So once again we have survived.

Super

tn_superSUPER is the landmark thirty-seventh movie about “what if somebody really tried to be a super hero?” But this one was made by James Gunn, the Troma guy turned SCOOBY DOO screenwriter who got some cred when he wrote the DAWN OF THE DEAD remake and then directed SLITHER. Looks like he’s had trouble getting anything off the ground since then (I guess the suits didn’t go for his take on Pepe Le Pew) so he made this one independently like he used to do, but maybe with some more skills and connections he’s made in the big leagues. For example the bit part of the lady at the pet store is played by Linda Cardellini from E.R., because she was Velma in SCOOBY DOO. (That was weird, I thought that character would come back or something, but no. She’s just a pet store lady.)

Rainn Wilson (HOUSE OF THE ONE THOUSAND CORPSES) plays Frank, a cook at a diner who somehow got married to Liv Tyler, but she got hooked on heroin and left him for a strip club owner/drug dealer named Jock (Kevin Bacon). Frank is kind of a nut and has visions inspired by a “Bibleman” type show on the Christian channel, so he decides to make a super hero costume and “fight crime.” His routine mostly involves sitting behind a dumpster for hours and eventually crushing somebody’s skull with a big wrench.

mp_superIt’s more grounded than KICK ASS, there are no jetpacks or super villains. It’s also nice that they talk about actually existing comic books like Batman, instead of the usual routine of making up a fake comic book that the hero is obsessed with. And for most of the movie they do a good job of showing that although in his mind he’s a super hero in everybody else’s he’s a fuckin psycho who’s going around bashing people over the head. Then they kind of blow it later on when they do the same phony “I think he’s a hero!” / “Well I think he’s a menace!” man-on-the-street-interview montage that’s in 99% of all “real super hero” or DEATH WISH type movies. And by having him fight against actual bad guys who might deserve it.

He goes way overboard in the crime fighting, and the gore is pretty over the top. I think either we as a society or me as a dude are desensitized beyond the point of this “you think it’s gonna be fun, but then it’s so fucked up you feel bad that you wanted to enjoy it” type business being as effective as the filmatists always seem to think it’s gonna be. What are they supposed to be subverting here? Is there anything left in super heroes to subvert? Does it get reverted in between all the subverting in order for it to be resubverted each time?

Although they shoot it handheld on real locations and have very few CGI effects they don’t really give it a naturalistic enough feel to seem all that real. It might pass for a while but then there will be some Troma-esque reaction (a little girl enjoying a gorey attack) or completely forced behavior. I mean I like the idea of him overreacting to line-cutting at the movie theater and hospitalizing two people, but couldn’t they have made them cut the way people actually cut? Nobody just shoves their way into the middle of a neat single file line and tells everybody to fuck off. You’re taking me out of the movie. The little things are important.

And the costume he makes. It’s actually very functional with its hockey-style armor approach, and not too bulky. But then they gotta put a cartoonish wrong-colored patch on the side of his head so you know he did a bad job of sewing it. I feel like the excessiveness of his vigilante justice would be both funnier and more disturbing if there was more subtlety in the other areas.

Which brings me to my biggest problem with the movie. Most people probly wouldn’t agree with me on this, but I think Wilson was the wrong guy for this role. He’s funny as Dwight on The Office and everything, but that type of wild eyed, exaggerated character is not as funny or creepy in this role as it would’ve been if it was a guy who seems reasonable at first glance. From the beginning Wilson is making crazy faces and talking crazy. When he’s running around in the costume he has to do a “funny” run, instead of just doing it how somebody would really do it and letting the foolishness come out naturally. So it’s “look at this lunatic!” when it could’ve been “he seemed like a nice guy, why is he doing this?”

But he kinda looks like Frankenstein’s monster the way he frowns with that mask on. That’s kinda cool.

DEFENDOR is to me probly the most effective of this subgenre of movie, and that’s partly because it plays it straighter. It’s actually a less comedic take on the idea but alot of humor and discomfort comes out of Woody Harrelson seeming like a fairly normal guy doing something absurd. He doesn’t bug his eyes out and say corny things like a parody of a parody of Superman.

On the other hand my favorite part of SUPER is Ellen Page, and she’s not subtle at all. She plays a loopy acquaintance who finds out Frank’s secret and pushes her way into being his sidekick. Her fetish for costumes and her crazed giggling and cursing when she commits or sees violence is a weird combination of hilarious, adorable and unsettling.

Bacon is also good, as always, as the twitchy, sleazy villain. You don’t want to be in your kitchen making eggs and suddenly see that guy at the back door asking if your wife lives there, but that’s what happens. I like that he’s an evil asshole but seems to see Frank as more of an annoyance than a nemesis. Sometimes I get the feeling that he’d rather just convince Frank to leave than actually kill him. In fact, one of my favorite scenes is the first big showdown between Frank and Jock, when Jock threatens to kill Frank if he touches his car one more time. So Frank dramatically pokes the hood with his fingertip, but Jock says “That’s not the kind of touching I meant,” and tries to drive away.

