James Gunn, Rainn Wilson superfreaky in disturbing action film 'Super' 

Most superhero movies are about people putting on costumes and fighting bad guys, but rarely do they discuss the makeup of a superhero. What causes them? What makes them appealing? If you start to look a little under the surface, the idea is exciting, but can get a murky and dark.

James Gunn, a screenwriter on "Scooby-Doo" and "Dawn of the Dead" and director of "Slither," broached this subject in his amazing and disturbing new film "Super."

Actor Rainn Wilson of TV's "The Office" joined him, taking on the role of Frank, a schlubby diner cook who loses his wife to a sleazy drug dealer.

Frank receives a message from the heavens, telling him to become the Crimson Bolt. In costume, he turns into a new person: he discovers his confidence for the first time, but also discovers that bullets really hurt. He reluctantly adopts a new partner, Boltie (Ellen Page), who takes to the violence a bit more easily.

"Boltie is even more sociopathic than Frank is," Wilson says. "She's an adorable sociopath. I think it's really fascinating: What's the difference between a superhero and a sociopath? You happen to have a Batmobile in the garage, does it give you the right to do out and do whatever you want?"

Gunn says the movie is deliberately unclear about encouraging viewers to root for Frank. Sometimes his actions are exhilarating, and sometimes he seems to go too far.

"The whole movie is about morality," Gunn says. "Frank is called to do something, and he follows that calling. Is it another form of insanity, or is there something real and honest there?"

For Wilson, the film’s theme involving prayer is important. He says,  "It really is a taboo," noting how many movies leave out religious ideas  in attempts not to offend audiences. "It's one of the most rebellious things that 'Super' does. It's not the blood and the gore."

So the Crimson Bolt costume gives Frank a clean slate and allows him to newly explore his physicality, his intellect, and even his spirituality.

But where is the costume today? Does Wilson still get to wear it?  "I put it on again recently to shoot a video," he says. "It's a stinky bundle of spandex now."

If you go

Starring Rainn Wilson, Ellen Page, Liv Tyler, Kevin Bacon
Written and directed by James Gunn
Not rated
Running time 1 hour 36 minutes

About The Author

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson

Jeffrey M. Anderson has written about movies for the San Francisco Examiner since 2000, in addition to many other publications and websites. He holds a master's degree in cinema, and has appeared as an expert on film festival panels, television, and radio. He is a founding member of the San Francisco Film Critics... more
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