Kick-Ass, does exactly what it says on the tin.
To say I have been looking forward to Kick Ass would be something of an understatement. Firstly I am a big, BIG fan of Mark Millar who is one of the most interesting comic book writers around in my humble opinion. His Marvel work is tip top, Wanted is a great “creator owned Comic”. He is also responsible for probably my favourite ever “One Shot” comic the DC Elseworlds tale “Red-Son” (In which Superman lands in Soviet Russia rather than Kansas).
As well as having a huge amount of respect for Millar the film has been insanely hyped by Empire, my film magazine of choice, with a steady stream of teaser stories and features for most of the last year. As an individual occasionally susceptible to a bit of hype I fell hook line and sinker.
So, paradoxically, I approached watching the film with a real degree of trepidation. Usually whenever I am really, really excited about something it fails to live up to my expectations. So right from the top I am pleased to say that Kick Ass lived up to my expectations, put simply it does exactly what it says on the tin.
The idea is quite good, why has no one tried to be a super hero before (though I kinda think the Minute Men in “Watchmen” explored this idea 20 years ago!). Then an “ordinary” kid, Dave our protagonist, buys a wet suit and decides to confront some criminals. With entirely predictable consequences, he gets badly beaten and ends up in hospital.
As a result of this he has extensive surgery, metal plates on his bones and his nerves get bashed up so he can’t feel pain properly, in his own words his only real super power is “an elevated ability to take a beating”. He then resurrects his superhero career and gets involved with some other costumed vigilantes who are taking on the mob.
What is interesting is the way Kick Ass subverts the genre, and the normal expectations of the comic book heroes. Firstly, whatever he might tell himself Dave is really motivated by fame, constantly referring to his “MySpace” page, and how many pals he has compared to his Kick-Ass alter ego. In fact Dave seems to be principally motivated by boredom, and it is interesting how his character develops during the course of the film. Dave is much more interesting that Kick Ass ultimately.
The next subversion really is the degree to which the film is a comedy, it is really, really funny. I guess the closest comparison in conventional comic films would be “Spiderman” (Dave/Kick Ass is a reflection on Parker/Spidey I think), and the humorous aspects are more to the fore than in pretty much any Superhero flick I have ever seen. The main thing is that this makes the film hugely enjoyable to watch.
There are a really good cast of supporting characters, most of the press has focussed onChloë Moretz’s portrayal of the Foul Mouth 11 year old assassin “Hit Girl”. Hit girl is great but for my money both Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse and Nicolas Cagesteal almost every scene they are in.
So in closing a couple of observations. Firstly Matthew Vaughan is on a great run of form in terms of films he has directed. Layer Cake, Stardust and now Kick-Ass have all been tremendously enjoyable films and I cannae wait for whatever he does next.
Secondly Jane Goldman is damnably good at adapting source material into films. With both Kick Ass and Stardust the narrative changes really make sense in the context of a film. Though I am a massive fanboy about lots of stuff I do recognise that Film is a very different medium to prose or comics. Goldman seems to really nail this in terms of remaining faithful to the spirit of the original text, whilst makes sometimes big narrative changes that work in the context of the film.
So that’s it I loved Kick Ass and I highly recommend watching it. May not be Bergman-esque “Cinema as Art”, but if I spend a more enjoyable 2 hours in the cinema this year I will be very surprised.