Kick-Ass? Yes, It Does.
Thanks to the ultra cool Hisham, we were able to score tickets to a 7:00pm screening of Kick-Ass last night at the Lloyd Center cinemas. We ended up with pretty decent seats, and Dan Robertson spotted one of comic-doms most famous of scribes – Brian Michael Bendis, who was kind enough to snap a photo before he entered the theatre.
Just another one of those awesome perks of living in Portland, Oregon. It also helped that Bendis tweeted he was attending the screening. Which means we kind of Twitter stalked him. But that’s ok, right? Right?
*NO SPOILERS AHEAD*
I’ll avoid revealing secrets or twists, anything else you’ve already seen in the trailers.
He has a few mis-steps along the way, including being stabbed in the stomach and hit by a car. This causes the insertion of metal plates around key areas of his body, which give him a higher pain tolerance and protects him from the several beatings he receives throughout the story.
While the bulk of the movie and novel belong to Dave Lizewski/Kick-Ass (he gets the voice-over) of equal importance are the bits featuring Hit Girl and Big Daddy. In the book they are introduced as real-deal vigilante superheroes, and then are revealed to be less so by the conclusion.
The movie kept with the authenticity of their origin story and imbued them with much more dignity and chemistry. Mark Millar’s version of Big Daddy was entirely unsympathetic. But with the help of the director Matthew Vaughn, Nicholas Cage managed to pull off a quirky character and layer him with emotion and motivation, something notably lacking in the Big Daddy on page. This was the first role I’ve seen him in, in a long freaking time, where he didn’t annoy the crap out of me. Yay him.
On screen, Hit Girl became a multi-dimensional person who loves her father, and puts up with his superhero training antics because of this love – rather than a personal desire to kill and maim. Though she’s REALLY REALLY good at it. The best action sequences in this film belong to her.
COMIC BOOK TO MOVIE ADAPTATION
Overall – I would say the movie is a large improvement over the book. It does what all excellent stand-alone adaptations do – convert the medium without losing the essence. Or sometimes, as with Kick-Ass, make the essence and elements of the film better than their source material.
This is the first Millar book I’ve read. He writes with humor, an understanding of the comic book world, and demonstrates an ability to craft relevant and relatable people in intriguing story-lines. However, these traits do not allow him to get away with the subtle racism and sexism of the works he produces.
I’d read an article prior to watching or reading Kick-Ass blasting Millar for these same traits – but I didn’t give it too much leverage. I reserve the right to watch/read/educate myself about something and then form an opinion.
While it wasn’t present in Kick-Ass The Movie, it was certainly present in Kick-Ass the Comic Book. Many of the books violent encounters involve people of color, that alone should raise some eyebrows. There are no white people in NYC for Kick-Ass to fight? While the violence against women is pretty minimal, the patronizing undertone with which Millar writes Hit Girl and Dave’s love interest, Katie Deauxma, was enough to vaguely irritate me.
HIT GIRL WINS
Fortunately – the screenplay was written by someone who “got” the potential of Mindy McCready to become a hero of equal (and greater) value to anyone else in the film. Millar made her, but Jane Goldman breathed real life into her. Well, Jane and the actress Chloe Moretz.
In this article she compares Hit Girl to Ripley of Alien fame – a notorious film bad-ass. While she appears here to have the mis-conception that “strong females are women with guns” – this article clarifies her intentions a bit better. She clearly enjoyed how Hit Girl could be a strong female while remaining sexually neutral. This works of course, because Hit Girl still retains her gender. But in general, a strong female character like Hit Girl, who has breasts and hips would most likely get a different treatment. I’ll leave determining the “why” up to you.
I firmly believe that Goldman’s writing shows an innate respect for crafting Hit Girl as a person which isn’t present in the book.
BUT, GEE WHIZ, ISN’T IT VIOLENT?
The violence enacted by Hit Girl makes sense in the context of her life. She is never victimized. There is never a scene where she is gratuitously brutalized or demeaned simply because she’s a girl. These kinds of on-screen displays concern and upset me far more than showing some over-the-top-comic-book antics.
I’m not even going to dignify the “controversy” of a 10-year-old girl using the word “cunt.” If this is what really keeps you up at night, don’t let me change your mind about it. By all means – be worried, frightened and upset that people use vulgar language in R-rated action movies viewed primarily by adults.
COMIC BOOKS VS REAL LIFE
What was most intriguing to me about this film is how deftly it blended the world of Kick-Ass and Hit Girl/Big Daddy, which to me are distinctly separate. Kick-Ass is the every-man stand-in, and whatever happens to him is real. When he’s stabbed and hit by the car – there are medical consequences for his actions. The scene where he is riding in the ambulance after the accident – his body broken and smeared with blood, was by far the most violent and shocking sequences in the comic book and film.
Hit Girl and Big Daddy represent the comic-book world. They are skilled killers, with compelling origin stories and a truly nasty arch-nemesis to bring down. More often than not – Kick-Ass is his own worst enemy. He creates the problems for himself by lying and not really understanding his own motivations. The juxtaposition of the truly heroic actions of Hit Girl/Big Daddy, and then the real-life ass-kicking of Dave Lizewski make this a nice tongue-in-cheek commentary.
Another great aspect of the film/book is that they are both filled with comic book references that only fangirls and boys will get, but not to the point of distraction or to the detriment of the plot-line. I don’t want to ruin the fun and call them out for you, but it was clear by the pockets of laughter who got the joke and who didn’t. Just keep an eye out for things going on in the background. 🙂
The film is also riddled with decent, if sometimes one-dimensional side characters. The nerdy best friends are great – including the sarcastic kid from Hot Tub Time Machine, Clark Duke. They help extrapolate some of the geekier comic book bits that lay-people won’t understand. Red Mist is portrayed well, and if possible, given a tougher edge by Christopher Mintz-Plasse. Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca) is also humanized as the pretty teen who volunteers at a methadone clinic and believes Kick-Ass to be her gay BFF.
Kick-Ass doesn’t pretend or aim to be anything more than it is. There is no deep social commentary or nothing exceedingly profound in what’s displayed on-screen. There is a lot of ass-kicking, a lot of jokes, and some engaging, human characters to spy on from the comfort of your theatre seat.
And seriously – it’s a movie called Kick-Ass. Anyone offended by kicking or asses or profanity or violence or sexual content should take the title as a disclaimer. Otherwise, enjoy the entertaining blood shed at your leisure. 🙂