Kick-Ass is a superhero movie based on the comic of the same name by Mark Millar. It follows the exploits of a frustrated teenager named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who decides to become a superhero after getting mugged one too many times in New York. Dave is eventually joined by two other superheros with a grudge against a local crime lord — Nicolas Cage as Batman Big Daddy, and Chloë Grace Moretz as the show-stealing Hit-Girl. The movie is funny, thrilling, and overall very entertaining; but like my Chasing Amy review, there’s one gripe I have that stops the movie from being truly great.
Matthew Vaughn, someone I’m totally unfamiliar with, does a good job directing. The action scenes are colourful and inventive in a way that’s awesome rather than just silly — though it is a bit silly in a way that’s appropriate for a film that’s mostly a spoof of the superhero genre. The film has a very modern look without turning its action scenes into an incomprehensible series of blurry close-ups like so many movies do nowadays. It also features a voice-over from the main character (a narrative device I’m in love with for some reason, so bias ahoy). The movie is technically very well-made: Big Daddy’s big action scene, in which the camera zooms through a security recording and smoothly pans across a large rectangular room, is particularly memorable both as a technical achievement and as an ingenious storytelling device (allowing us to see the entire room without being confined to the security camera we’re supposed to be looking at, without losing coherence).
The story takes a leaf out of Christopher Nolan’s idea trough, following Dave’s transition into the masked vigilante Kick-Ass, how he gets known across the city, and how he takes on the mob first and a supervillain second. Like Batman, the movie keeps to a sketchy sort of “realism” which is just barely realistic enough to fit the theme. Kick-Ass gains worldwide popularity through a MySpace page and a shaky YouTube video, becoming famous in the course of a few weeks.
If you asked Bruce Wayne how he picked his costume, you’d get a vague, “Well, bats are kind of scary I guess.” If you asked Dave Lizewski, you’d get the more succinct, “I dunno.” Keeping in mind that the movie is not supposed to be especially serious, I give it points for cutting the crap and getting right to the point. In fact, that’s the main thing I like about this movie. It really doesn’t mess around at all. Dave becomes a superhero less then fifteen minutes into the film, flatly cutting through that “first hour of the movie is an origin story” bullshit that every other superhero movie does.
The only thing that bugs me about it is the last fifteen minutes. After a startlingly effective tonal shift from comedy to drama during the rising action, the actual climax of the movie is very disappointing. Instead of resolving any of the movie’s themes or being at all consistent, we have a huge fight scene that isn’t even focused on the main character — instead, it’s focused on Hit-Girl, now playing the role of Steve Urkel. It’s okay until the last few moments, when the movie suddenly remembers that Hit-Girl isn’t the protagonist, at which point Dave spontaneously appears out of nowhere, having now gained the superpower of not going deaf when firing two Gatling guns on either side of his head.
Funny? Sure. Awesome? Okay, sure. Consistent? No. Annoying? Very much. I know I’m probably in the minority here, but this climax is so paint-drinkingly stupid that it completely stops the movie from being “great”, in my eyes. Don’t get me wrong: it’s fine for a movie to be stupid. The problem here is that, even though the movie is a comedy, it isn’t that kind of comedy. This isn’t Spongebob Squarepants. The movie, except for this scene, sticks to that aforementioned barely-plausible realism that gave it a very specific theme: “If people tried to be superheros in real life, they would suck.” It’s fine to show Hit-Girl being an unadulterated badass and mowing down legions of mobsters with assault rifles — precisely because she’s Hit-Girl, the character we all know to be completely unrealistic and silly. Dave Lizewski — even when he’s Kick-Ass — is supposed to be this ineffectual nerd who gets his ass handed to him in every scene. Turning him into a badass totally ruins the theme of the movie; at least, it ruins the theme I thought the movie would have.
With the climax taken into account, what is the theme of the movie? “Be a superhero because superheros are totally awesome”? Might as well watch The Dark Knight.
Even when it derails Dave’s character for the sake of a great action scene, it squanders the potential that could have had. Watching Dave murder a bunch of people with his testosterone guns is cool, but not nearly as cool as any of Big Daddy’s or Hit-Girl’s action scenes. His later fight with the supervillain is flat-out boring, basically amounting to a couple of sissy punches in a small nondescript room. Nobody even gets injured; they just knock each other out and fall asleep together like a couple of gay lovers.
There’s a lot of nits to be picked if you’re into that sort of thing. Many references are dated in a very head-scratching way. I understand that the movie is based on a comic book written by a 40-year-old man, but surely someone in the cast and crew must have used the internet in the last five years and realized that no one uses MySpace anymore. The film’s story takes some rather huge liberties in adapting the story as it is, so a minor change like that should hardly be a problem. And what world do these characters live in where everyone has YouTube and iPhones, but comic books are considered a huge phenomenon? The comics industry is dead and has been for a very long time, as much as the writers would try to deny it; the fact that the movie doesn’t even attempt to acknowledge this fact is sort of a missed joke.
Overall, you probably think I hate this movie, but I really don’t. If I was asked to review my favourite movie of all time, I’d still find something to complain about. At the end of the day, Kick-Ass is hilarious, exciting, and very much worth your money. I just think it could have been a bit better.