Gregg Henry (of PAYBACK, many Brian De Palma movies, and SLITHER) is also in there, as a police detective who doesn’t want to investigate Frank’s wife’s alleged disappearance. And Michael Rooker as one of Jock’s henchmen. There’s a great moment where, after witnessing a dramatic confrontation between Frank and his boss, he stupidly offers Frank some of his Good ‘n Plenties. So it’s a really good cast, that definitely elevates the material.

And despite my misgivings I’d have to say this is one of the best of this type of movie. MIRAGEMAN has the best action and starts out the best, but gets goofy fast. KICK ASS had some good parts and the great performance by Nic Cage, but annoyed me with its less-real-than-the-serious-super-hero-movies approach to the what-would-really-happen-if-there-were-super-heroes concept. SUPER has plenty of weaknesses as well but keeps a fairly consistent tone and did make me laugh quite a few times. For the most part it doesn’t hammer on its jokes too hard, for example they never really nudge you in the ribs about how ridiculous it is that the masked hero’s symbol is a picture of a mask. Why would you wear that on your chest?

Most importantly, by the end it had me caring enough that it was upsetting to see bad shit happen. I guess that’s kind of an implied spoiler, but just let it hang over you like a dark cloud. This guy is not a charmer, it’s not gonna end with him admitting he’s Iron Man, most likely. Maybe it’s a subversion of the subversion of super heroes? I don’t know.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 10th, 2011 at 1:51 am and is filed under Comic strips/Super heroes, Reviews. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

84 Responses to “Super”

  1. James Gunn spent the last few years with developing some crazy web shorts, like his more-hilarious-than-it-should PG PORN series or his HUMANZEE pilot. I love that guy. I wouldn’t mind seeing him some big budget tentpole movie one day, but if he would spend the rest of his career with doing mostly self-financed low budget films and webshows, I would be happy too.

  2. BTW, you should try to track down Gunn’s previous superhero movie (which he didn’t direct, though) THE SPECIALS, which is a very entertaining entry in the Superheroes-hang-out-and-do-nothing-heroic subgenre. (Is this even a subgenre? I think it has only two entries. THE SPECIALS and the live action series of THE TICK.)

  3. Michael Rooker as henchman #1? Oh, how the mighty have fallen… I hope he at least gets to be the “philosophical” henchman and not the “stoic thug” henchman.

    But I’m tempted by this, if only because Ellen Page (or her agent) thought it was good. Apart from X3, I have yet to see a film Ellen Page is in that I didn’t think was excellent.

  4. yeah, whatever happened to HUMANZEE? wasn’t it supposed to be on Xbox Live or something? after seeing a trailer for it on Aint It Cool it promptly disappeared without a trace

    and I still find it funny that James Gunn wrote Scooby Doo, I like how he snuck a lot of perverted stuff in there like when they switch bodies and Fred as Daphne says “hey, I can look at myself naked!”

    I wouldn’t call Scooby Doo a good movie, but I did like how subversive some of the jokes were

  5. Paul, Rooker is a VERY good friend of James Gunn, so if he shows up in one of his movies as just a henchman, you can be sure that there is a better reason than just “You are not important enough for a bigger role”.

  6. HUMANZEE was actually released on the internet, after the Xbox people thought it was “too controversial”. It might be on YouTube or something. (Or at jamesgunn.com )
    And a while ago James Gunn also stated that the first SCOOBY movie was meant to be a PG-13 parody of the series (the first cut even got an R for one line of dialogue!), but then in the middle of production they decided to tone it down. That also explains why part 2 is less subversive, but also more even in tone.

  7. I remember reading an article in Clint magazine (think it was the first or second issue) about these guys who dress up and “fight crime” as kind of a real-life-superhero neighbourhood watch. They would try to stare down some thugs in a park somewhere, but eventually they’d just back off and go home. Someone should make a documentary about those guys. I’d much rather watch that than another movie struggling to find the line between “real” and entertaining.

    Speaking of Clint magazine, are you still doing a column for them, Vern? I bought the first few issues, but it’s not available in my neck of the woods anymore. Would love to have read your contributions.

  8. SUPER includes my favorite single non-Thai fighter scene of ActionFest. I like climactic vengeance moments that are cathartic on multiple levels, being intensely personal for the character while also giving the whole audience some things to ponder about life & society while also being fucking disturbing & badass, and this scene did all that.

    I don’t like Rainn Wilson. I suffer from action hero movie fatigue. I don’t much like Ellen Paige. So I resisted this movie, but damn if it didn’t end up getting to me by the end.

  9. I’m with Mouth on this one. The ending was among the most legitimately badass climaxes I’ve seen in a cinema in some time. Fitting that it had Kevin Bacon in it because it was up there with DEATH SENTENCE. And I’m no Rainn Wilson fan, but he won me over with his righteously wrathful little speech at the end.

    I’ve mentioned this before, but I fucking loved Ellen Page in this movie. She was a dork and a sex bomb and a psychopath. That’s just not a combo you see every day. I want one.

    DEFENDER was decent, but a little too bland to really be memorable. I gotta give it to SUPER for my favorite in the overcrowded “superheroes in the real world but not really” genre. I think it has the most heart, like it really believes what it’s saying, and that’s what gets it over some sloppy bits in the early going.

