I have been waiting for Kick-Ass for some time, now. As a fan of the comic, I watched both productions (the comic and the movie were made at the same time with Mark Millar, the writer of the comic, involved with both) grow up together, and I’m pleased to see the film come out a mere two months or so after the conclusion in the comic. Obviously, things had to have been changed for the film adaptation to work within the constructs of a film, and, for the most part, these were improvements or, at least, neutral effects upon the comic.
I have a really hard time of saying things without spoiling something. So, I’m sure there are spoilers ahead in case you don’t want to have the film ruined for you by me.
Overall, I have to say that the film was decent. Some people are heralding it as “the best superhero film ever,” and I completely disagree with this – not that I actually have a choice for the best superhero film ever. I mean, you have to admit that the superhero genre in films has never really been too successful compared to other genres in film. Obviously, Spiderman 2 and The Dark Knight come up, but those are peas in a separate pod.
Kick-Ass comes off as one part social commentary, one part tongue-and-cheek stab at superhero comics and the film itself, and about 8 parts action. I would like to focus on the first two, primarily, because the action was basically ruined and already shown off through all of the trailers and previews out there which was a little disappointing to watch the film and not really see anything new in terms of that.
Now, many reviewers, Roger Ebert of note, have criticized and been appalled at the character of Hit-Girl while still giving credit to Chloe Moretz performance. Let’s review why there are some problems with Hit-Girl:
An eleven year old child being put in harm’s way but just happens to be the most dangerous character in the entire film with the most on-screen kills while remaining unfeeling towards her actions and actually occasionally cracking jokes throughout.
The debate has often been a heated one over whether or not superheroes should be authorized to use deadly force or, if due to their name, they are above the common man and thus must make an example of not killing. However, this is in the realm of fiction. Kick-Ass allegedly takes place in the real world with numerous current pop culture references. Plus, these superheroes are anything but super nor are many of them heroes. I suppose, the main issue, would be Hit-Girl’s unflinching killing of dozens of people without a second thought. I could attribute this to her father’s conditioning which, as brought up within the film, is anything but normal and fairly terrifying the induction of the child into the hyper-adult world at such a young age. Nevertheless, that’s a bit of a scapegoat for the issue here. What’s presented on screen is presented on screen and the how and why can be left for other people to figure out. I must admit that a child killing dozens of people is problematic to me, but then I consider why that is.
From the beginning of our upbringing, we are given strict regulations on age and what is to be done at those certain ages. Hell, the inclusion of the young adult, juvenile, teenage age category didn’t come up until the 50s. Before that, ages 0-18 or 21ish were considered children. Still, in our society, you are not considered a sexual being or one capable of equal crimes in most cases. Why is this? How have we been conditioned to believe this? Obviously, there are some definitive ranges, but I believe these are much more transient than the strict from age ____ to age ____ this being will do ____. Therefore, I applaud Kick-Ass for taking the risk and challenging this notion in a hyper real sense as to bring it to our attention.
Hit-Girl is a great character because she is so controversial. However, what have been many of the detractors missing from her character? She’s an embodied young female. There is no demeaning of her character because she happens to have different sexual organs. Yes, this is a child we’re talking about, but this must bring up in order to consider how women are portrayed overall in media and the film’s counterpart of comics. The film challenges the Disney-fication of children but does not hypersexualize Hit-Girl and that is a phenomenal turn. Normally, if a woman is powerful, then she must also be an object of man’s desire because of the unknown, the lack. Her features are overly done to sexualize her, highlighting all of the sexual aspects of what differentiates the female sex (used on purpose instead of gender) from the male sex. Hit-Girl is the most powerful character in the entire film, but she is not demeaned. Granted, to achieve this, innocence must be abolished.
The fighting in the movie, on at least Kick-Ass’ part, is fairly realistic. This plays into the chilling torture sequence of the film. Interestingly enough, the comic does not have the villains broadcast the torture sequence over the internet like the film, and I believe that the film improves upon the source material by doing this. True, you have your common “oh, check this website and watch something horrendous while we try to make an example out of someone” idea behind it with the typical reaction shots of those close to the tortured mixed in with the brutal beating. Nevertheless, it hurts to watch this sequence. It hurts a lot because, ignoring the broadcast aspect of it, I know that this sort of torture where the tortured is tied up and incapable of defending themselves happens frequently around the world often with Americans participating in it. This sequence lasts much longer than warranted, and I believe that this is a positive move by the filmmakers. Many audiences come to this film expecting for a lot of crazy ass killing/action, special effects, and humor which is a little sickening. The film then takes this audience and shoves the act of torture down their throats making this sequence both the most believable and upsetting of the entire film. Unlike The Dark Knight (most likely because our protagonist is not the torturer), the film strongly takes a stance against torture showing the act and effects of it. The acting during this sequence must be applauded because I really wanted to leave the theater until after this sequence. It was just too ultra-real for me.
So, those are the things I believe the film asks us to consider about society, comics, and media as a whole. By taking a large stab at these, though, does not mean that film was actually good. And here are some additional things affecting my viewing experience:
- I would have liked to see more of the lives outside of the masks of the characters. Although the high-school sequence is typical in the film, the actors really give a fresh take and humor to this sub-genre that I appreciated.
- Making Katie a bit more likeable by having her read comics was just a little weird. I met the first women my age that actually likes superhero comics just on Thursday… I mean, she names of Ditko… weird.
- The turn of girl liking guy after being crazy lied to (in multiple ways) would only come out of cinema to appease the audience, and I definitely enjoy the more likely alternative in the comic. Plus, it was a little disgusting watching this with an audience (in Lakewood) that got really excited when Dave touched Katie’s boobs and yelled “boobs!” “Oh yeah!” and other sorts of things. I understand that Lyndsy Fonseca is attractive guys, but you really don’t have to be yelling out your approval.
- Nicolas Cage probably had one of the best performances he’s done in a long time with his parody of Adam West Batman while mixing it up with seriousness.
- The other acting was in a positive direction. The two high-school buddies did a humorous job. The lead actors (the superheroes) all did a decent job with Aaron Johnson (despite annoying voice over) and Chloe Moretz coming out on top.
- I really liked the boots that Kick-Ass wore, and found them to be a nice touch of reality.
- The action sequences followed the trend in modern action films of the 2000’s by having quick cuts intermixed with slow motion and quick pans that I found cool about 5 years ago but am now tired of.
- The film was just too long.
- The choice of soundtrack was distracting for me. Sometimes, the filmmaker hit it spot on such as the japanese girl band song when Hit-Girl is going fucking nuts on some people. Other times, it really upset me. Some electronic-esque version of Godspeed! You Black Emperor played during Big Daddy’s main action sequence and it did not work at all. I feel like this only being Matthew Vaughn’s third film at director probably caused him to be over reliant on the music to further the plot bringing the film down for me.
Upon thinking about this film, it has actually gotten better inside my head, but I do not believe that that counters completely my unpleasant reactions while watching the film. I left the theater to go to the bathroom at a part I knew I wouldn’t miss and knowing that I was okay if I didn’t see the rest of the film. It just did not grip me as a viewer. As a critic, I believe that the film did some very interesting things that are in need of investigation. It follows the standards of the genre of action, superhero, and high-school loser film, but it does insert an interesting commentary within these that I find to be rather important for studying the state of modern society.