Super Pumped Review: What is the Story Behind Super Pumped?

“Super Charged: The Fight for Uber,” The Showtime limited series on Travis Kalanick’s tenure as CEO of the ridesharing startup is governed by a basic either-or premise. At the expense of his employees’ well-being and physical safety, as well as ethics, labor practices, and the law, Kalanick devoted all of his efforts to the success of the corporation he managed. This made him either a bad leader or, from his perspective, the ideal leader.

This question’s simplicity explains why “Super Pumped” is such a difficult film to watch. This series is based on the book of the same name by journalist Mike Isaac, in which Kalanick’s delusions and shortcomings as a manager are examined. While Uber was extraordinarily successful in reshaping the economy and bringing local taxi firms to heel, Kalanick departed from the company in 2017 due to a scandal. In this case, the delusions and shortcomings contribute to the show being a lengthy repetition of specific notes.

As portrayed by Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Kalanick’s sub-Sorkin monologues to his team are difficult to sell. The structure of the show tends to place him in conflict with systems designed to regulate corporations like Uber or with a venture capitalist (Kyle Chandler)

Kalanick declares he will scheme beyond limits and then does so, driving his company through morally ambiguous territory into outright no-go zones.

(Uber is believed to have monitored journalists and used a tool called Greyball to prevent transit authorities from requesting rides.) His arguments, penned by the creators of “Billions,” clearly outline what’s wrong with his managerial approach, such as when he exclaims in the series’ opening rage,

“There are more important things than safety!” This may be true to the directness of the IT industry, but showing Kalanick as a jerk in such a clear manner leaves this story with nowhere to go.

Super Pumped review
Super Pumped review

Many recent and prospective television programs, such as “Pam & Tommy” on Hulu and “The Dropout” on the same service, can be attributed to or blamed on “American Crime Story.” Dramatizing historical events, Ryan Murphy’s television franchise has proven endlessly reproducible. Ultimately, real life continues to generate new intellectual property.

It appears that “Super Pumped,” which has been renewed for a second season and is intended to be about Facebook, belongs to this genre. It owes more of its creative DNA to Adam McKay’s work, particularly “The Big Short.” The series continuously attempts humor, featuring narration by Quentin Tarantino and visual gimmicks such as Kalanick picturing himself as a video game hero vanquishing New York City cab restrictions.


And instead of attempting to untangle a convoluted story, as Murphy’s overstuffed series have done with varied degrees of success, it creates a starkly black-and-white universe in which Kalanick’s sins are blatantly disqualifying and then eliminates any possible subtext. The only slightly fascinating part of Kalanick’s character is his relationship with his mother (Elisabeth Shue), who is the only person capable of reminding him of his better angels; these stand-alone scenes cry for more integration into the larger narrative.

At times, “Super Pumped” appears to be under the mistaken impression that witnessing Kalanick flout the rules will give the audience a subversive thrill (that video game segment probably wouldn’t exist if the show didn’t think it was a little cool).

Super Pumped review
Super Pumped review

And consider that Uma Thurman’s first line as Uber board member Arianna Huffington is a purred “The legendary bad boy of tech!” with an accent that is geographically closer to “House of Gucci’s” Gaga-like Italy than to the Aegean. Doesn’t it ring false if you have to repeatedly assert something? So much programming has explored the operatic moral shortcomings of antiheroes. The majority of the time, this show felt like a character study of a person who confused being disagreeable for living a magnificent life.

“Super Pumped” can’t figure out what it’s about, which is possibly an occupational hazard of focusing on a firm with so many sins, and one that was started and headed by a person whose entire thing is unbridled ambition without nuance.

The narrative of Susan Fowler (Eva Victor), the engineer who helped reveal a culture of sexual harassment within Uber, finally settles into a rhythm. Fowler’s language and her direct addresses to the camera are occasionally overly stylized. “TLDR, I’m a techie Marie Kondo,” she adds when describing her occupation, a phrase that will leave some listeners more bewildered than before they heard it.


And yet, Fowler’s plot is concretely about a complicated working issue and (relatively) skillfully captures our sympathies and draws us in. This show’s successful element is skillfully separated from the Kalanick character at the center of the narrative. So much of “Super Pumped” is devoted to convincing us that Kalanick’s mentality will be enjoyable to confront when, in reality, it is predictable.

He believes the rules do not apply to him, a characteristic that is clearly exaggerated in Kalanick but not unusual for CEOs of his caliber. Exploring the floors beneath the C-suite, where lawlessness has real-world implications, provides at least a modicum of complexity and potency. It would have been preferable for “Super Pumped” to devote more time and space to contemplating the universe that Kalanick and his students created, rather than only reveling in the profanities that flew during its building.

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Is Super Pumped Worthwhile to Watch?

“Super Pumped” is most compelling as a study of how one person at the top can create a toxic office culture, one so venomous that it eventually appears to be corporate suicide. At times, the entire story comes perilously close to being Silicon Valley’s version of The Wolf of Wall Street. Highly suggested.

How Accurate is the Uber Super Pumped Slogan?

The majority of “Super Pumped” is a fabrication about a nasty manchild who used his one brilliant concept against the father-figure investors who trusted him with their money, lost his firm, and then went on to become a billionaire and create another decacorn elsewhere.

What is Super Pumped’s Backstory?

Based on the actual story of the dramatic rise and fall of Travis Kalanick, the founder of Uber, who takes a win-at-all-costs attitude to build a multibillion-dollar behemoth with the support of venture capitalist Bill Gurley and board member Arianna Huffington.

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