  10. I immediately thought of DEFENDOR. Agreed that it was better to play straight the “normal guy being superheroic;” in movies like these that’s more effective because of the real-life consequences.

    The other flick from this subgenre that does it pretty well is SPECIAL, which stars Michael Rapaport. He takes medication which he believes starts giving him superpowers, though it’s totally in his head. Although they fall back on fake superheroes to reference, the crimefighting and other scenes where he exhibits his “powers” are realistic – meaning he gets his ass kicked. And he’s a good actor to play this type of role – doofy, guy on the street, unremarkable.

  11. I don’t know, I found Super to be really hilarious and messed up.

  12. Why does nobody mention SPECIAL? ?!?!?!?!?

  13. I watched it yesterday and was totally on board after that amazing opening credit sequence. I’m not familiar with Rainn Wilson as I don’t watch the office but between his breakdown mid-prayer and the vengeance visited upon the Bacon he really won me over. I really enjoyed Slither when I caught it in theatres and am glad to see Gunn return with another slice of warped stylings.

    I kind of wish Gunn had a hand in that new Evil Dead remake but that’s a little unfair to the director just because I’m not familiar with his work besides the robot short.

  14. The first time I watched this, I just thought it was pretty decent, but something about it kept needling at me, so I watched it again. The second time I watched it, I thought it was fucking brilliant.

  15. I think there’s a lot left to subvert about superheroes. I’d say there’s about 115 pages of subversion left, at least. Maybe in the form of an action screenplay that I may or may not have written and optioned.

  16. 4 months ago I mentioned that parts of SUPER pleasantly reminded me of KISS KISS BANG BANG and YOUTH IN REVOLT.  Fellow commenter marlow said he got the same KKBB vibe from Gunn’s SLITHER, due to the pace of the dialogue and other hard to pinpoint filmatisticalisms, but I haven’t yet seen SLITHER.  

    There’s something about introspective narrators who share too much with the audience, making themselves too pathetic or too self-involved to befriend the audience, but drawing more empathy and making their stories more compelling than they have any right to be.  And I don’t know why Super’s insanity doesn’t keep the same cold distance from me as that maintained by a Travis Bickle.  They’re both crazy, though both are scarily coherent about it (for most of their respective movies).  I can not relate at all to a guy who hears Jesus’s call to fix the world.  I would never tack a motivational phrase over my bedroom door.  I don’t get how a Schrute landed Liv Tyler.  I wouldn’t let Ellen Page rape me; well, maybe I would.  But despite all these obstacles, despite my unwillingness to suspend disbelief, SUPER’s half-dream, half-nightmare, half-shitty reality world becomes more than the sum of its parts for me.  That’s 3 halves, which adds up to an impressive 150% in my opinion.  

    It’s a shame SUPER is just a low-key release at this moment; if it’d been released at a time when it’s not the 37th installment of “regular guy tries to be superhero,” I bet it’d be a surprise hit.  

  17. I like Gunn and I like Rainn Wilson but this didn’t appeal to me. I’ll probably pick it up sometime soon to give it a shot.

    I really did like Defendor, though. It was played pretty straight and I thought Woody was awesome in it. Plus I have the hots for Kat Denning.

  18. “She was a dork and a sex bomb and a psychopath.”

    Majestyk – just come over to Britain and look up some ex-girlfriends of mine.

  19. oh dear God, do we finally have a girl poster on this site?

  20. I might just do that. If your taste in girls is anything like your taste in movies, you no doubt dumped them for some obscure reason that no one else could begin to understand, such as gratuitous use of nunchucks.

    I’m gonna throw an implied smiley face on here because that joke is reading pretty harsh in cold black and white.

  21. I was putting more thought into the James Gunn/Shane Black connection and they share (along with Joss Whedon) the ability to write dialogue that makes everyone seem clever, but not a rocket scientist. Taken too far (and they all have at one point or another) you get Diablo Cody on a bad day, but that type of speech seems to be in their wheelhouse.
    Plus the 3 tend to work in action/sci-fi, so all of them have scripts where people keep the wisecracks flying in the face of crazy circumstances, but for some reason they never become too outlandish themselves (I’m going to put these elements in SUPER more on Rainn Wilson, who still did a good job for 80% of the thing). Then of course things get serious, and people die horribly (KKBB does get harsh there for a couple scenes, and it totally sells).

    In other news: Can someone give me a good reason why Nathan Fillion isn’t the heir apparent to Bruce? I guess making the sexual-tension crime solver show is a step in the right direction, but come on. He is our smart/bad-ass chosen one. Come all ye faithful.

    An actual and honest to God SPOILER:

    Did anyone else just know that Ellen Paige was going to die horribly? For some reason it just seemed inevitable from the second she came on screen.

  22. I loved SUPER, especially Ellen Page just going off the deep end when she’s ranting in the car after hitting the thug with it. It has some really bizarre shit in it (being touched by God, “squishy”, the eggs scene) which is always a bonus in my book, and as previously mentioned, the climax is fucking awesome sauce on toast. It certainly wipes the floor with KICK-ASS.

