THAT’S NOT ROTTEN! Before ‘Guardians of the Galaxy,’ James Gunn Deconstructed Costumed Vigilantes With ‘Super’

super-4

The past few times I’ve driven by LAX, I have seen a massive advertisement for Guardians of the Galaxy emblazoned upon the side of building. Every time I see it I can’t help but think, “That’s for a James Gunn movie.” For those unaware, as a director, James Gunn’s films have never been massively successful. As a screenwriter, Gunn has penned the successful Dawn of the Dead remake and the Scooby Doo films. His directorial debut, 2006’s Slither, is a delightfully absurd horror-comedy. Even though Slither was well reviewed, it grossed less than $8 million at the domestic box office. His follow up, 2010’s Super, was even less enthusiastically received. Super grossed around $325,000 at the domestic box office, however, the film only opened on 11 screens nationwide. The most theaters it played in a given week was 39, which happened in its 5th week in release. To put that in perspective, Guardians is opening on an estimated 3,800 screens. Despite the lack of commercial success, one could see that Gunn was a unique talent, and, thankfully, Kevin Feige of Marvel saw the same thing and gave Gunn a budget equal the GDP of small South American nation.

Why Super was so unenthusiastically greeted still boggles the mind. Over the years Slither had gained a cult following, and Super continues some of the motifs from Gunn’s debut film. Both films show Gunn’s understanding of how to use violence for maximum effect, shifting from the comically grotesque to genuinely horrific. The films present Gunn’s roots with the no-budget schlockmeisters of Troma, but avoid the trappings of shock for schlock’s sake. With Super, Gunn makes a film that is as funny as it is tragic, a twisted deconstruction of vigilantism.

super-1

Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson) is a sad sack schlub who has had 2 perfect moments in his life – marrying his wife, Sarah (Liv Tyler), and pointing a police officer in the direction of a fleeing criminal. Sarah is a recovering addict and soon relapses, eventually leaving Frank for the company of Jacques (Kevin Bacon), a prominent drug dealer. Plagued by visions since childhood, Frank believes he’s been touched by the hand of God and decides to become a costumed vigilante. While searching for inspiration through comic books, Frank strikes up an unlikely friendship with Libby (Ellen Page), an enthusiastic comic shop employee. Frank eventually constructs his own costume and begins patrolling the streets as the Crimson Bolt. Violently beating wrongdoers with a wrench, the Crimson Bolt gains a bit of local notoriety. Libby discovers Frank’s costumed alter ego and pressures him to take her on as his teenage (even though she’s 22) sidekick, Boltie. Armed to the teeth, the Crimson Bolt and Boltie decide to stage a raid on Jacques’ home in an attempt to save Sarah.

The film is based on the idea that anyone who dresses up as a costumed vigilante must be pretty insane. Super draws natural comparisons to Taxi Driver, Frank being like a less badass, dopey Travis Bickle. Much like Taxi Driver, Super follows Frank’s slow descent into madness, his unwavering belief in his own righteous wrath. Unlike Bickle, Frank believes he is God’s emissary, using his violence as a means to dispel demons. As the Crimson Bolt, Frank draws more inspiration from a TV Christian superhero, the Holy Avenger (Nathan Fillion), than he does from traditional costumed vigilantes like Batman. Even the final raid on Jacques’ compound is reminiscent of the ending of Taxi Driver, only Super’s climactic shootout is much more violent. Like Bickle, the Crimson Bolt thinks he’s making a positive difference while making people he cares about witness horrific violence.

super-2

What makes Super such an excellent work is the manner with which it subverts numerous clichés. Frank sees himself as a hero that must restore Sarah, the broken woman, but his attempts to save her have grave consequences. Whether attacking random criminals on the street or Jacques’ goons, the Crimson Bolt resorts to a brutality that always leaves his heroism in question, like when he assaults a man for cutting in line. The gore effects are grisly enough to keep the consequences of violence in perspective even when playing for comedic effect. The film also features one of the oddest rape scenes in modern cinema, simultaneously illustrating the inherent fetishism of cosplay without ever being exploitive or cheap. The film goes through drastic tonal shifts between laughs and revulsion, from cheering on violence to being aghast at its effects.

Though he’s only made a total of 3 films, Gunn has already assembled a group of regular players who appear in his films. Sean Gunn (his brother), Michael Rooker, Nathan Fillion, and Gregg Henry have appeared in all of his films, including Guardians. Super features cameos from Freaks and Geeks’ Linda Cardellini as a pet store worker, Rob Zombie as the voice of God, and comedian Steve Agee as the cantankerous comic shop owner. There’s even a brief cameo by Troma guru Lloyd Kaufman.

super-3

Hopefully, Guardians of the Galaxy is a success for Marvel and Gunn. His name has been floated in rumors for Avengers 3, but it looks like he’ll be doing Guardians 2 first. What I really hope is that this newfound success leads to more people discovering the unique early works of Gunn’s directorial career. Aside from the Ant-Man fiasco, the hiring of Gunn for Guardians is one reason I have faith in the future of Marvel movies. Slither is a gross out good time. Super is a superhero film unlike any other. It’s currently streaming on Netflix. Watch it and think about how Marvel gave this filmmaker the reigns to their most risky film to date. It’s pretty crazy, maybe even super.

//

Shop Deadpool tees in our officially licensed Marvel store!

Leave a Reply

Animation/Anime Interviews Animation/Anime News Animation/Anime Reviews Film/TV Interviews Film/TV News Film/TV Review
the-legend-of-tarzan-0001
There’s Not Much That’s Legendary About ‘The Legend of Tarzan’

I believe that I had the same reaction as everyone else...

