Despite its exciting premise, the stakes have never been lower in Zhang Chong’s strange psycho-fantasy.
This is what Sang Yu (Talu Wang) says every time he wants to snap out of a dream he’s having. Apparently shouting that out loud wakes you up, but considering the film is predicated on the concept of lucid dreaming, I’m not sure how screaming the obvious does anything you aren’t already. But whatever, if I start to pick apart every minor thing this review will never end. And I’m not entirely sure Super Me is worth all that many words.
Sang is a screenwriter who suffers from insomnia: every time he drifts off he finds himself hunted by a large blue guy vaguely resembling the orcs from Bright (Kevin Lee). Because of this, he is perpetually broke, and extremely depressed. After a pancake salesman (King Shih-chieh) dissuades him from jumping off a building, Sang discovers that he can now lucid dream, and also bring back items from those dreams into the real world. He immediately gets twenty thousand yuan for his newly acquired sword and, in a pleasant character moment, immediately does the smart thing and shaves so he no longer looks like a Secret Window-era Johnny Depp. He buys himself a new computer to get to work and stays at a fancy hotel.
And that’s sort of it, at least for a good hour. He brings his friend San (Bingkun Cao) into the picture, and continues to dream bigger and bigger, ultimately becoming a multi-millionaire, and even buys out the coffee shop where the girl he likes works. Opening a briefcase full of cash is a sure fire way means to a long-lasting relationship. The film gets past the halfway point and still offers no proof that any sort of conflict is in the works. Sure, everywhere he goes he’s chased by his nightmare man but once Sang understands how to properly lucid dream, he’s able to easily pop in and out of his dream world. It’s not until only half an hour remains that something happens and his dream injuries come back to kick his ass.
Therein lies the problem I had with the film. It did just about nothing with any of the scenarios it set up. He gets a bit cocky but otherwise never lets money corrupt him, retaining his positive attitude throughout. His girlfriend never discovers his secret in a way that causes a rift between them. Nothing actually happens to the characters that would constitute an arc. It’s just a bunch of stuff that happens, as if writer-director Zhang Chong was just riffing on ideas for an Inception prequel, but accidentally just retold the ending of Interstellar. Instead of building a rich lore and populating it with riddles, challenges and mysteries for Sang to solve, Super Me prefers to wax lyrical with elementary school philosophy about dreams and ambition, and chooses to ignore all the potential its world presents.
Honestly, I don’t know what to make of the overarching story and the themes. There’s talk of past mistakes and regrets but close to nothing to back that up. Sang is presented as a guy whose lack of sleep and disturbing dreams put him at the edge of suicide, and does what he does at first because he’s desperate, and then because it seems consequence-free. There’s no reveal that the objects he’s taking from his dreams belonged to anyone else, so it’s insane that he gets put through the wringer in the final act and had to, as he says while interrogated, “trade his life” for the riches. Sprinkled throughout are moments that feel like a better film, one that explored creative blocks and mental health issues, but they’re more than lost amidst the crazy nonsense that makes up the bulk of the movie. As a parable on sacrifice for success it doesn’t work, and as a morality play about theft it works even less. I think the movie just wants us to stay away from pawn brokers.
Verdict: Super Me is by no means a nightmare, but it’s certainly no dream either.
Overall entertainment: 4/10
Sex: This feels like a movie that could have used a lot more of it
Song breaks: Two, maybe three
Alcohol: Massively disrupts how you dream. Someone needs to tell Sang.
Pyjamas: Can’t steal priceless artefacts if you’re not dressed to the nines
Spiderman 3 dance: There has to be one, didn’t there
Super Me (2019)
Director: Zhang Chong
Writer: Zhang Chong
Talu Wang – Sang Yu
Bingkun Cao – San Ge
Elaine Jin – Ling Xiushi
Chin Shih-chieh – The Pancake Vendor
Kevin Lee – Skar
Jia Song – Hua Er
Gang Wu – Qiang Ge