    Yet DEFENDOR was an out and out classic in my humble opinion. Harrelson’s performance in that is genuinely oscar-worthy; hilarious, heartbreaking, warm and crazy. I have to disagree about his character being “normal” as he was clearly suffering from mental heath/learning disabilities and as such his decision to become a hero is so much less contrived than SUPER or KICK-ASS. I also found the low-key action climax to be utterly thrilling as I cared so much for the fate of the characters and I almost shed a tear at the denouement. The soundtrack is also really good for such a low budget movie, in fact the only real flaw is Kat Dennings is way too hot and busty for a crack whore. If you haven’t seen it I heartily recommend!

  23. We could do with some real life superheroes in London at the moment, shit is KICKING OFF!! I live near Turnpike Lane and haven’t left the house much in three days as work is closed (if it is still standing). Good excuse for a movie marathon or 10 though.

  24. Yeah, dork, sex bomb and psychopath describes a lot of our girls in the UK. I married one.

  25. The dorky and sexbomb parts are awesome, but the psycho part is what makes it so hard to date actresses and chicks you meet at comic conventions.

  26. She’s on the twitter, Griff. Go woo her with your 140 character sweet nothings. You got dibbs.

    She’s apparently a Red Sox fan, so I had to quit cyberstalking her once I learned that. I don’t trust Tiffany.

  27. I don’t have a twitter, but I WAS checking out her photo

    I likey

  28. Guys, maybe the fact that we’re like “Egads! A dame!” is the reason the few ladies we get don’t tend to stick around very long.

    Hi, I’m Mr. Majestyk and I’ll be your Sensitive Internet Guy for the day.

  29. “(Is this even a subgenre? I think it has only two entries. THE SPECIALS and the live action series of THE TICK.)”
    There’s also a british sitcom called NO HEROICS
    http://youtu.be/w3zpMTKvvgk
    “In other news: Can someone give me a good reason why Nathan Fillion isn’t the heir apparent to Bruce? I guess making the sexual-tension crime solver show is a step in the right direction, but come on. He is our smart/bad-ass chosen one. Come all ye faithful.”
    He IS the heir apparent to Bruce. Bruce Campbell. Guy loved by geeks, who’s always entertaining and gets fan-casted for lots of stuff, but never manages to break into the A-list. CASTLE’s the first show he’s starred in that’s not been cancelled before the end of the first season.

  30. SPOILER

    Somehow I neglected to mention that this movie has a scene where the hero has a vision of being molested by tentacles and (if I’m not mistaken) God opening up his skull and rubbing a corn dog on his brain. So obviously that’s another point in its favor.

    I think the eggs scene was probly my favorite weird moment, though. More of a down to earth type of weird. But I’m glad it has both.

  31. I’m thankful for the weird touch of having the sexy babe on the Christian values tv show that keeps getting Super’s attention. That’s a clever way to teach naughty boys about the Bah’-bull. Barely noticed Nathan Fillion there because of her.

  32. Christian tv is supremely fucked up btw

    I mean, putting the Religion aside, it’s just plain fucked up from an objective point of view, ESPECIALLY the kid’s shows

    there’s a website called Everything Is Terrible that has weird and hilarious videos from a variety of stuff, but a good percentage of it is crazy Christian programming

    I have not seen Super yet, bit I’m sure it’s depiction of a Christian superhero is not far off from real Christian tv

  33. That’s Gunn himself playing Satan. At least he knows he’s creepy looking. But he used to be married to Jenna Fischer so he must be doing something right.

  34. Stu: Good point.

    Every time I see Christian TV I do have to fight the urge to give up the starving artist path and use my gift for public presentation to get some of that sweet sweet Jesus money.

  35. It’s kind of stunning how quickly things turn meta these days. It took westerns basically until UNFORGIVEN to turn meta at all, it took Superhero films what, like two years? I guess part of that was that superhero comics turned meta back in the 80s and the films started drawing on that material fairly quickly. Even so, the filmatic language of Superhero films was barely in place before the attempted subversions started. I think that causes them to carry a little less weight.

  36. Mr. Subtlety – I think it also has to do with the very irony saturated and meta times we live in

  37. Subtlety, don’t be a negative nancy about a whole genre after Tawdry just pitched his script. Long* live subversive superhero action filmatism!

    *long enough for Hunter to cash in on it

  38. I think you guys are forgetting that the superhero paradigm was already subverted a long time ago by the Batman TV show, the Flash Gordon movie, and even THE GREATEST AMERICAN HERO, Underdog, etc. For a while there, that was considered the only way to make a comic book project: You made fun of it. Even the Superman films had elements of that viewpoint. It’s an easy form to make fun of because, let’s face it, it’s pretty fucking ridiculous. Nowadays instead of taking the campy route to subversion they’re going the ultraviolent route. But it’s more or less the same thing. The cycle has come around again.

  39. Knox, someone actually did make a documentary about those guys!

    http://www.superheroesthemovie.com/

  40. caruso_stalker217

    August 10th, 2011 at 8:46 pm

    Man, the old Batman show was genius.

  41. I have never heard of DEFENDOR or MIRAGEMAN. Here I thought SUPER and KICK-ASS were the DANTE’S PEAK/VOLCANO of our generation.

