Review – Kick-Ass (2010)

Kick-Ass [2010] 

Starring: Aaron Johnson, Nicolas Cage, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Director: Matthew Vaughn
Screenwriter: Matthew Vaughn, Jane Goldman

Here is a movie that begins with promise and ends with disappointment. It’s a movie that tries so hard to be different, and to find a niche that separates itself from other so-called “comic book movies”. Its premise relies on that very idea. Unfortunately, it’s a premise that doesn’t carry through to the end, and along the way quickly unravels.

The film asks the question: why hasn’t anyone actually tried to become a super hero? It partially answers this question. Because it fucking hurts. Aaron Johnson plays Dave Lizewski, a high schooler who asks this question. He subsequently decides to take himself up on the notion, orders a crazy green wetsuit and starts parading around the town calling himself “Kick-Ass”. His first outing doesn’t really work out as planned, and he gets stabbed and then hit by a car. People laughed in the theater when I saw the movie. I didn’t find it funny at all. In fact, quite the opposite. I wondered how anyone could find it funny, even when the movie was billing itself comedically. Maybe that’s part of its problem. No matter. As a result of getting hit by a car, Dave suffers severe nerve damage and is almost completely unable to feel pain. So he puts the suit back on, and in his next encounter, gets his ass kicked again. Only this time, someone films it and puts it on YouTube, where it gets millions of hits and national attention.

This part of the film was very enjoyable to me. I loved the way it played with the notion of super heroes, and super heroes in the real world. It firmly established its footing within our own reality. Then it introduces Hit-Girl (Chloe Moretz) and her father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage), two other super heroes. The problem is, they’re actually super. Big Daddy not as much, as he just uses a lot of guns, and being a former cop, one can imagine he knows how to fight. Hit-Girl on the other hand, is a young girl, but is so skilled with a number of weapons that she would give Bruce Lee a run for his money. It doesn’t make sense. Her entrance makes even less sense, where she saves Kick-Ass from a bunch of drug pushers by… Killing them all. Brutally. Violently. The music suggests one is supposed to enjoy all the violence. I don’t know, I just couldn’t get on board.

I could go into more story details, like the cute relationship that develops between Dave and Katie. Or the whole revenge story with Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, but there’s not really much point, because by the time those shorelines flesh themselves out, I stopped caring for the most part. The film establishes itself with rules that one normally applies to the real world, and asks questions that are worth asking in the real world. Its focus on the fame Kick-Ass receives through YouTube and the subsequent media attention is not only interesting, but something that seems perfectly plausible. And then it throws it all out the window. By the end of the movie, when they assault the bad guy’s headquarters, the movie may as well have been just any other super hero or action movie with little insight into anything in the real world.

There are things I don’t want to mention, as they’re spoilers, but let’s just say that the contraption used at the end was just a glaring final straw in the coffin of its original premise. When a film establishes clear rules in its universe, breaking them can’t be done so nonchalantly. In the end, the “realism” that Kick-Ass ends up portraying seemed not only less genuine, but less overall, than say, Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. I found their plausibility higher, which is sad, because at least Nolan never led me to believe it was such. Perhaps some people enjoy breaking those rules, but in the case of Kick-Ass, breaking them retty much ruins what could have a been a great, original take on what could easily be considered a formulaic genre.

9 Responses to Review – Kick-Ass (2010)

  1. Let’s see if can verbalize this without insulting your views, which I can agree with and even see to an extent.

    Coming from the comic series, I mean I had an idea of where the story would go so it never really fooled me into being anything that it wasn’t.

    I’m fond of the movie in spite of the comic series because I feel it gives the characters a much softer touch which may not always play as well with others. Like in the book for example, there was a much more sinister/darker origins for Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, and the final fight she does doped up on cocaine. Which would explain her lack of pain and adrenaline rush.

    I guess that has nothing to do with anything, just why I enjoyed it was because I knew it would never explore the concept of being an actual hero in the real world.

    • Nathan says:

      My problem is, every real defense I’ve heard of the movie comes from those who read the comic beforehand. My response is, I shouldn’t have to. The movie isn’t the comic, it’s the movie, and it stands on its own. Maybe the comic works better, but I’m not reviewing that.

      On a side note, maybe I was biased going into the movie, as a lot of my friends couldn’t stop talking about it. They just HAD to see it. It was as if their love of the film existed long before they ever even stepped foot in the theater. I suppose I can’t fully blame my impression on that, however, as I did see it again on DVD. I wanted to see if my original impressions were confirmed.

      One more thing which I should’ve mentioned but didn’t: I really love the soundtrack, especially the theme, “Stand Up” and Mika’s song. I guess it’s not all bad. But that’s why it’s 2 1/2 stars, and not 2 or less.

      • I’m not using the comic book as a defense, if anything, I guess it would be the opposite, if the comic wasn’t so morbid and bleak, or if this was a straight conversion of it, wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much.

        Its more like the comic lowered my expectations so much that this came out smelling like roses when it fixed so many of the problems I had with the source material.

      • Nathan says:

        Interesting. Even so, I still think my points about the movie stand.

      • And I said from the get go, I can see and even agree with your points, I just came out the theater feeling more positive towards the movie.

      • Nathan says:

        I think a lot of people came out more on your side than mine. Glad you at least find my points justified.

  2. Raghav says:

    Hi,
    A couple of points. I Loved the movie. I had not read or even heard of the comics till the time the movie was about to come. I’m half way through the comics now. So why did I like the movie so much, firstly it has the guts to make a small girl say the C word and get away with it. Funny or not, the movie I felt was true to the comic and to the art of film making. They could have easily made it PG by deleting the swear words and toning down the violence but they did not do that. As for the story, it’s simple yet complex. You have the revenge saga with big daddy, the love angle, the want to be a hero by kick ass, and the whole issue that red mist faces where he wants to prove himself to his dad. Also my thinking is that you cannot go into an action movie and expect reality. Yes the are always things that seem over the top, but then that’s why I love films, they are my escape from reality. Welcome back to blogging and keep reviewing.

    • Nathan says:

      I get your points, but my problems are this:

      Firstly, language for the sake of language is like explosions for the sake of explosions. Michael Bay hasn’t gotten very far with that concept. It has to have a reason, and Hit-Girl’s language has no reason other than shock value. I guess if you’re into that then fine, but I personally need more motivation than just an “OMG” from the audience.

      Secondly, the story is really pretty basic. I’ve seen it a hundred times before. It could have been creative, as the beginning of the film really led me to believe it might be, but then it devolved into something indistinguishable from many other movies of its type.

      Thirdly, I don’t go into action movies expecting reality. I didn’t go into Kick-Ass expecting anything, really. I knew very little about the movie aside from the moderately good reviews it was getting from critics and the overly ecstatic enthusiasm my friends had for seeing it. You miss the point I make that it’s not ME who had false expectations, but the FILM which sets that up. It grounds itself in reality: the first scene where the “superhero” tries to fly and… fails. The whole discussion as to why no one has ever attempted to be a superhero before. The fact that when Dave does try to do so, he almost ends up dead. I could go on. The fact is, the film begins with one premise, and ends with an entirely different one. And what it ends with is just basic action movie/comic book fare, with nothing to really differentiate it from a lot of junk out there except a decent soundtrack.

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