With a title as audacious as Kick Ass, we are all hoping this movie does just that in a rather diluted superhero movie industry. While I didn’t think it lived up to its name, I did think it was a solid ‘kick butt’ experience.
Based on 2008 comic book series by Mark Millar, Kick Ass is a story about an average New York high school nerd who decides to be a the first real life superhero. Relative unknown Aaron Johnson plays Dave, a very ordinary teenage boy with very ordinary teenage problems. From a comic book induced epiphany, he courageously dons a costumed derived from a wetsuit and fights crime among the rooftops and dark alleys. Unlike most superhero origins stories, there is no mutation or freak accident, just an overly hormonal kid who is naive enough to try to help people in an unconventional way. Thanks to YouTube, he not only becomes wildly popular but also discovers a new sense of confidence and belonging. To his surprise there are secretly other heroes at work and he realizes that crime fighting is not all it’s cracked up to be. The reality of life and death hit him in the face (several times in fact) and he must soon choose to truly be heroic or return to his safe, ordinary life.
I read Mark Millar’s original before seeing the film which was good since I could see where Director Matthew Vaughn repeated or diverged from the source material. Even as an inexperienced director, Vaughn did an adequate job at telling the story and offering some interesting visuals. However, I found that when the movie was at its best when it was copying from other movies. The teen angst drama reminded me of Peter Parkers Spiderman. The swooping cityscapes and mob boss reminded me of Dark Knight. It’s obvious that the cartoonish and quirkiness was inspired from Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Even the gritty style of Watchmen show through in some action sequences. So while entertaining, there was a lot of familiarity while I was watching it.
The story also suffers in comparison to the comic. The truncated plot loses a lot of detail and you don’t get a chance to really fall in love with any of the characters. On screen, you can see the potential but you just end up falling in like, not love with them. The cast does fine with what they had but nobody really exceeds expectations. Even Nick Cage is a little boring and bland as the Adam West parodying Big Daddy.
The biggest disappointment was that this version removes all the surprises and twists from the original. The unpleasant points are nicely removed to accommodate the Hollywood mainstream crowd. I would be fine with that as long as other bold component are added, which unfortunately it’s not. The comic does not wrap up in a nice bow which is part of the charm of its story. As a new viewer, you wouldn’t know any difference but as a fan of the comic, you will find yourself wanting to do some ‘Ass Kicking’ of your own with Director Vaughn.
We reached an interesting new era within the superhero movie genre. At one time it was about hero stories striving to find legitimacy in the industry. Now movies like Kick Ass (and Watchmen) introduce a ‘self awareness’ of higher ideas associated with crime fighting. There is less emphasis on super powers and nifty gadgets but more on themes of what makes a hero, the need to sacrifice, and are there any truly noble intentions. Heroes fight for good but are they just living out their narcissistic desires? Hmmm, this might have to be a topic for a future podcast…
Back to the movie. While the end credits rolled, the low murmur of criticism began with my esteemed colleagues of BabbleOn 5. Some liked the live action version better than the comics, some didn’t. I was one that didn’t. While the movie was entertaining, I thought the comic book was far superior especially the ending. I would recommend reading the comic book first since the movie will spoil some of the twists since they are not present in the film.
It’s unfortunate that it only hit #2 in the box office this past weekend with a meager $19 million. It was much hyped at Comic Con last year and I thought the legion of comic book fans would come out to support it. But please note that this is a hard ‘R’ with plenty of graphic violence and vulgarity. Don’t be fooled that while kids star in this film, they shoudn’t be watching it. For adults though, it is a fun movie and worth seeing. Hopefully with positive word of mouth and a slow month of April, it will gain some momentum over the next few weeks.
I give Kick Ass a 3.5 out of 5 Babbles