With superhero movies on the rise from the early 2000s onward, it was inevitable that a deconstruction would come along. Kick-Ass, however, is itself based on a comic book, one by Mark Millar, a regular Marvel comics writer — and though creator-owned (which is to say, it’s legally Millar’s, not Marvel’s), it would later end up being published under one of Marvel’s imprints. I’ve never read the comic, but I was aware that it had garnered some praise.
The movie was one I was unsure about at first, which is why I didn’t see it in the theatres originally. But with it also being reasonably well-received, and the sequel out now, I felt it was time to remedy the oversight.
Kick-Ass is the story of high school student Dave Lizewski, played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson. Dave is a social nobody, not even noticeable enough to be an outcast. Taylor-Johnson plays the role of the socially awkward dork with such natural ease that it may be authentic. Dave doesn’t live in a world of superheroes; he lives in the real world (well, OK, the Hollywood version of real). One day, Dave ponders with his friends about why nobody has ever tried being a superhero in real life; while superpowers are a fiction, costumes and the ability to help people anonymously isn’t necessarily so. Eventually, inevitably, he decides to do just that, ordering a wetsuit online to use as a costume, and goes out to fight crime as “Kick-Ass”. I’d say it goes about as well as you’d expect, only it doesn’t actually go even that well. I won’t spoil it except to say that there’s some good comedic timing in his first outing.
Eventually, Kick-Ass gives it another go, and discovers that he’s not the only one going out in costume. There’s also a father-daughter team known as “Big Daddy” and “Hit Girl”. Big Daddy is played by Nicolas Cage, and it’s a classic crazy Cage performance, one where he isn’t wild and over-the-top, but is simply so off-kilter that it’s hilarious to watch. Meanwhile, Hit Girl is played by Chloë Grace Moretz, which should give an idea of the character right there — Moretz wasn’t quite a teenager during filming, and Hit Girl is similarly young. As one person puts it, Big Daddy has effectively brainwashed her from a young age to be a crimefighter, and she is easily the most skilled combatant in the movie, as well as the most disturbing.
Little Miss Psycho
The lovingly deranged father-child relationship of Big Daddy and Hit Girl is paralleled on the villain side of things with the D’Amico crime family. Mark Strong plays Frank D’Amico, a drug kingpin who is becoming frustrated with the number of shipments being highjacked by costumed vigilantes. Christopher Mintz-Plasse plays his disaffected son. Chris D’Amico knows about his father’s drug operation, and he’s not upset by knowing his father is a criminal overlord… he would just like to feel included once in a while. The film is as full of dysfunctional family relationships as it is with action.
The action is interesting to quantify, because it feels as though director Matthew Vaughn made a point out of tailoring different action-directing styles to different characters. When Kick-Ass is fighting, his amateurishness is highlighted by a straightforward approach with the camera; the shooting technique doesn’t differ noticeably from when he’s just walking around. It only starts to get fancier when other people take notice and get excited by it, and even then it’s primarily through showing him on closed circuit camera feeds and video phone screens. It maintains a roughness to it that emphasizes that this isn’t a superhero fresh off the comics page. The more traditional, impressive action movie shots are reserved for when Hit Girl is in action, showing the greater degree of polish that comes from her training. Of course, this is still contrasted with the fact that this is a little girl. The scene where she lays waste to an apartment full of drug dealers to the tune of The Banana Splits Show is simultaneously impressive, disturbing, and hilarious.
And that, as much as anything, is a good way to look at Kick-Ass. It’s not for young children, despite featuring one; it features a lot of swearing and a lot of violence, and not just typical comic-book level violence. But it’s a fun action film, and a reasonably funny comedy. It’s a little difficult to get into at first, as the movie starts out stumbling as awkwardly as its main character does, but it comes together into an entertaining film as it goes on.
Agree. I saw Kick-Ass after watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, hoping for a similar movie. Turns out they have little in common, but I enjoyed KA more. KA (and KA2) have more story and character development (less video-game-style fighting) than Scott Pilgrim, much of it coming in the sequel.
In KA2 the director does a good job of bringing their superhero ways back into the real world of the American teenager, keeping the story from becoming too Frank Miller-esque. Can the characters sustain their masked ways of life long-term? Their identity crises circle back to KA and the social roles set up in the first film.
Overall, these are two well-done films. I think you have to see part two to understand the entire story, but I believe the same thing of the Star Wars prequels that seem to be universally loathed.
I haven’t seen Scott Pilgrim yet, but I definitely get a different “vibe” from it than I did from the KA previews.
