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
Complete Unknown
‘Complete Unknown’ Takes a Little While to Find its Identity

People come and go over the course of our lives. Distances...

Netflix September 2016
Everything Coming to Netflix for September 2016

When the calendar flips over to a new month all of...

The Intervention
‘The Intervention’ is Carried by Melanie Lynskey’s Stellar Performance

Everybody has their own set of quirks and faults that can...

Enabled Gaming Gaming News Gaming Reviews
Ramin Djawadi Scores Gears of War 4
Ramin Djawadi Scores Gears of War 4

Ramin Djawadi Scores Gears of War 4 Grammy and Emmy Award-nominee,...

pitpeoplethumb
The Behemoth (Pit People) Interview at SDCC 2016

This past San Diego Comic Con, we got to chat with...

lozartandartifactsthumb
Dark Horse returns to Hyrule with The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts

Dark Horse once again plans to travel to the world of...

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
Titans Feature 2
10.0/10
The ‘Titans’ Have Some Tricks Up Their Sleeves

Title: Titans #2 Writer: Dan Abnett Artist: Brett Booth Inker: Norm...

Jack King Kirby
Marvel Honor’s the King with #KirbyWeek

New York, NY—August 23rd, 2016— The King of Comics lives on...

DarkSouls4_Cover_B
9.8/10
Dark Souls: The Breath of Andolus #4

Dark Souls: The Breath of Andolus #4  Story By: George Mann...

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
The latest gear for J!NX's newest WoW line emblazes the glowing green
J!NX Releases New Line of WoW: Legion Apparel and Accessories

J!NX Releases New Line of WoW: Legion Apparel and Accessories J!NX...

lozartandartifactsthumb
Dark Horse returns to Hyrule with The Legend of Zelda: Art & Artifacts

Dark Horse once again plans to travel to the world of...

Toy Story Chogokin
Pre-Order Open for Two Bandai Toy Story Chogokin Robots

Pre-Order Open for Two Bandai Toy Story Chogokin Robots Bluefin offers...

Arena Football Automotives MMA, Kick Boxing & Boxing Professional Wrestling
WSOF Logo
WSOF Signs Heavyweight Jared Rosholt

LAS VEGAS (August 24, 2016) – World Series of Fighting (www.WSOF.com)...

Ray Mysterio
El Rey Network Signs a First Look Deal with Rey Mysterio Jr.

Austin, TX, August 23, 2016 – Legendary wrestling and lucha libre...

Invicta
Invicta 19 Returns to Kansas City, MO

  Kansas City, Mo. – After a successful show in July,...

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...?
Graeter's_US_$15_H_08241_34504_CF_0511
Small Town Brewery Forms Partnership with Graeter’s Ice Cream

NEW YORK, Aug. 2, 2016 /PRNewswire/ — Just in time for...

Mike Feature SDCC
SDCC 2016 Recap: Part 2

WELCOME TO MY MOSTLY TRUE (this time 87-93%) RECAP OF THE...

SDCC Recap Feature Image
SDCC 78-86% True Recap: Part 1

Greetings programs! Welcome to my second annual Almost Completely True Recap of...

Event News Event Reviews
sdcclogo
Review – San Diego Comic Con 2016 (from a first timer)

Held July 20-24, Comic Con International’s largest convention, San Diego Comic...

Agents_of_SHIELD_logo
Nerd HQ Presents a Conversation With Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.

While the actresses of S.H.I.E.L.D were participating in the Women of...

NERD_HQ_LOGO_w
Nerd HQ Highlights ‘Badass Women’ for it’s 2016 Mystery Panel

During the Nerd HQ Badass Women Mystery panel, the audience was...

Gaming Uncensored Growing Up Geek The Popcorn Podcast Toon-In-Talk
tkj
Popcorn Podcast Episode 88: ‘The Killing Joke’ Review

Chad and Piper get together on this episode of the Popcorn...

14125133_10154422872669941_5763206862987023246_o
Growing up Geek Episode 26: Back To School Blues

Jaime, Shannon and Shannon (Mike’s still dead) get together for nachos...

first-star-trek-beyond-images-tease-new-friends-and-new-foes-spoilers-star-trek-3-g-752249
Popcorn Podcast Episode 87: Trekkies Redeemed?

On this episode of the Popcorn Podcast Chad, Izola and Tamar...

1510625_479897885502456_8674893234677099917_n 1
Featured Cosplayer: Resident Redhead

Name: Resident Redhead  City: Newcastle  Social Media:  http://facebook.com/residentredheadcosplay http://instagram.com/residentredhead What was...

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:...