Some seriously “special” effects and a curious time and mind-bending story are the selling points of “Super Me,” a high-gloss Chinese wish fulfillment fantasy. It’s about a guy who learns to manipulate his nightmares into dreams that grant him his heart’s desire.
But what did fairytales and parables teach us about ill-gotten gains? They’re a double-edged sword.
We get to the “swords” part pretty quickly, but first we’ve got to meet the guy who finds himself slashed and stabbed by them nightly. Sang Yu (a mugging, bug-eyed Talu Wang) is a struggling, starving writer whose insomnia has reached the critical stage.
He’s sat in on lectures on the id and the ego and dreams, consulted therapists and specialists and a shaman. Their opinions and expertise become a sleep-deprived blur.
“What is a schizophrenic? (In dubbed English, or Mandarin with subtitles) It’s someone who’s seen what he’s not supposed to.”
He’s a screenwriter who can’t break through, can’t face his landlord or his bullying agent, San (Coa Bingkun). His nightmares have demons slashing and punching him through walls and windows, and it’s getting so bad he can’t distinguish reality from dreams.
Are others seeing him lifted off the ground and bloodied, without seeing what’s doing this to him?
He’s ready to end it all, but this foodcart operating philosopher reminds him that “Wishing for death reminds us that we’re alive.” All he’s got to do is assure himself “This is all a dream,” and he’ll awaken.
And with that knowledge, he starts to fight back. That’s how he hangs onto the sword that half-impales him in one night terror, how he steals an ancient battle axe in another. He starts pawning these dream “gifts,” then starts plotting dreams that put him in museums, bank vaults and the like. He wakes up richer, if a bit rattled, after each nightmare.
There’s this singer (Song Jia) he obsessed about in college, now depressed and trapped in a coffee shop she can’t sell. He begins to buy his way into her attentions, and into her affections. She’ll be more impressed if he’s not just rich enough to buy her shop and a Maserati, but a successful screenwriter, too.
But somebody’s going to have to pay the piper. And as his dreams start to come back around to giving the demons that haunt him the upper hand, “reality” catches up as well.
The look of Zhang Chong’s (“The Fourth Wall”) film is more impressive than the hard-to-follow “Inception-ish” story or the acting. Wang and Bingkun plays things broadly, Jia plays one note and their character’s actions don’t make a whole lot of sense in a plot that feels as if clues and explanations were left out.
Maybe there’s an East/West schism in the way this scans and processes that tripped me up, or I’m missing the Freudian/Jungian implications in what’s presented. But I never picked up on why this is happening, “Why him?” and what exactly these “demons” represent.
That makes for a very good looking wish-fulfillment fantasy that doesn’t translate, with or without subtitles.
MPA Rating: TV-14, violence, profanity
Cast: Talu Wang, Song Jia, Coa Bingkun, Wu Gan, Kiven Lee
Credits: Directed by Zhang Chong, script by Zhang Chong and Zhang Dongdong. A Netflix release.
Running time: 1:42