Unlike My Esteemed Colleague Paul, I Really, Really Dug Kick-Ass

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Paul Tassi and I usually agree on most movies, so after reading his review of Kick-Ass, I went in with rather low expectations.  I’m really not sure what it was about Kick-Ass that rubbed Paul the wrong way – from his review, it seems to be just about everything – but not only did I think Kick-Ass was great, I think it’s probably the best movie I’ve seen in 2010.  It’s not the type of movie that will get nominated for an Oscar – nor am I suggested that it should be – but Kick-Ass, from beginning to end, was simply FUN.  Remember when movies could be fun?

Anyway, instead of writing a standard review – which Paul has already done – I figured I’d spend this time responding to his review, as well as adding anything he didn’t mention.  Spoilers to follow.

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While Kick-Ass tells the story of a high school kid named Dave who dreams of becoming a super hero and, despite not being particularly big or strong or even resourceful, pursues this dream.  It’s not because his parents were killed by criminals or any similar type of comic book cliche; it’s simply because he’s a good kid who doesn’t like bad people.  It also doesn’t hurt that nobody’s ever really tried it before and so, hey, why not try and be a pioneer.  However, this isn’t the type of superhero deconstruction or grounding we’ve seen in Watchmen or Batman Begins – and significantly, the movie never tries to do that.  It’s a fun, ultraviolent comedy with some drama sprinkled in, and precisely the type of movie that should be immune to nitpicking.  Why?  Because when one of your main characters is an 11-year-old girl with a potty mouth and the ability to eviscerate bad guys like a velociraptor in a cattle ranch, logic and reason sort of go out the window.  If you’re cool with that premise, then Kick-Ass is for you.

One of Paul’s complaints about Kick-Ass is that it didn’t fully explore the real world consequences of Hit Girl’s upbringing; my response is that the premise of hit girl is so absurd to begin with that to address her upbringing as anything that could happen in this world would be counterproductive and detract from the film itself.  It’d be like discussing whether or not the grading system at Hogwarts is scaled in such a way so as to give young wizards an advantage when applying to colleges.  Simply put, Kick-Ass isn’t the type of movie that offers a message with regard to violence in our society and amongst youth, but that was never the point anyway.

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Paul also criticized Kick-Ass for focusing too much on Dave himself and his high school relationships, going so far as to argue that Dave’s relationship with Katie is meaningless and unnecessary.  I’m all for mindless violence, but if an audience is going to relate to the protagonist in a movie, that protagonist has to go through some sort of arc – even if the movie is as ridiculous as Kick-Ass. At the beginning of the film, Dave is barely capable of looking Katie in the eye, let alone speaking to her.  After becoming Kick-Ass, though, he’s gained confidence and a sense of self worth, so even though Katie thinks he’s gay for a majority of the movie, when it’s finally time to make his move, Dave’s able to do so.  Had he never fought crime (and gotten his ass kicked) as Kick-Ass, it’s highly unlikely Dave would have changed enough to muster up the courage to get with Katie.

As far as Dave’s relationship with his friends, unlike Paul, I found most of their banter highly entertaining and humorous, and when they spoke, it felt like a bunch of high school kids siting around and chilling, not high school-aged actors reciting lines from a script.  No, dirty words and violence are not funny in and of themselves, but I also don’t think Kick-Ass was relying on either for the sake of some cheap laughs.  The dialogue felt crisp and fresh – especially amongst Dave and his friends – and you’d be hard pressed to find people who didn’t laugh at lines like, “That’s a weird-sounding bazooka” and, after Dave and Katie leave to have sex under the guise of seeing a movie, “I guess we weren’t invited.”  That’s not violence, and it’s not dirty words.  It’s well-written, clever dialogue.

I suppose I should mention Nic Cage, as well, who’s become mostly a running punchline at this stage in his career.  But that’s because he overacts in roles that are meant to be taken somewhat seriously or in unwatchable dreck.  When Cage is in a movie that’s as energetic and silly as he is, though – like the very underrated Honeymoon in Vegas – he really shines, and so it shouldn’t be surprising that he kicks ass in, uh, Kick-Ass.  His Adam West impression had me rolling.

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Finally, Paul argues that Kick-Ass fails to depict what a superhero would be like in “real life.”  If I haven’t made it perfectly clear above – and I think I have – this was never the intention of Kick-Ass.  Rather, the intention was to present an original narrative that could both wow its audiences with insane action all while never taking itself too seriously.  In that regard, Kick-Ass was wildly successful.  I’m usually not a fan of “turning my mind off” and just being entertained, and if you’re a reader of this site, you know that I usually prefer the artsy-fartsy (as my friends call them) films as opposed to the mainstreamed, fun, action-adventure types…but I haven’t had this much fun with a movie since From Dusk Till Dawn.  Make of that what you will.

