Film Club / That Refuses to Go In the Directions That You Expect

Directed by James Gunn


Before James Gunn made films about superheroes he made films about human beings. 

Human beings who like to go around dressed up as superheroes. 

(“Shut up Crime!” = one of the best movie lines of all time). 

Super is a weird little film. The result of someone gene-splicing various genres together to create some kind of freakish mutant that never should have existed. Part downbeat drama about the breakdown of a relationship. Part comedy. Part indie movie about strange freakish people who don’t fit in. Part crime thriller. Part superhero movie. Part religious visitation. It’s as if someone took Ghost World and fused it with a little bit of Abel Ferrara and a small dash of Cronenberg and dressed it up in a mask. 

Yes of course I love it. I wish all movies were this… exploratory. 

It’s an incredibly common complaint that all movies now are pretty much exactly the same and devised in such a way that means that you know exactly what you’re getting. Marvel movies being the prime example. Power fantasy plus affirmation plus unimaginatively staged fights smothered in quips and hey presto. It’s like ordering a pizza. Do you want peppers and olives on yours? Ok. How about some racial uplift and/or a little bit of 70s paranoid conspiracy movie flavour? With extra cheese? 

Of course the irony here is that of all the Marvel films it’s the two Guardians of the Galaxy movies that most feel like they were made by an actual human being. I mean yeah there’s still that sensation of blandness but fuck – they feel like movies that actually have a strong visual sense and (shocked gasp) almost feel like they’re actually about something. (Is it just me or is Guardians of the Galaxy Vol 2 the best anti-Marvel Marvel movie that Marvel has ever made? A well-meaning narcissistic bad guy that literally wants to franchise the entire universe and turn everything into copies of himself? Well gosh – what does that remind you of?). 

And man – was I the only one that thought The Suicide Squad was a bit of a let-down? I mean I was expecting something that was really balls to the floor and off the grid and instead I got – a movie where I could predict every single beat before it happened. Will the team of misfits learn to work as a team? Will you be able to guess every death just before it happens? Will Idris Elba’s hard bitten cynical mercenary (whose superhero catchphrase it appears is just saying various forms of “fuck”) have a change of heart and make his daughter proud? Etc etc blah snore. Maybe it’s my fault for reading those James Gunn interviews that made it seem like this was going to be something that hadn’t been seen before instead of – oh – the same ingredients cooked in the same way with a slightly different sauce. 

But sorry yeah – Super. And well shit I mean – I wonder how Gunn’s career would have looked different if this had been more of a success? Like obviously trying to psychoanalyze film directors is a fool’s game – but I can’t help but wonder if maybe getting his feet burned with the poor performance of Super made him realise that actually it was easier and safer to take the Marvel money and make films that aren’t so… well… alienating. 

Because yeah to go back to the pizza metaphor – Super is something that no one would ever have thought to order. You wanted pizza? Well – erm. Here’s a few slices of cheese in a box but the box is on fire and also has tentacles. 

Holy wow yes. Fantastic. A movie that surprises you. That shocks you. That refuses to go in the directions that you expect. And then smacks you in the face with a wrench with moments like this: 

Frank D’Arbo: You don’t butt in line! You don’t sell drugs! You don’t molest little children! You don’t profit on the misery of others! The rules were set a long time ago. They don’t change. 

Jacques: You really think that killing me, stabbing me to death is gonna change the world? 

Frank D’Arbo : I can’t know that for sure… unless I try.

Oh look at that. Something happened. An emotional reaction I can’t explain. The movie sliced my brain open and touched the exposed nerves and all of sudden I’m sitting there open mouthed with tears in my eyes. 


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