    I think maybe Gunn’s point was to have more of an everyman in the role but I agree Wilson made him crazy from the start. I liked the perspective that fighting crime wasn’t just dangerous, it was irresponsible. And it didn’t matter what his costume was (as the theater guy says he saw him change), it’s just a crazy dude with a wrench will freak out any petty street hood.

    But mostly, the ultimate message that something good comes of it, but it’s not free. It costs many other good souls. And I could maybe believe Tyler as his wife, since she’s obviously damaged too and boy, do I recognize her character. I’ve mentioned it before on these boards, but that is a stark, real portrayal of a troubled woman and it’s not romantic at all.

  42. I haven’t seen Super, but the original outline for my script called for the character to escalate his violent escapades based upon the influence of a female sidekick who is sexually aroused by his vigilante actions. Glad I didn’t go that route.

    The head of development at a very prolific and successful film company read the script and gave me very positive notes but said it was too similar to another R-rated revenge movie they had in the works and that they couldn’t do two similarly themed big-budget R-rated revenge films based upon original concepts. He basically said, ‘Go make it into a comic book and come talk to us again.’

    My film is basically a Watchmen style deconstruction of the superhero film subgenre built on the chassis of Taxi Driver. It’s like Travis Bickle as a super hero starring in a Charlie Kaufman movie. Plus, it’s about the beginnings of the Crack epidemic featuring one character based on Gary Webb. And it’s a satire of how everything is a remake, sequel or comic book adaptation. But I promise, all of that ties together…but it’s not ironic. I hated the ironic distance of Kick-Ass. My script is very much emotionally present.

    My producer and I might be doing a comic book version at a creator owned comic company in order to build buzz. We figure even if we can’t get the comic off the ground, a couple of pages of comic art could make make for a good proof of concept pitch package. I wasn’t too hot on turning my deconstruction of comic book movies and remake culture into a comic book…to turn into a movie…but then I realized it was delightfully postmodern. The film has a lot of Network/Robocop style satire coursing through its veins and I think that the meta elements might actually be stronger if presented this way. Plus, I got into the whole design aspect of the comic book since I’m totally gay for using the form to comment on the function.

    I’d really love to see it on the big screen and I think most of you would too. Reading over Vern’s reviews was instrumental in the development of the concept. Hell, I’ve even used Vernisms in notes I’ve given to other (pro) writers and in a few meetings: badass juxtaposition, a just how badass is he? moment. Stuff like that.

    I have a bunch of cool stuff in the offing right now. I might be getting a Mamet regular and a star of a popular Vern approved tv show to star in a dark comedy short (And I don’t have to put up any money for it! Sweet!) So, I might have a bunch of really nifty stuff to share with ya’ll soon.

  43. I liked Super a lot, can’t believe so many critics were confused about the tone. It’s just a really dark comedy. I still prefer Kick-Ass though.

    On another note, has anyone seen Tactical Force with Steve Austin and MJW yet? Anyone realize it’s a goddamn comedy? I’m not kidding, I saw it the other day and it’s like a very late, very bad sequel to Loaded Weapon. There’s a fight between MJW and Darren Shahlavi, who he also fought in the recent Mortal Kombat webseries. That was much better though, which tells you everything you need to know about the quality of this one.

  44. Yeah, I’ve been convinced that Tactical Force would be terrible ever since it was announced, convinced by the director’s previous movie, Bad Ass. Note the space between the words Bad and Ass. I think it’s a truth-in-advertisement thing because while the movie was bad and it was ass, it was definitely not badass.

  45. Ok Vern now you really have to complete the set and watch ZEBRAMAN.

    It has some of the same shit you (and I) liked about DEFENDOR plus it has cool Japanese gangsters and stuff. Plus the guy’s a family man instead of some creepy forever alone pervert.

    And instead of the hero being obsessed with a comic he’s obsessed with a crappy ’70s Power Rangers type TV show.

  46. Another thing – how come in the movies you can meet a cute girl whos unique sexual perversion exactly matches your own non-sexual antisocial quirks (SUPER, BAD SANTA) without even going on Craigslist?

  47. Tawdry Hepburn -that sounds absolutly awesome, I’m wishing you the best of luck

    can I direct?

  48. Mr. Majestyk – I absolutely agree that the old Adam West Batman series and film were a campy deconstruction of superheroes. I remember watching a couple of episodes when I was a kid and thinking they were pretty lame. Then, on a lark, I watched the Adam West Batman Movie in high school and I though the thing was hilarious. I had to grow up in order to appreciate a kiddie show.

    Even some of the big tentpole superhero pictures of the last decade have used a good helping of camp. Sam Raimi’s Spiderman films have a perfect balance of self-reflexive humor and characters who you actually care about. Even in today’s comic books, writers have fully embraced the hokey elements from the 60s. This is probably why today a film deconstructing comic books just seems unnecessary. This genre was probably more relevant in the 80s and 90s when there was a trend toward grittier and darker superheroes. Watchmen could not have been written in today’s environment and have the same kind of impact it did in the 80s.