4.5 out of 5 stars

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16 Comments

  1. I agree with you entirely! I was shocked that Paul didn’t appreciate this awesome subversion of the superhero genre the way you (and I) did. Kick-Ass exists somewhere between reality and comic books, and it manages to walk that line perfectly.

  2. I too agree with you. . .mostly. The one part I do agree with Paul on is the love interest sub-plot. I felt the first 40 minutes and the last 40 minutes were awesome but the middle 40 minutes, where they developed the love story, really dragged on. I agree with you whole heartedly about how funny the film was, his friends in particular (when his one friend hit him over the head with the lunch tray was laugh out loud funny).

  3. I guess my take was in the middle ground.

    As just a film with nothing else behind it, it was a fun movie to watch. I enjoyed it, I had fun.

    As a film adaptation of a comicbook (a book with an actual message and subtext) it failed. It took lies that characters told and made them the truth, thus changing the moral of the story and erasing the whole message that the comic originally put forth. The point of the comic was that real life doesn’t work like comics and if you try it you’ll get your shit kicked in.

    They literally went in exactly the opposite direction as the book in several key areas.

    SPOILERS

    1: Big Daddy’s Ex-Cop background was SUPPOSED TO BE A LIE
    He was just a crazy comicbook collector who brainwashed his child for basically no good reason. He was supposed to be the ultimate bad example of what Dave’s kind of thinking leads to. People becoming violent vigilantes because they think it’s cool. It was supposed to be fucked up and wrong and *proof* that life doesn’t work like the comics. (Dave comments that the bogus origin story he was fed was just like the punisher and he thought it was cool because it was just like the comics. Then he learns that life doesn’t work that way). His wife is still alive and eventually hitgirl goes back to her to be normal.

    2: Dave DOESN’T GET THE GIRL
    He SAYS he gets the girl at the end of the comic, and then it’s immediately shown that he’s actually lying in his own narration. The girl calls him a manipulative freak and has her boyfriend beat the shit out of him. Then she sends him pics of herself sucking off the boyfriend who just kicked his ass…pics he jerks off to while crying. Yes, it’s exactly that pathetic and fucked up. And why? Because life doesn’t work like it does in the comics.

    3: Red Mist was an ASSHOLE ALL ALONG
    The movie makes him WAY more sympathetic. He *knew* he was setting up Kick-Ass to be killed. He took pleasure in it. He was enjoying being the villian. In the fire scene, it was Kick-Ass who rushed in while Red Mist hesitated and thought it was insane. (Granted, in the comic the fire was at an apartment building and didn;t involve any of red mist’s friends so he didn’t have as much reason to be concerned)

    4: There was NO JETPACK/ROCKET LAUNCHER
    The ending was very different (but largely the same). There was no rocket launcher, and the secret crate Big Daddy was dragging around was actually his comicbook collection (that he was selling to finance their vigilante spree). There was no schoolgirl outfit, no silly epic stickfight and no rocket launcher or jetpack rescue.

    Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl ride up in the elevator together. Hit-Girl does some COCAINE that her daddy gave her (He lied and told her it was ‘Condition Red’, a secret super formula engineered by scientists…but yeah, he gave her coke), and whips out a Hello Kitty FLAMETHROWER to barbecue most of the badguy’s men when the elevator opens.

    From there they split up. Kick-Ass goes to find Red Mist and beat the holy fuck out of him while he’s hiding in the bathroom (It was a curbstomp, Mist never had a chance and Kick-Ass was PISSED at being betrayed). Meanwhile Hit-Girl chases the mobster to the kitchen and kills him and the rest of his men with a cleaver. Though he briefly has the upper hand and gives her a nasty whack to the face with a meat tenderizer. After they both get their revenge HG asks for a hug and then Kickass finds her mom and sends her home to be normal.

    They both retire and instead of starting a trend of real heroes coming out to bring justice to the world, the whole thing starts a fashion trend/pathetic subculture for people to dress up like supers, but it;s never implied that they are real heroes, just losers with less to be ashamed of.

    It was a good, fun movie, but I personally liked the darker/much more fucked up story from the comic better. The movie was awesome but very shallow in comparison.

  4. That’s pretty much my opinion of the film word for word.
    I find it hard to believe that there are people that didn’t enjoy the film, it was a complete riot 🙂

  5. @ Galahad

    Great post, and I appreciate your insight/analysis.

    What I think you, and a lot of people lose sight of, though, is that most movies AREN’T supposed to be faithful adaptations. They’re not made as an homage to the source material. It’s not like the movie makers say, “Hey, this is a great comic book, let’s do the same thing but in movie form.” Instead, they take the source material and use that to form a movie that can be seen and enjoyed by anyone.

    Otherwise, you get unwatchable shit like Watchmen.

    I’m not saying that Kick-Ass wouldn’t have benefited from a more faithful adaptation, but to suggest that that was the intention in the first place is misguided.

    Thanks for reading.

  6. @ BrockSamson

    1. Great name – I get the reference.

    2. No, not a stretch. I really disliked it in the theaters but gave it a second chance when it came on cable. Couldn’t get through it.

