Super is not a comedy. It's not a black comedy. It's a dark, violent tragedy with occasional wry moments. And it's not for everyone.
When we're introduced to Frank D'Arbo, impeccably played by Rainn Wilson, we sense something is off. Frank is an impressionable, simple schlub who grew up a punching bag and laughing stock. His childlike drawings reveal his two moments of glory: getting married to his wife and the time he pointed out to a policeman which way a criminal had fled. When his wife mentions that the hands in his drawings are too big, he dutifully gets the White-out and corrects them.
Rather than seeing his wife's sudden departure as just him being dumped, he entertains the idea that she had been kidnapped and that she happened to take all of her belongings with her. His wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), is a recovering alcoholic who met Frank at the greasy spoon where he flips burgers. Flashbacks depict her need to get to an AA meeting and Frank's dependability earning him a place in her heart and eventually their marriage. She is shown to be at a weak point in her life and in need of being saved. Frank is her knight in shining armor. The themes of will and savior is a recurring one. As fate would have it, she has run off with a devilish snake of a man (Kevin Bacon) who drags her back into a life of hell.
Inspiration comes to him when, scanning the TV, he stops on a children's Christian program. The cheesy production with its Christ-like superhero strikes a chord with Frank. In a later delirious scene, Frank is literally touched (on the brain) by the tiniest tip of God's finger. All of this eventually leads him to a comic book store to research superheroes and introduces, behind its counter, Libby (Ellen Page). At first appearing immature and dorky, Libby grows in vindictiveness, unpredictability and volatility.
Instead of shining armor, a deep red Lycra padded bodysuit is designed by Frank and the Crimson Bolt is born. Superheroes have superpowers but being a regular guy, Frank decides a monkey wrench will do and with that, he throws a monkey wrench into the works of crime. But his desire to mete out justice becomes muddied with his own desires for vengeance and to right wrongs of his past. Violence breeds violence and continues to escalate throughout in graphic detail.
Libby soon discovers his identity and begs to become his sidekick, named Boltie, after first ruling out The Creeping Bam. Her craving to be part of a crime-fighting team betrays some father/protector issues and leads to an odd and unsatisfying sex scene. The Crimson Bolt does not approve, and besides, he's still married. Boltie's blood lust is even more wild and it becomes evident that both are mentally unwell.
The danger of simple views and taking judgment into one's own hands is explored by comparing vigilantism with religious zealotry. Wisely, director James Gunn does not disparage Christianity outright but invites us into Frank's conflicted interpretation of his visions. Is this God speaking or just my own interpretation of what I think God is saying? Frank can sense that there is an inherent disconnect there.
Typical superhero movies shuttle the viewer down a familiar path where the hero is plainly contrasted with the villain and make no demands other than to enjoy or endure the spectacle. Super is not a typical superhero movie however, and it requires the viewer not only to think, but to continually reassess our view of the "hero" with each successive scene. The black and white of evil versus good becomes a gloomy gray in Super and it's a challenge to discern between the two, as it is in real life.
Finally, Frank's actions only receive judgment and punishment by fate (or God). His actions that rescued his wife have repercussions and the chain of events that occur by her being saved also have an effect on others. Frank is left to reflect on his actions. There are many perfect moments in his life now that are depicted in his drawings and they cover his walls -- drawn to a tearful end, a lonely yet interconnected life.
The road movie, Motorama, scripted by Joseph Minion (After Hours), is a symbolic journey through life. Our guide (and symbolic substitute) is ten-year-old Gus, played with assured competence by Jordan Christopher Michael. Gus escapes his ugly home life by stealing his dad's candy apple red Mustang and hits the road.
When he comes to a filling station we become aware of the strange and dream-like quality of the movie. A large sign above the gas station exclaims, "Be Ful-filled" and its attendant is Phil. Phil is flying a kite (tied off to a ceramic deer) while waiting to fill up cars that pull in. On the kite Phil has taped a photograph of him shaking hands with the local law officer and explains that he wants Him to see it up there, but fears that his kite string isn't long enough to get Him to see it.
It becomes evident that he is referring to God and that this movie isn't like many others. It also becomes evident that this will be an allegorical movie and being such, requires a reading as one interprets their dreams.
After learning about an old game called Motorama and that the grand prize is 500 million dollars, Gus desires to play and collect all of the Motorama cards. But when the law officer drives up to the station, Gus takes advantage of the distraction and steals a box of Motorama cards. This sends him on a symbolic road to hell and much of the rest of the film shows various stages and hellish encounters which test him in classical mythic tradition. We see the law officer as the Law and the cards compulsively collected as Desire, once eagerly sought after, become negligible once familiar.
There are many great cameo appearances by cult actors and actresses that film buffs will appreciate. The tone of Motorama bounces between dark, serious and whimsical camp (Jack Nance has an amusing part), but this is not a kid's movie. It grows episodic as Gus drives from filling station to filling station and meets various characters, but if you're interested in movies that aren't restricted by the usual Hollywood representation of 'reality' then you will enjoy the ride. We don't ask our dreams to be realistic, yet some reviewers of this film apparently assume that movies act real. For me, it's right up my alley. In the end we return to the point where Gus had a choice to make and his choice to become fulfilled.
Life of Pi is a symbolic spiritual journey similar in kind to the mythic stories of Hinduism that use allegory to convey truths about the human condition. Visually masterful and well-told tale requires a reading beyond its surface appearance down to its depths.
Good creature feature is deliberately paced yet climactic final minutes are exceptional. Effects, design are good and for a '50s radioactive mutation exploiter, it's above average. Tim Holt (best known for his role in Treasure of the Sierra Madre) is a solid, stoic military type but shows sensitive side as well. Lovely Audrey Dalton does a believable job as a hard-working widow and single mother. Script written by a woman skillfully provides characters with depth and an interesting story.
Above average El Santo movie has good atmosphere, lighting, and make-up effects but is somewhat lacking in cool music for this era of Santo movies. A good entry for those unfamiliar with the genre. Not a sequel to El Santo contra las Vampiras Mujeres but comes to a similar ending. A translation of the title could be The Vengence of the Vampire Women. Viva El Santo!