The Psychedelic Splatter Ballet of SUPER’s Opening Credits Sequence

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James Gunn‘s warped superhero comedy Super was filmed and released roughly around the same time as Matthew Vaughn’s adaptation of the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. comic book series Kick-Ass, but the former was accomplished for a mere fraction of Kick-Ass‘ $30 million budget and was denied a wide theatrical release in favor of the twin worlds of Video On Demand and home video that tend to be more hospitable to independent films these days. Super would go on to become the most popular VOD title for its distributor IFC Films.

Ironically, the directors of both movies would follow them up with big-budget Marvel Comics-based event movies: Vaughn directed the hell out of 2011’s X-Men: First Class, while Gunn is currently at work on next summer’s Guardians of the Galaxy. Guardians, as is typical with the filmmaking oeuvre of James Gunn, looks positively amaze-a-balls. I knew that, on the basis of Super and his creature feature directorial debut Slither (still waiting for that one to hit Blu-ray), that Gunn’s talents as writer and director were too vast and unique for some studio with an offbeat comic property on their development slate to not properly hone and exploit. His sense of humor is very dark but tempered with a disarming sweetness that reels you back in right after it almost sends you hurtling for the nearest exit and he knows how to create strong and interesting characters. Gunn prizes using practical FX over needless digital nonsense and isn’t afraid to take his material into some excessively violent territory. There are moments in Super that will make you cheer but there are a few that will have you cringing in various degrees of disgust. That’s just how the man rolls. Gunn does not fuck around.

Super is definitely the superior movie to Kick-Ass; what it might lack in funds and resources it more than compensates with a surplus of savage wit and unflinching violence. The two movies just don’t compare. Gunn’s movie even has a better opening credits sequence. Prior to the credits we see our hapless schlub of a wannabe hero Frank Darbo (Dwight from The Office; no, the American version that long overstayed its welcome) draw pictures with crayons of the two moments in his life he considers to be the most perfect: the day he married his wife Sarah (Steven Tyler’s elf offspring) and the time when he pointed out the direction of a fleeing criminal to a uniformed police officer. Once Sarah, a reformed drug addict, leaves him for Kevin Bacon‘s flashy and extraordinarily dickish strip club owner Jacques Frank experiences a mental break and becomes convinced by a vision of the Christian television superhero the Holy Avenger (that guy from Castle and Firefly) to become the crime-fighting costumed vigilante the Crimson Bolt. Taking to the streets with a pipe wrench and a self-righteous attitude the Bolt begins to bash in the skulls of evildoers ranging from line cutters to kiddie diddlers. Eventually he picks up an overenthusiastic (and horny) sidekick in the form of comic book store clerk Libby (the broodmare from Juno) and takes his war on crime to Jacques’ front doorstep.

The opening credits are animated in the style of Frank’s juvenile Crayola chicken scratch, but rather than be some fly-by-night cartoon factory’s lame jerk-a-round the sequence is a bouncy, full-blown musical number that reflects the state of Frank’s helpless imagination where he envisions himself as the big hero who swoops his lost soul of a bride into his arms and saves the day, with backup dancing from his sidekick Boltie, the villainous Jacques, and various minor characters on both sides of the law. Oh, almost forget to mention the rabbits. The rabbits figure into the narrative so their inclusion in the animated credits makes perfect sense. There’s also a huge amount of gloriously gory cartoon violence. Movies that start off on a high note as Super does usually go straight into the toilet. But once James Gunn’s writing and directing credit ends the animated introduction it is merely an indicator that the best is yet to come.

Here’s the full credits sequence, animated by PUNY.

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