  49. Eddie – I just looked up Bad Ass on imdb and it does sound horrible. It makes me wonder why MJW would ever star in something like Tactical Force, especially after being in great things recently such as Blood And Bone and Black Dynamite. I guess he doesn’t have the luxury to wait around for good projects and has to do crap like this every once in a while in order to keep working.

    I’m really looking forward to Vern’s review of it though, shitty film or not, it should make for a great review!

  50. **He basically said, ‘Go make it into a comic book and come talk to us again.’  . . . 
    My producer and I might be doing a comic book version at a creator owned comic company in order to build buzz.**

    Now, Tawdry, you’re borrowing more from Vern than just his terminology: 

    **MARSUPERMAN is a groundbreaking new idea that is also familiar and comfortable as well as visionary. It will have the widest possible appeal of anything that there is. You could whip up like a comic strip version and then on the trailer it says based on the graphic novel. This is what audiences demand. **  

  51. Remember when you could just make a movie out of a script?

  52. yeah, it’s pretty crazy that evidently Hollywood doesn’t want to make a movie these days unless it’s based on something else

  53. Mr. Subtlety — hopefully this won’t come off as pedantic, but UNFORGIVEN was far from the first “meta” Western — which is interesting to me, because I think while we think of ourselves as a culture that’s in a particularly “meta” moment, when you go back to the roots of many genres and formats, you see artists self-consciously playing with familiar codes and tropes really early, sometimes right out of the gate. With the Western, there were the whole 60s-era “revisionist” westerns, from the spaghetti westerns to Peckinpah’s streak, which tried to recalibrate the moral universe of the Western to the Vietnam War. You could even follow the specific “meta” concept of “what if somebody tried to take this fictional genre seriously, and act it out in the ‘real world'” and trace it back to at least 1962 and “Lonely Are the Brave,” with Kirk Douglas as a modern-day cowboy whose personal values don’t match up with the contemporary society around him (I don’t think he has a vision of God rubbing a corn dog on his brain, though).

    I’m no expert on the Western, but the critic Tag Gallagher has an essay on the Western that traces “meta” elements back to the teens and 20s (haven’t read it myself, but that’s my understanding). “The Terror of Tiny Town,” the all-“little people” Western (you know, cowboys walking into a saloon by going under the swinging doors, har har), has to be some flavor of “meta,” if not a very good one — that’s 1938.

    Cervantes more or less invented the novel, and “Don Quixote” is arguably a “metafictional” novel. I’ve always been surprised and delighted to see things like Keaton’s early silent shorts playing with film editing and framing, and audience expectations, in very sharp and deliberate ways. It’s surprising but it also makes sense — if you’re inventing a genre or a formal language, of course you’re going to be aware of the nuts and bolts (technically and thematically) that are holding it together. And you’re going to be tempted to tweak them.

    Which is not to say that current culture hasn’t kind of “meta-metastasized.” But the tendency to tweak, subvert, and otherwise make pretzels out of genres goes way back.

  54. Tawdry, you should definitely use the word “Rise” in the title. Market research shows it’s very popular.

  55. Here is some trivia for everyone: The Kevin Bacon role in this film was written with Van Damme in mind, but he turned it down. That is why the character has a french name.

  56. isn’t The Tale of Genji the first novel?

  57. Actually, Pamela is the first novel, arguably. However, that was a picaresque novel, meaning it was made up of letters sent back and forth between two characters. Palahunuik used this in Diary, I think. C.S. Lewis used it in The Screwtape Letters. It’s an early form of the novel that is more close to a one person show than to a play.

    By the by, Pamela is about a housemaid who is raped by her employer. But then he falls in love with her and marries her, so the rape doesn’t matter anymore.

  58. Something they could subvert is female superheroes. There’s a comedy superhero comic called EMPOWERED about a long suffering superheroine who deals with her asshole co-workers, her insecurities about her appearance, her status, her relationships and how she’s thought of as a joke because she has a tendency to be rendered helpless and tied up by the villains. It satires various aspects of superheroes like the sexualised outfits, villain motivations(her boyfriend is an ex-minion and her best friend is a freelance ninja for hire from New Jersey, and she gets advice from a Doctor Doom-speechifying cosmic villain trapped in a special device on her coffee table) and superhero culture. Though I don’t think it’d work as a film. It’s so ingrained in comic book type world it’d be better as an animated series. But that’s a little moot anyway as they still need to actually MAKE more Superheroine movies in general. Wonder Woman’s been in development hell and the new TV show never took off. It’s thought Black Widow will “probably” get a spinoff at sometime too, but apart from that, it’s all pretty sparse for the chicks with powers outside of Team-based movies.

  59. Chris — You’re absolutely correct, although I would point out that there’s a difference between a film which is aware of its genre subversions (you could make a case for everything from HIGH NOON to THE SEARCHERS to BLAZING SADDLES) and a film which is a deliberate postmodern commentary on genre. If we look at a different genre, horror, you can certainly find extremely early examples of a meta perspective in parodies (the Laurel and Hardy Monster movies, for example) which draw humor from genre subversion, but really have to go almost up to SCREAM before the focus becomes actual postmodern deconstruction.

