"With no power, comes no responsibility – except that wasn’t true."Dave Lizewski, Kick-Ass (2010)
My most anticipated comic book flick in 2008 was The Dark Knight, and it blew me the fuck away. In 2009, it was Watchmen and even if it did not ascend to the greatness that was Nolan’s tour de force, pièce de résistance, arc de triomphe and whatever other pretentious expression en français there is, it was still more mind-blowingly awesome than it has any reason to hope to be (read the source material and you’ll see why). This year, my most awaited comic book adaptation is Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass, and my being a fan of the series is not the only reason why I wanted to see this so much.
You see, Kick-Ass has a very interesting production saga – it’s made entirely outside what is colloquially known as "the studio system". Matthew Vaughn, the director, and Millar apparently tried to pitch this movie to several studios, all of which turned them down citing the splatterfestive violence and the fact that an 11 year old girl (played by a then 12-year-old Chloë Moretz) is the one who’s going to be dealing out most of it turned some very plaid executive stuffed shirts very purple. In fact, more than anything else, the protestations were focused on the issue that the same teenybopper is going to be vomiting hardcore profanities (think ‘cunt’ and ‘motherfucker’) like she has a hybrid disease of Tourette’s and bulimia. So, Millar was like "Dude, no one wants to finance this – fuck it," but Vaughn was like "No way, Jose," and scraped together more than $40 million dollars to make it happen. And it Happened gloriously. Next thing you know, all the studios which initially turned down their pitch wants to buy the distribution rights to Kick-Ass, all clamouring for more psychopathic, shit-mouthed Hit-Girl action.
Anyone who finds the idea of a teenybopper cussing morally reprehensible needs to get a reality check. I have heard harder smut coming from the mouths of Primary School kids playing DotA and Counter-Strike in cybercafés.
Alright, Kick-Ass wasn't the only flick to be independently financed but it's one of the few rare projects of its size and nature to be made this way. Indie films tend to be more fartsy, something Kick-Ass is utterly the antithesis of. It’s also notable that the film rights was sold before the first issue of the comic was even published, and ideas crossed over from each side all the time. It also explains why the movie departed quite a bit from the comic books' storyline midway through. More on that in a sec.
I am now going to delve into spoiler territory for both the comic series and the film, so if you don't want to have anything ruined for you, stop reading now. And yes, you should go watch Kick-Ass if you haven't. Twice if you can. It's a 2 hours long, no holds barred embodiment of pure nerd-gasmic joy.
The rest of you who have seen this, follow me,
The genius of Kick-Ass (both the movie and the comic) is that it's a satirical yet plausible take on the idea of costumed vigilantism. What Watchmen did for the Cold War era is what Kick-Ass hopes to do for the Internet Age and the YouTube generation. The comic series, in my opinion, did a fine enough job of it. And before Alan Moore fanboys come nerd-rage all over me, let me just say that Watchmen > Kick-Ass. Forever.
That said, I think the film totally dropped the ball on the concept midway through. At some point, it decided that it no longer wants to be a satire anymore and turned into a full-blown and - dare I say - standard superhero fare?
You see, take Dave Lizewski's/Kick-Ass' narrative bit at the beginning - he said it didn't take being bitten by a radioactive spider, a fugitive status from an alien planet or having one's parents killed in a back alley mugging outside a theatre to make one turn to vigilantism. His excuse was he was bored out of his skull; bored enough to order a diving suit off eBay and fight crime. His continuing motivation to risk his life doing this stupid superhero shtick is simple internet fame, like the thousands of Singaporean and Malaysian bloggers out there hoping to be the next Big Nothing. Dave's first outing as a masked crime-fighter? It got his shit seriously ruined by a teenage thug, a switchblade and a sedan.
The message's pretty damn straight: being a superhero in real life is a deadly stupid thing to do. Even with the metal plates implanted in his head and the loss of 80% of pain sensation from his nerve endings, he's still pretty much a loser.
Both the comic and the movie would then bring in the real deals; Hit-Girl and Big Daddy, who are actual, real-life superheroes with mad skillz and a Frank Castle-esque back-story (framed ex-cop, wife killed by mob). The film played this story element straight. The comic series went on to subvert the heck out of it. In Mark Millar's Kick-Ass, we eventually finds out that Big Daddy was an accountant who ran out on his wife with their infant daughter, whom he proceeded to train and brainwash into a psychopathic little assassin who has no compunctions about slicing the top of someone's skull clean off with a katana - all to play out his sick little comic fanboy fantasies,
Just felt that the movie could have followed the comic a teensy-weensy bit more. Also, I was so hoping for that scene when Hit-Girl snorted something called Condition Red from a vial which her dad told her was designed by scientists and would give her the strength of 10 men. Kick-Ass asked her if it was actually cocaine.
What? Kids tricked into doing drugs aren't funny anymore?
