Welcome back to Netflix Hidden Gems! Continuing with our tour of Asia, we’re heading over to China with Super Me (2019). The film has a mish-mash of genres; I would best describe it as a fantasy superhero movie meets psychological thriller.
Fans of Inception will enjoy the reality-bending storyline and visuals. The romance subplot helps balance out the brooding and introspective energy of the film. The film received mixed reviews, however, it’s a good watch if you want to see a dark fantasy spin on the age-old rags-to-riches story. Be warned, the film involves violence and themes of suicide. Let’s take a closer look;
The movie follows the life of Sang Yu, a poor screenwriter plagued by terrifying nightmares. Every time he sleeps, he crosses over to a strange alternate reality where a dark shadowy figure attacks him. He tries to cure his chronic insomnia by going to various healers without success. Unable to sleep properly for months on end, he can no longer write. His agent, San, is hounding him to finish the script he got an advance for, and his landlord is demanding unpaid rent.
With everything else going on, Sang Yu still frequently passes by a nearby café to watch Hua’er, a girl he’s pining after. He eventually comes home to find himself evicted. With no money, no family, no prospects and his sanity in shambles, he sends San a suicide note via text and climbs onto a building to jump to his death. A kind street vendor saves him at the last minute, offering a free meal and some advice. The old man tells him that whenever he’s in the middle of a nightmare, he should just tell himself; “I’m only dreaming”.
This advice changes Sang Yu’s life. He learns how to wake himself up at will, which comes with one amazing perk; he can bring items from his dream world back to his current reality. He starts bringing back precious antiques which he pawns for huge amounts of money. Of course, power comes with consequences.
While watching this, I could tell that there was a twist coming, but it wasn’t what I expected. The film took a few unexpected turns and played on the psychological aspect more than I expected. However, in my opinion, the deeper spiritual meaning the film aimed for fell a little flat at the end. There were too many mixed metaphors and the ending felt cobbled together, with a very vague conclusion.
Something I appreciate about this film is that although it is fantasy, the actions and thought processes of the characters are realistic. The old superhero trope of immediately trying to save the world or wreaking vengeance on enemies is a little stale. Sang Yu does what most reasonable people would do if they woke up (or in his case, fell asleep) with superpowers; he makes money. And even though his first priority is himself, he is neither selfish nor particularly careless. He isn’t a hero, a villain or even an antihero; he’s just a person.
The lead role was excellently played by Darren Wang. I appreciate the portrayal of his friendship with San, which had a natural and rather touching development. Unfortunately, this film fell short of Sang Yu’s relationship with Hua’er. In this day and age, I don’t expect to still see blatant stalking framed as a grand romantic gesture. And though Hua’er was given some personality, she still comes off as a manic pixie dream girl. As the only female main character in the film, the moviemakers could have really done better.
You can tell that this film had a big budget for visuals. The CGI was very realistic and better than a lot of contemporary Western fantasy superhero films. Personally, I think the set and prop design stole the show. There were a lot of props in this film, considering that the main character is a supernatural antique thief. It’s impressive that the props were so well-made despite the sheer number of them. I also really liked Sang Yu’s visual transition from a degenerate starving artist to a clean-cut man in a suit. I was honestly surprised to see a handsome face hiding behind the straggly beard, chunky glasses and greasy hair. Props to the makeup and department.
The only major visual flaw I noticed was the very last scene. Unlike the rest of the movie, Sang Yu looked like a cardboard cut-out against a green-screen background. The editing was clearly rushed at the end.
All in All,
This is a good weekend watch if you like fantasy, good visuals and fight scenes. The execution of the story left something to be desired, but the premise is good enough to have you watch till the end.
Also Read: Netflix Hidden Gems: Subira