    Films like UNFORGIVEN, SCREAM, and SUPER don’t just use their knowledge of the form to subvert audience expectation, they exist at least some level as a specific commentary on that form and its intrinsic meanings. Most subgenres had been around cinematically for quite awhile before this kind of overt postmodern commentary started to become commonplace; modern superhero films and their meta counterparts appeared within a few years of each other.

    Mr M — I’d say the switch from campy superhero parodies to ultraviolent ones probably reflects the shift in the comics themselves towards grim, self-consciously serious narratives. Which in itself was probably a reaction to the absurdities laid out by the previous generation of parodies. How fuckin meta is that? The only thing left is a parody of the ultraviolent postmodern commentaries. Let’s pool our money and make that film and then just put a lid on the era and forget this whole unfortunate postmodern thing ever happened.

  60. A while ago I had an idea for a story about a female supervillain, who one night managed to finally kill her arch nemesis and while celebrating her victory, fucked one of her henchmen. Unfortunately she got knocked up that night, but for any reason decided to keep the child and retire from the supervillain business to raise it. Years later the henchman, who is now a supervillain himself, finds out that he has a kid and naps it (pun alert!), which causes the mother to go on a violent killing spree to get it back.

    You could say that it’s subverting the whole black and white thinking in the superhero genre, because there is no hero, since he gets killed right in the beginning by the villainess and her motivation in the main part of the story is that she just wants to protect her child, but to be honest, I just thought a story of a superpowered and seriously angry mother without moral restrictions, who tries to get her child back, would be fun.
    (I hope the movie stars Kate Winslet and Nicolas Cage. Oh wait, I have to write a script first and turn it into a comic book. Nothing of this will ever happen.)

  61. this is off topic (because no one ever posts in the potpourri anymore), but is anyone else excited for A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas?

    I love the Harold and Kumar movies, they are some of my favorite comedies of recent years, they have all the ingredients I like in a comedy, memorable, likable characters, larger than life situations and of course nudity (I can’t wait to see them try to top the bottomless pool party, especially since it’ll be in 3D)

    I also dig the social and political satire, especially in the second one, I like to think of that movie as capping off the whole Bush era (hey wait a minute, was them showing a lot bush supposed to be some clever joke?)

  62. I’m totally gay for postmodernism. But I’d be totally down with killing postmodernism, if only because that’s just about the most postmodern thing of which I can think. And, in an even more postmodern twist, I didn’t even think of it!

    Seriously though, I don’t get how you can dig hip-hop but hate postmodernism. The entire genre of rap is predicated upon postmodernism, both in the use of loops and samples and in the content of the songs, which are steeped in intertextuality and structured so that the storyteller is the story as much as the narrative.

    I could get all into the fabula and the syuzhet, but I don’t really think any of ya’ll really wanna use Russian Formalism terms to discuss Biggie Smalls.

  63. Also CJ,

    that is an excellent premise. Seriously. It made my brain bubble for a minute. I know something’s good when I think, “Man, I wanna steal that.” And I definitely considered stealing your idea for about 15 seconds. I won’t for the record. I wanna steal that, is more an emotion of, ‘Damn, I wish I thought of that first’.

  64. CJ-I like that idea, even if it does sound a little like KILL BILL with superpowers. WANTED was a missed opportunity for subversion, as the source material was actually a superhero thing because rather than a group of assassin’s supposedly working for “fate”, the secret society was actually supervillains who had beat the heroes years ago and taken over the world without it knowing. The main character embraces the life wholeheartedly and does really terrible things in his training alone, and the big threat of the story is merely a Joker analogue trying to stage a coup. At least with that everything the characters did would be logical from their moral standing, unlike the film where they just come across as hypocrites who think their serving some greater good with slaughter.

  65. Thanks for liking my idea. Maybe I should really write it down one day in one form or another, but after spending too many years with writing scripts and stories that got good reviews, but nothing more than that*, I don’t bother with chasing my dreams anymore.
    And as far as I have imagined the story (bothering with my dreams or not: Once a story gets in my head, I start to build it in my head) it wouldn’t have anything to do with Kill Bill, except for its “mother on a killing spree” premise.

    *In 2001 I was pretty close to direct my first movie, which would have been an Kevin Smith-ish (although MUCH more surreal) low budget comedy about a day in school, but shit didn’t work out. Damn you, German film industry.

  66. And about Harold & Kumar: I never watched one of their movies. To make the first one “more attractive” over here, the protagonists were dubbed by two comedians, who absolutely didn’t fit the part, so that prevented me from watching it on TV whenever it is on. I never got around to rent the DVD and watch it in English either, but maybe one day I will.

  67. I’ve only seen the first H&K, but I did enjoy it a lot. I was put off seeing the second one because it looked a lot more cartoony than the first, though maybe I was wrong.

  68. Stu – if you liked the first definitely check out the second

  69. The Sophisticated Panda

    August 11th, 2011 at 2:51 pm

    I was forced to see Scooby Doo at one point (a family thing) and I don’t remember it having any more subversive jokes in it than the original cartoon series did. Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Daphne outfit was the high point for me.

