want to check out this movie, although I feel it ranks closer to The Defendor than Kick-Ass on the spectrum of cinematic costumed vigilantes.

/Film Rating: 7 out of 10

I recorded a video blog with Alex from FirstShowing and Steve from Collider. Watch the video blog reaction below (and yes, Jason Reitman makes a very brief cameo appearance):