The movie also robbed Kick-Ass of his most bad-ass moment in the comic, but many would argue that they replaced it with an even more awesome moment. You know the one I'm talking about - his own personal Apocalypse Now scene. And if I really want to nitpick, I totally prefer how Dave's romantic subplot was resolved in the comic over the film's clichéd rom-com one.
Now, in case anyone thinks that I hate this film; that's not true. I still fucking love it. I love it so much I'm going to see it again very, very soon. It is possibly the funniest film I have seen in years, and come to think of it, I actually had more fun watching the movie than reading the comic books. And I love Chloë Moretz's portrayal of Hit-Girl so much that I'm ready to wait for her to come of age and then ask her hand in marriage. I have had my eyes on her ever since (500) Days of Summer. Wow, that came out so wrong.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who played Red Mist, also pretty much stole every scene he was in. I was a fan of his ever since I saw Superbad in 2007 (McLovin roolz!). He was equally great in the 2008 buddy comedy Role Models and was one of the few bright spots in the 2009 Jack Black vehicle Year One. Also, he's the main reason why I want a sequel to Kick-Ass so badly. The closing shot of him with a new mask quoting the goddamn Joker totally got to me, and I didn't even like Red Mist as a character in the comic books.
Still, when Red Mist's identity was revealed in the comic, it drew a whistle of surprise from me. Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman should totally have taken that page from it. I understand it'd be a little harder to pull off in real life though considering how distinctive McLovin's voice and build is.
"As a GREAT MAN once SAID... wait until they get a load of me."
I like Mark Strong's performance as the mob boss too, but then again, I have a man-crush for Mark Strong that can be seen from outer space. I even liked Nicholas Cage's campy little outing as Hit-Girl's dad and Big Daddy. I heard he's channeling Adam West, but it's been awhile since I've seen that Batman series so I shan't comment.
And have I mentioned the soundtrack yet? It's totally siii-ck. They had an amped-up, punk-rock version of a kids' show theme song playing when Hit-Girl first appear to make sushi out of some bad guys. In the Hit Girl's rampage in the third act, they had a cover-version of Bad Reputation in the background, performed by a band called The Hit Girls, funnily enough. I have downloaded the soundtrack to Kick-Ass and I'm rocking out to it every time I go out in my car (Phoebs disapproves). Mika and RedOne's original single for the film was quite good, but my personal favourite from the album is Ellie Goulding's Starry Eyed. The thing is, I can't remember the precise moment when it played in the movie.
At some point, this movie name-dropped John Woo. Normally, if you're making a genre flick, you do not want to remind your audience of the classics of said genre - you risk reminding your audience of other films they'd rather watch. Kick-Ass had enough fresh action sequences going for it that even John Woo would feel proud getting a reference. Hit-Girl got most of the more jaw-dropping ones; the butchering in Eddie's apartment, the strobe light shootout in the dark, and the guns a-blazing hallway run in the mob's gauntlet (with that neat trick we all saw in the trailers with a goon's gun). Nic Cage had a pretty solid one by himself too in the warehouse where he took apart a whole lot of baddies with blunt, brutal efficiency.
And of course, there's Kick-Ass and Red Mist's ultimate showdown. I am happy to report that it went down predictably. What else would you expect from two mega-dorks?
I must complain, however, about the CGI they employed for some of the jet pack flying sequences. They failed horribly. It's like they blue-screened Aaron Johnson and Chloë Moretz and moved them woodenly across a cityscape background (in fact, I think that's precisely what they did). I know they have budget constraints, but couldn't they have found some way to make it work? If anything needs to be on the cutting floor, it's those bits, if you ask me.
And before I punch in the period on this review, here's a message from Hit-Girl to a certain Mr Ebert for some not very nice words he said about her movie,
A side note;
The Film Censorship Board of Malaysia was pretty damn kind to Kick-Ass. They left a whole lot of swearing in, including Hit-Girl's iconic use of "cunt". I suspect that they do not actually know the meaning of that word. Mind you, this is the same Censorship Board that thought "hell" was too strong a word for the weak minds of Malaysians just 6 years ago and changed the title of Hellboy to Super Sapiens for some FUCKING REASON! THAT'S NOT HOW BINOMIAL NOMENCLATURE WORKS!!! And why the fuck did they even feel the need to censor even a single swear word in Kick-Ass, a film which anyone below the age of 18 isn't allowed to see in theatres anyway?!
Apparently, they also felt that a little swearing would be more harmful to viewers than the sight of a 11-year-old girl decapitating, dismembering and disemboweling grown men. It's a-okay too if that same little girl later got savagely beaten to pulpy mess by a mob boss - but gasp, don't ever let any delicate adult Malaysian hear even the merest whisper of the f-word! Their balls will explode! Or something!
Ahem, if you're reading this, censors: GROW THE FUCK UP.
P.S. My next most anticipated comic book film of 2010 is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World. From everything that I've been hearing about this project (and have seen in its trailer), I think it's going to just as good as Kick-Ass. Or better. Just check out the trailer,
k0k s3n w4i