    I appreciated a lot of Super’s intricacies but agree with Vern completely about the casting of Rainn: It is more effective to see a normal-seeming dude do weird stuff than a very weird-seeming dude do weird stuff.

    But I’m not really sure what the point of some of Gunn’s jokes were, other than to be random and subversive for subversive’s sake. I think the sheer number of times he mentions rape and rape jokes during his publicity junkets is a little off-putting. But does that really pass for subversive these days? I remember reading this annoying interview with him on AICN (are there any other kind on AICN?) and thinking that he was just . . . lame.

    http://www.aintitcool.com/node/49133

    Uh oh, you know James Gunn is being subversive because his “publicist is making faces at him”!

  70. unfortunately The Sophisticated Panda, rape jokes is what passes for subversive in this day and age

  71. Screw Daphne. Team Velma!

  72. Watching Super now. Not terribly impressed. Ellen Page is way over the top. I really like her, but she’s not good in this at all. The line cutting scene is the first thing I’ve seen that made me laugh. Well, the corndog scene, I guess.

    Also, the black waitress is eminently desirable. I would much rather watch a movie about her. Too bad they gave her a pointless southern spoonerism in a movie that is clearly not set in the south.

  73. Also, why is Tyler Bates so popular for scoring movies. I’ve never heard a memorable score from him. They’re always just pointless, atonal guitar plucks, like some shitty postrock band you’d heard opening for The Album Leaf.

  74. Tawdry: 1.) Hell yeah about Velma vs Daphne! Curvy nerd girls in skimpy skirts and knee highs are the hottest kind of women, if you ask me.
    2.) Tyler Bates gets a free pass from me for some of the melodies that he did for Gunn’s PG PORN series. I would love to have a soundtrack of this.

  75. Sophisticated Panda, the AICN interviewer brought up rape. Gunn just went with it.

  76. You guys were talking about making an idea into a comic first just to better sell it as a movie (MARSUPERMAN), I recently read some shit that suggests someone recently had a good bit of success doing just that, after a long time of trying it.

    http://www.bleedingcool.com/2010/11/20/the-great-cowboys-aliens-scam-has-unexpected-result/

  77. So, I re-read my first outline for my aforementioned script. It’s shocking how many elements are similar to Super. I think that’s why Super pissed me off so much. It’s very similar to the story I would have told at 20-ish. But I didn’t quite know how to tell a story at 20 and I was far too eager to shock. Fortunately, I had a mentor who prodded me into making a version of the story that digs a lot deeper.

    *Says the high and mighty unproduced writer with no agent, management or immediate film employment opportunities*

  78. So I finally got a chance to watch it and I gotta admit that this is without a doubt my favourite movie of the year so far. I love that this isn’t supposed to be a smartass comment on superheroes and/or their real life possibilities, but instead “just” a story of a guy who snaps and thinks God wants him to bash people’s head in. But instead of turning this pipebomb building, weird looking guy into an Unabomber like villain, he just does what he sees on TV, tries to be a superhero and most of all just save his wife.
    But what really turns the movie into a small masterpiece for me was the ending. It’s not the happy ending that we want, but it’s the semi-happy ending that this story deserves. I recently had some discussions with people, who apparently missed the bunny and the cards in the mail and think that this is a serious downer ending, but no, to be honest it’s the most uplifting part of the whole movie. (Because damn, this was the bleakest and most depressing I-thought-this-is-a-comedy-experience since UP.)

  79. Watched this again recently and it really holds up. Probably my favourite superheroes-in-the-real-world movie. One thing I noticed is that the Holy Avenger comic book that Frank flips through is clearly modelled after the work of the insane alcoholic cartoonist Fletcher Hanks. If you’ve never heard of him, then do yourself a favour and pick up the two collected editions I SHALL DESTROY ALL THE CIVILIZED PLANETS and YOU SHALL DIE BY YOUR OWN CREATION.

  80. Don’t know if you guys have heard the biggest comoc book movie casting news OF THE YEAR, but Bradley Cooper is the voice of Rocket Raccoon!

    Don’t know what to think about it. I wish they would have picked someone more badass, but so far they seemed to get everything right, so I think I trust them for now..

  81. CJ Holden – Man I was really hoping the Gary Oldman rumors were true. Still the only future Marvel Studios movie I plan on seeing though.

  82. I have no idea what GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY is, but I can’t fucking wait to see it. I kinda love that while DC is dicking around with the safest, most obvious choices for their properties, Marvel is like “Let’s let the twisted fuck who had Juno rape the ugly guy from THE OFFICE make a movie about a raccoon with an Uzi starring the fat dude from PARKS & REC. Because why not and fuck you.”

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  84. Ancient Romans

    May 9th, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I saw this movie when it first came out. I was of adult age and had never had a girlfriend and, when Frank ends up alone in the end, I felt that I was seeing my future. It’s a few years later and, since then, I’ve had a…I don’t know what you’d call our relationship, but it’s over now apart from ​friendship. And she was way out of my league. Not just more beautiful a woman than I ever imagined being interested in me, but kinder and more loving, smarter and more interesting. So now I’m ​really feeling like Frank. Her new man is even a controlling jerk. I don’t know what my point is.

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