  7. Judging from the comic synopsis, that sounds WAY better. Especially the parts about his gf and the big daddy/hit girl lie. I thought Red Mist should have been relatable, and I actually liked his arc in the movie the most.

    I just didn’t find this movie funny or entertaining outside of the cool action scenes. I also had problems with the fundamental idea of an “unrealistic realistic universe.”

    You and I agree on most things Madison, but I think comedy is the one genre where we differ the most (Super Troopers is really just OK when you’re sober). I’m curious to see this a second time, and see if I change my tune at all, but right now, this just really missed me, and I was pretty bummed to see that.

  8. If there’s one good thing to say about the movie in relation to the comic is that watching the movie first will make reading the comic for the first time BETTER, because you’ll be expecting one thing and end up with the exact opposite, but with a better, deeper message.

    As I said, the movie was very enjoyable. I’ll watch it again and buy it when the inevitable second-release-but-with-actual-features-instead-of-just-the-movie edition comes out.

    But I really think it would have been better if it hadn’t gone in the exact opposite direction as the books.

    I’m not expecting unrealistically faithful adaptations, but I think it’s fair to ask for the major plot points to go in the same direction.

    That’s like ordering a fast food chicken sandwich, getting a hamburger instead and being told “Hey, it’s fast food you can’t expect it to be amazing.” No, but I can at least expect it to be from the same general family as what I ordered.

    And for the record: Watchmen was great, as were the LOTR movies. See, I can handle it when they change things, but they have to at least get the gist of the story right 😛

    I never expected 100% faithfulness to the source, but it’s not too much to expect iot to at least have the same message (or even a different message that isn’t EXACTLY THE OPPOSITE) It’d be like watching a remake of On Deadly Ground where the moral of the story is that drilling for oil in wildlife refuges is great and that pudgy wapanese terrorists are evil.

    No, strike that, that would be awesome.

    Picture what I said, but with a good movie instead.

  9. And for the record, the universe in the comics is more of a ‘realistic realistic universe’. No jetpacks and whatnot. The whole point of the comics is that the real world doesn’t work like it does in comic books (or big budget action movies).

    I think that’s what disappointed me most because the idea of the comics was that it’s a realistic (if ultraviolent) approach to the genre. I think a realistic ultraviolent action movie would have been more satisfying than just skimming off the glossy surface of the comics and turned everything up to 11. I guess I was expecting to see a deconstruction piece rather than…what’s the opposite? Magnification?

    Since I’m not just posting a one-off comment, I should probably stop putting fake e-mail addresses in the field…

  10. @ Galahad

    I really appreciate your thoughtful comments. But put yourself in the shoes of someone like me, who has never read the comic and went in expecting, well…whatever was going to be thrown at me. I loved the movie for its silliness and fun and ultraviolence, and if there’s more to the canon that what was on screen, well, ignorance is bliss.

    That said, if the comic is indeed much better, then I’m excited to read it.

    As for Watchmen, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Yes, the ending was changed, but when a movie is made with the intention of being a true adaptation, it often lacks a certain soul. I’d say the exception is Sin City, but generally, since you have much less time to tell a story on screen, changes are necessary when transitioning to film.

    Anyway, I bet we both agree on one thing: a sequel will suck.

    Thanks for reading.

  11. Fair enough. And if I hadn’t read the comic I would have enjoyed the movie more. (As it is, I really did enjoy it, I just felt it could have been better)

    I think you and Paul would both like the comic. It’s just as violent and fucked up (if not moreso), but with something going on *besides* violence and language to engage the reader.

    And again, I understand the need for changes, especially when it comes to speeding the story along, and that slavish devition to the source material can be as bad or worse than disregarding it. But a good adaptation should at least keep the spirit of the original. And that’s where kickass falls flat, for me at least. The setting of the comic wasn’t “Unrealistic reality” it was “Realistic reality.” the comic was a violent deconstruction of the superhero genre. It showed what horrible things could happen if people try pulling off comic book stuff in the real world. It would have been nice if the movie had kept that theme or expanded on it to be an action mvoie deconstruction.

    Instead of saying “Reality doesn’t work that way.” they said “It totally does, if you just swear a lot and try real hard!” it exactly missed the point of the original.

    Changes are fine, but you should at least come away from it feeling like the producers did more than just skim the synopsis of the original and copy a couple scenes without bothering to actually read beyond the very shallow surface.

    I guess I’ll file it next to Starship Troopers.
    Awesome movie in its own right
    But kind of the opposite of what the source was about…though I’ll give it credit, it used a lot more of the source than starship troopers did, they just got the message backwards.

  12. Kick was NOT widely successful, it was a box-office failure making only 60 million in a total of 7 weeks of being in theaters (domestic and international)

  13. I just came back from watching it and I agree. It delivered perfectly on what it promised. In fact I would argue that it actually better then Iron man 2

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