Super & Griff the Invisible
I just happened to watch two films with very similar plots, but completely different executions. Unfortunately, neither were particularly good, but they both had their moments.
The first was SUPER, starring Rainn Wilson and Ellen Page. The second major feature from James Gunn (the first being the utterly forgettable SLITHER), it follows a normal, meek guy who decides to be a super hero after losing his wife to a drug dealing bully named Jock (Kevin Bacon). Ellen Page plays a girl at the comic book store who figures out his secret identity and begs to be his sidekick.
SUPER takes a pretty bold artistic choice in that nearly all the violence is portrayed as accurately and gruesomely as possible. To the point that it’s almost always jarring and downright disturbing. The commentary, of course, being that everything he’s doing is typical of super hero and action movies, but played out in reality the results are grotesque and far from exciting or glamorous. Problem is, the violence is often so frank and up front that it just completely shuts you off from wanting to continue. I have a fairly high tolerance for this stuff, but it was really pushing it. I had pondered a movie like this before, but now I know it just wouldn’t work. It’s not as poignant a tactic as you’d think it’d be.
But it is hard to really pin the film down as it wafts all over the place in tone. Satirically funny, gruesomely violent, melodramatic, low key relationship comedy, and so on. It’s a shame, as there are many great bits here and there, but they’re strewn out so far and wide that it’s impossible to enjoy it as a whole.
It was also hard to get into as I generally dislike Rainn Wilson as an actor. I find him intensely unfunny and unbelievable. And he’s really capable of just one kind of character. And even then I don’t like him.
GRIFF THE INVISIBLE is an Australian film, and was one I had wanted to catch at the Berlin Film Festival, but it was always sold out. Turns out, I wasn’t missing a whole lot.
The plot is similar in that it follows a meek normal guy creating a super hero character for himself to face up to bullies and the world in general. This film, however, relies more on character and drama than intense violence and pipe wrenches to the forehead.
I wouldn’t be surprised if this started as a short film that was expanded on later, because the subject matter would work better as a short. It’s difficult to string this story along to fill out 90 minutes. Everything is nice and all, but the two main characters, Griff and his love interest, are deeper than they appear. And the ultimate point is so on the nose and smarmy that you just end up rolling your eyes at the end.
They’re also both films essentially about some guys with serious mental issues. SUPER, following a guy who has no qualms with brutally beating people for the most minor infractions (e.g. cutting in line) based on quasi-religious visions, and GRIFF THE INVISIBLE follows a guy who creates the super persona more in his head. His prowling the streets at night fighting crime, and wearing invisible suits, exists solely in his mind and the rest of the world perceives him as a weird stalker. SUPER casts anything that could be gleaned from that subject matter aside and instead frames it as a personal journey. GRIFF faces it more head on, but also dismisses what are real mental issues as just a guy being misunderstood. Of course, had they actually tackled those issues, both films would end up much more depressing.
I will say that SUPER is one of those films that somehow redeems itself a lot in the last five minutes. There’s a monologue at the end that makes total sense and really pulls you in. Not enough to make the whole thing palatable (it’s too violent to be enjoyed by most people), but enough that I didn’t finish it feeling totally annoyed. I wouldn’t be surprised if the entire film was based around that scene.
GRIFF THE INVISIBLE: C