Caught the sequel last night; my review of it will be coming tomorrow. You’re right about it bringing the concept full circle. I think the first part stands reasonably well on its own, though; like a proper episodic film, it has its own story while being part of the larger one.
As for the Star Wars prequels… well, you do have to see all three to understand the entire story, that much is true (though again each tells a complete story itself). But that’s not why they’re poorly regarded. They’re poorly regarded because even with that caveat, a little more than half of the story is well below the level of entertainment that the original trilogy provided. (Note: I actually think even The Phantom Menace is an OK film. It’s just not good Star Wars.)
I initially thought there were similarities between KA and Scott Pilgrim because the TV trailers (as I remember them) both showed slightly nerdy kids transforming themselves into fighting machines, thereby gaining confidence to get the girl. As it turns out, neither was really like that. But my mind had made assumptions and I have forever linked those two movies in my head.
For example: White House Down and Olympus Has Fallen are slightly different version of the same story. And Battleship seems to be a cross between Transformers and Stealth, but not quite either. Still, linked in my mind.
Trailers can certainly give a misleading idea about a film, that’s for sure. And you’re not alone in thinking Battleship had a Transformers feel to it… I remember that comment coming up a lot.
Yeah, this was a pretty good one. I probably owe it a rewatch at some point. Nice review, man. 🙂
Thanks, Chris. It’s definitely worth more than one viewing.
Fine look at this film, Morgan. And probably why I found its sequel somewhat disappointing.
Yeah, I caught the sequel last night. I liked it all right, and I’m still shaking out exactly what I think of it, but it’s certainly not as good as the first.
Good review Morgan. It was a fun movie that had plenty of violence, but it was violence that meant something. The sequel wasn’t special, but at least we have this to fall back on.
The fact that there’s a point to story, a theme behind it, is definitely what keeps this film from being just a random violence spree. Too right about that.
I gave this one the “I’ll catch it eventually” treatment, too. Then Big Daddy and Hit-Girl’s first on screen interaction was spoiled for me by a god awful image macro. I had to watch it that weekend, to be sure nothing else got spoiled.
I’m glad I did, because I really enjoyed it. I can only imagine what I would have thought had that scene not been spoiled. One good surprise like is usually a whole other star added on to a final score, for me.
I managed to avoid that particular spoiler, but yeah… I know what you mean. The internet can sometimes really suck in that regard, and image macros are the worst because there’s often no warning. And personally, I do not subscribe to the theory that spoilers have an expiration date at all, let alone “one year after” like so many people say. If it’s a big enough spoiler, you keep it secret, period.
I’d love it if that were the case… I can’t imagine what it must’ve been like to see Soylent Green unspoiled. But I can see the other side of the coin, too.
The most memorable episode of The Real Ghostbusters was a Citizen Kane spoiler. Plus so many other cartoons did it too. I remember on of the Animaniacs rhymes at the end of their themes spoiled it.
The Simpsons handled it the best, though. Many of their references were only references if you had seen the source material. You wouldn’t figure out Rosebud based on their episode… but it would give you a solid clue if you somehow didn’t know already.
But yeah… the internet is just a bunch of jerks. Especially that Spikor guy. He’s a douche.
That should read *My most memorable*… not *The most memorable*. Because obviously YMMV.
Yeah. I’m willing to give a “pass” on ones that are general cultural knowledge, such as Citizen Kane, Soylent Green, or Planet of the Apes. But only then, and only a “pass”. It has to be pretty old, and you still have to have a reasonable expectation that the person would at least be exposed to that bit of pop culture already. Telling a 5-year-old about Darth Vader & Luke is off-limits, for example, and though I knew the spoiler to Citizen Kane before Animaniacs came out, I think that theme-tag would have been better if instead they’d shown the Brain standing at his window, Orson-Welles-style (come on, it’s a natural.)
And I agree, The Simpsons is usually very good about how they deal with it.
I enjoyed your comparison of the film as a whole to the protagonist – I agree, it gets a lot better in its second act. Glad you liked it! I haven’t seen the sequel yet, but after reading this post and remembering how much I enjoyed the first one, I’m excited to give it a look.
The second one… is all right. It’s not as good overall as the first one, and is a lot crasser. But it’s still reasonably entertaining.
Interesting. Thanks for the heads-up! It got panned critically, but I mainly want to see it for Jim Carrey’s reportedly inspired performance.
Oh yeah, Carrey is definitely good in it.
Reason enough for me!