Now that we’ve hit the ceiling of superhero-film-awesomeness that was The Dark Knight, we can welcome a subsequent crop of self-conscious superhero flicks, starting with Kick-Ass.
Directed by Matthew Vaughn, Kick-Ass is the adaptation of Mark Millar’s comic book of the same name (Millar also wrote the Wanted comic). The film follows high school nerd, Dave Lizewski, who reveals through heavy narrative exposition that he’s just a normal kid who always wanted to be a superhero. So after being mugged one too many times, he buys a green gimp suit, calls himself Kick-Ass, and begins fighting crime.
He quickly finds out it’s hard to kick any ass without fighting skills. Enter Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter, Hit-Girl, who are the real superheroes: Big Daddy’s the burly Batman wannabe, and Hit Girl is just someone you don’t want to fuck with, gymnastically taking out goons with knives, bullets, and sheer WTF-ness. Big Daddy and Hit-Girl’s war on crime boss Frank D’Amico makes Kick-Ass a target, bringing the disparate heroes together for some blood-letting.
Right off the bat, this is a fanboy movie, with Batman and Spider-Man references right and left. Comic book film franchises have built an awareness of the most famous superheroes, and Kick-Ass plays into this audience awareness (keep your eyes peeled for “The Spirit 3”). Further, the film includes a comic book sequence and a shootout from a first-person POV that videogame players will recognize. This film is truly for the nerd in your life.
Even though the film wades in the waters of comedic self-awareness, the arrival of Hit-Girl as she brutally slaughters a room of drug dealers is a serious shock. Up until this point, Kick-Ass has been beating up guys in the middle of a crime (with little success), but no one has been killed. Hit-Girl’s merciless slicing and dicing of those who aren’t even an immediate threat is unsettling (both for Kick-Ass and the audience). This and a couple of other scenes make for some serious tone shifts during the film’s two-hour run.
Other than the aforementioned massacre, the rest of the battles are full of just as much humor as gore. And as someone who is tired of children being off-limits in cinema (when was the last time you saw a child die on screen?), for me it’s nice to see the best, most vicious, badass superhero, be a small girl. That’s female empowerment I can get behind.
Kick-Ass is definitely overshadowed by Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, who are the most entertaining aspect of the film, with Cage doing his best Adam West/William Shatner impersonation when masked. The whole film should be focused on these two, not the silly teenager we’re supposed to identify with.
You’ll also have flashes of deja vu during the film’s musical interludes, as they’ve sampled “In the House-In a Heartbeat” (used in 28 Days Later‘s intense denouement), “Kanada’s Death, Pt. 2 (Adagio In D Minor)” (originally from Sunshine, although you might remember it from the Wolverine trailer), and the opening theme to For a Few Dollars More.
Tarantino said of using music in his films that he aims to use it better than the original film. For some reason, the theme from For a Few Dollars More fit for a scene in Kick-Ass (for me anyway), but the samplings of 28 Days Later and Sunshine either didn’t fit the scene in which they were used, or just didn’t have the same power as their original placement. Shame on you Matthew Vaughn; no more sampling for you.
But don’t let my film score hang-ups make you avoid this film. This is not a bad movie. Yes, in addition to the aforementioned grievances, you also have to deal with the usual melodrama clichés and romantic sub-plot drivel. But overall the film is fun and it has balls, which I can’t say of a lot of mainstream films.
So go in knowing that it will be ridiculous and have a good time with it.