Wreck it Ralph 2
The Untitled, ‘Wreck-It Ralph’ Sequel is Coming to the Big Screen

BURBANK, Calif. (June 30, 2016) – Wreck-It Ralph is heading back to...

h20wkj2-iron-man-vs-captain-america-who-sides-with-who-in-marvel-s-civil-war-jpeg-151871 (1)
Captain America: Civil War Coming to Blu-Ray and Digital HD this Fall

BURBANK, Calif., July 1, 2016 — Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
THUMB
8.7/10
Review – Zero Escape: Zero Time Dilemma (3DS/Vita)

You awaken to find yourself and 8 other people trapped. You...

performance designed products
Performance Designed Products – E3 Exclusive Interview

Performance Designed Products – E3 Exclusive Interview Performance Designed Products (PDP)...

NHL 17 Cover
EA Sports NHL 17 Cover Athlete Is…

EA Sports NHL 17 Cover Athlete has been chosen Electronic Arts,...

Comic Creator Interviews Comic/Graphic Novel News Comic/Graphic Novel Reviews Manga News Manga Reviews Novel/Novella Author Interviews Novel/Novella News Novel/Novella Reviews
Legend of Wonder Woman Featured Image 07
9.5/10
The Legend of Wonder Woman Continues the Traditions of the Golden Age

Title: The Legend of Wonder Woman Issue #7 Writer(s): Renae De...

DKIII Featured Image 05
8.0/10
Dark Knight III Book Five: Superman Returns

Title: Dark Knight III: The Master Race, Book Five Writer(s): Frank...

fablesthumb
Return to Fabletown this September in Everafter

This September, return to the world of Fabletown in Everafter: From...

Apparel/Personal Maintenance News Apparel/Personal Maintenance Reviews Entertainment Product News Entertainment Product Reviews Food/Beverage Reviews Hardware News Hardware Reviews Mystery Box News Mystery Box Reviews
June Geek Fuel Review
Mystery, Mutants, Monsters, and Mario – June Geek Fuel Review

Mystery, Mutants, Monsters, and Mario June Geek Fuel Review Here it...

warcraft-0001
Review – Choose your faction with J!NX’s Warcraft line.

So there was this movie that came out a short while...

July Geek Fuel Spoiler 3
July Geek Fuel Spoiler #3 & #4

July Geek Fuel Spoiler 3 & 4!!! July’s Geek Fuel Box...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
Lingerie FC
LFC Announces Four More Fights for 2016

Las Vegas, NV – June 28, 2016 – The Lingerie Fighting...

Bellator Logo
Bellator Dynamite 2 Live Prelims on FanboyNation

Don’t Miss Bellator DYNAMITE 2: Live Friday 8/7c on Spike Bellator...

unnamed (2)
Glory 31 Weigh-in Results

  Friday, June 24, 2016 — GLORY Kickboxing hosted weigh-ins for...

Adult Continuity Comics on the Can Cultural Junk Drawer Future Comic Rock Stars Is That Racist? Revisiting the Reviled THAT'S NOT ROTTEN! The B-Reel The Cantina Scene This Week in Crowdfunding What the HELL Did I just...?
comics on can
Comics on the Can – Deadpool V Gambit

COMICS ON THE CAN – Deadpool V Gambit (The “V” is...

adult continuity
Adult Continuity Issue 7 – Superman Vs Spider-Man XXX

ADULT CONTINUITY – ISSUE 7 (OR VII if you want to...

admin-ajax
Cultural Junkdrawer: The Last Six Months

The Last Six Months in Review: This may come as a...

Event News Event Reviews
Escape from the Bank
Can You Crack The Vault to ‘Escape from the Bank’?

Can You Crack The Vault to Escape from the Bank? Real...

final fantasy final fantasy brave exvius
Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Now Available for Mobile Gaming

Final Fantasy Brave Exvius Now Available for Mobile Gaming Final Fantasy...

maidreamin
Japanese MAIDREAMIN and MomoMC Comes to Anime Expo 2016

Japanese MAIDREAMIN and momoMC comes to Anime Expo 2016 Anime Expo...

Gaming Uncensored Growing Up Geek The Popcorn Podcast Toon-In-Talk
voltron
Popcorn Podcast Episode 82: Shazam Bitches!

Chad, Izola and Piper get together for the weekly episode of...

con2-fp-146-e1465340404148
Popcorn Podcast Episode 81: F%ck You Michael Bay

  On this episode of The Popcorn Podcast Chad, Piper and...

13434886_10154215336989941_4640268286674552269_n
Growing up Geek Episode 23: Fathers Day and Lizard Huntin

On this episode of the Growing up Geek Podcast Jaime, Shannon...

black_knight_no_helmet
Featured Cosplayer: Silver Ice Dragon

Name:  Silver Ice Dragon City:  Ithaca, NY Social Media: Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/SilverIceDragonCosplay/ Tumblr: http://silvericedragon.tumblr.com/...

David Flash running
Featured Cosplayer: Prnze

Name: David Rodríguez (Prnze) City: Madrid Social Media: https://www.youtube.com/user/prnze91 – https://www.facebook.com/PrnzeTitan/ – https://twitter.com/davidnichol_pk – https://www.instagram.com/prnzetitan/...

IMG_0727
Featured Cosplayer: Sayakat Cosplay

Name: Tegan Feehery, AKA Sayakat Cosplay City: Baltimore Social Media: instagram:...

Batgirl
Featured Cosplayer: Carmie Cosplay

Name: Carmelita Butler  “Carmie Cosplay” City: Tacoma, Washington Social Media: www.facebook.com/carmelitabutlercosplay...