Friday, April 16, 2010

Movie Review: Kick-Ass

There was so much more I wanted to say than could be fit in this review. I loved the movie. I encourage you to see it before the hype becomes too much or before the backlash ensues. I really wanted to discuss what happens to some of the characters, because I think it really proves my thesis for the film, but I resisted...unlike Roger Ebert. I love that guy, but man did he miss this one in my opinion. Not only did he hate it for reasons I found totally bogus, he reveals the ending of the movie. Um, dude, that sucks. Anyway, here's my take on it before you go out to see it. It's spoiler-free, I promise.

Overkill? Joy! We’re Over Killjoys!
Kick-Ass vs Hollywood’s Dark Knight–ification

After The Dark Knight, critics proclaimed that superhero movies had “grown up,” and studios scrambled to Dark Knight-ify all comic book properties available. In the crudest way, Kick-Ass gloriously welcomes the insertion of these reactions betwixt some butt cheeks.

Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn’s awesomely depraved script, based on Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s comic, is a giddy nutshot to the lessons wrongly appropriated from the last Bat-endeavor. Simply put, these “pillars of truth” stated that all successful comic book movies must forthwith be realistic, serious and sophisticated. Kick-Ass flips these ideas the bird before slicing their throats open.

Come to think of it, the plot structure actually dismantles these in order.

Realism

The premise is that Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a high-school dork so invisible that he only registers with his lady love (Lyndsy Fonseca) after he’s falsely rumored to be gay, dons a scuba suit and “fights crime.” Motivated by boredom and anger at society’s lack of compassion, Dave becomes Kick-Ass…and promptly gets his ass mercilessly kicked. It takes all of 20 minutes for Kick-Ass to solidify that you can’t make a “real” superhero movie. Because if someone tried to be a costumed vigilante, they’d be a big ball of dead in five minutes.

Seriousness

Once Dave heals, he tries again. A video of him in moderately successful action is posted on YouTube. Instant fame ensues. Emboldened, he starts “taking cases.” Just as he’s about to be murdered by drug dealers, Dave encounters Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his 11-year-old daughter, Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz). The former is dressed identical to Batman, and the latter is wearing a purple wig and Robin mask. They look real stupid…and they kill everybody.

The deconstruction really happens here. Big Daddy’s backstory, which is animated to look like a moving comic book, is that he was a good cop framed by a mob boss (Mark Strong) who trains himself and his daughter to be vengeance-seeking murder machines. All this sounds gritty enough, only it’s played for laughs. Cage uncorks the loony; just try to keep a straight face as he puts on his battle makeup. Combine these two with The Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), another super-figure whose origins are best left as a surprise, and it is physically impossible to seriously consider this material.

Sophistication

Then there’s the hyperviolent, mob-boss-attacking third act, which sees said 11-year-old cursing like Joe Biden whilst slaying everyone in sight. Kick-Ass presents the carnage with unadulterated, unsophisticated glee. Unlike Heath Ledger’s Joker, Moretz’s murder doll is pure cartoon: There are real sociopaths, but there likely are no child ninjas. The violence borking the minds of overzealous critics is actually less emotionally conflicting when performed by a moppet. Grown men acted like the Joker for months; nobody will ape Hit Girl.

Without spoiling the climactic moments, Dave’s final actions move the film from “our world” to “fantasyland,” as if to remind us that the reason that superhero comics exist is to serve as blissful escapism. Grown-up comic book movies are fine, sometimes even great. Kick-Ass is just a toothless smile reminding us of other options.

Grade = A

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