Kick-Ass has been receiving rave reviews all over the place, ever since its screening at the Butt-Numb-a-Thon festival last year, and now with its release in the UK. IGN even asks if it could be “the best superhero movie ever made.” Well, is it? Does Kick-Ass kick ass?
Well…yes. It doesn’t kick all the ass, but it kicks quite a lot.
This is one of those films that’s gaining popularity across the internet at a rapid pace – you probably already know what it’s about. Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a teenager, decides to don a costume and become a superhero. Basically just to try it out. After trying to stop crime for the first time, he is severely injured – resulting in damaged nerve endings that prevent him from feeling much pain. Perfect. Things escalate from there, and he ends up meeting other costumed fellows Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), and gets caught up with crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong).
The first noticeable thing about Kick-Ass that separates it from other superhero movies is its general presentation – despite all the bad language and all the violence, it’s a much “lighter” affair than most. The film is mostly told from Lizewski’s perspective, and the character provides narration throughout, humorous anecdotes or comments about himself being offered frequently. Johnson plays the occasionally-awkward teenager well, giving us a character that kind of reminds me of the guys in Superbad, or Jesse Eisenberg in Adventureland. I guess some could say it’s easier to empathise with him than with other superheroes, as he’s just a kid like “anyone else.” His buddies that he hangs out at the comic book store with have a similar manner, and allow for a few laughs as well.
The comedy works in favour of the film, being a breath of fresh air from more recent, serious comic book movies like The Dark Knight or Watchmen. Kick-Ass doesn’t take itself too seriously; it’s incredibly self-referential (numerous other comic books are mentioned: Batman, Spider-Man, X-Men, Scott Pilgrim…), and makes use of things like MySpace and YouTube in a semi-satirical-sort-of-way. It kids around with the genre, and it really is a much more “fun” superhero film as a result. You can have a good time with it by simply enjoying the ride. You don’t have to pay attention to any existential ruminations from a glowing blue man on Mars at least.
The supporting cast are mostly great – Mark Strong is a fun, albeit not entirely original villain, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (a.k.a. McLovin) was a good choice to portray Red Mist, a teenager who simply wants to please his dad, and who becomes kind of pretentious when he puts on his costume and tries to be a hero. For me however, the show was absolutely stolen by Chloe Moretz and Nic Cage as Hit Girl and Big Daddy. It’s a twisted take on a sweet father-daughter relationship, with Big Daddy training his daughter to use weapons, and buying her combat knives for her birthday. It’s pretty hilarious to watch. Nic Cage is perfect as the mellow, mustachioed dad in warm jumpers, making hot chocolate, and it’s probably the most interesting or “different” role I’ve seen him in, especially recently. Hit Girl is the star though; she is the most exciting character in the film. She uses outrageous language and is the most incredibly violent out of all the cast. Most of the larger action scenes revolve around her, and they’re a real blast to watch. She’s such an over-the-top character, and goes perfectly with the overblown gore and fighting, which will probably bring to mind Kill Bill or Sin City.
I really liked how much more upbeat the film is; it’s funny, and has very cool characters. The main obstacle preventing me from loving this film as much as others seem to though, is the lack of the co-stars. While yes, I know that the film is called Kick-Ass, and it’s “his” story, I would have liked to see a lot more of Big Daddy and Hit Girl. While it was fun to see the effects of being a hero on Lizewski’s social life, I sometimes felt that I’d rather be watching the exploits of the father and daughter (because they’re amazing). The film featured a surprisingly little amount of action, compared to others in the genre, and would’ve benefitted from a few more awesome fight sequences. The ones that are there are fantastic, but I wished there had been more. Don’t get me wrong: the film is never slow; it’s always lively. It just seemed that Kick-Ass himself was less “spectacular” as a hero from time to time, and that Big Daddy and Hit Girl were more interesting to watch. Could I simply summarise that by saying “I want more fight scenes”? Possibly. I’d love to see more action in a sequel, for sure, and I’d hope that other characters would get to see more screen-time. I must impress though, that this doesn’t mean I found the film boring at all.
Something I must at least briefly mention, is the soundtrack. While the score was general superhero fare, Kick-Ass was full of great tunes that really added to its energy and light-heartedness. “Stand Up” by The Prodigy bookends the film, and it works brilliantly; it really gets you “pumped” at the beginning, for the fun that’s yet to come. It did with me anyway. Other highlights were the use of the theme from For a Few Dollars More by Ennio Morricone, and Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” (which both played in and around one of the best scenes). And I adored the use of “Banana Splits” by The Dickies, which just managed to make Hit Girl’s first wild fight scene even better. Again – if only there had been more.
On the whole though, Kick-Ass is a highly enjoyable film. I’m looking forward to seeing it again as soon as possible, which is always a good sign. And it’s one of those movies where, when the credits roll, one is not enough. One where you want a sequel. I hope the film continues to accumulate a fanbase large enough to warrant a second one, which should be more action-packed, now that the characters have been established. It’s a very good start to a rather eclectic series of comic book films coming out this year, with Iron Man 2, Scott Pilgrim, and The Green Hornet to follow. It’ll be interesting to see how they all fare together.
8 / 10