“Kick-Ass” Kicks Ass
By Roxana Hadadi
In terms of comic book adaptations, the film version of “Kick-Ass” certainly isn’t the most accurate. But all of the changes from the source material to the big screen are totally understandable – and make the film practically perfect.
Well, at least if you’re able to get into a rated R flick. Those who are 17 and older will certainly be able to handle the movie, which has lots of violence and gory murders, a few sexual instances and a potty-mouthed young girl, but some of the more bloody scenes are probably highly questionable for tweens or younger teens. And though the film directed by Matthew Vaughn doesn’t include some of the comics’ most graphic plot elements, such as a gang assault or torture by electrocution to one’s private parts, it still has enough cursing and weapons to deserve that R.
Nevertheless, it’s pretty fantastic. Adapted from eight comic books published by Marvel and created by Mark Millar, the film focuses on New York City teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a kid whose obsession with comic books and the hope superheroes bring people in those fictional worlds inspires him to suit up. Though his own life is somewhat pathetic – “My only superpower was being invisible to girls,” he says in the film – and riddled with problems, such as his mother’s recent death by aneurysm and his middle-of-the-pack status at school, he still decides that a mix of “optimism and naiveté” is enough to make him give the superhero thing a try.
But while Dave dreams big, he’s fully aware of his human limitations: As his friend Marty (Clark Duke) puts it, no regular person has tried to be a superhero before because “they’d be dead in like, a day.” So Dave doesn’t try to design a gadget-heavy suit, but buys a green and yellow wetsuit and mask off of eBay; he doesn’t rely on sticky spider-webs spurting from his wrists, but instead carries around two batons wrapped in electrical tape. And though he first fails miserably at his task, getting stabbed by a local thug who had mugged him numerous times before and then immediately being hit by a car that keeps on going, he resolves to continue his fight, even after weeks spent recovering in the hospital.
But while that may seem kind of dumb, it pays off for Dave: A fight he breaks up between some gang members and a guy they were beating the crap out of gets taped by a kid using a cell phone, and soon the video is blowing up on the Internet, inspiring Dave – who announces on the video that his superhero name is Kick-Ass – to create a MySpace and start reveling in his newfound fame. As his favorite store, Atomic Comics, starts carrying knockoff Kick-Ass paraphernalia and his friends ponder who the masked vigilante is, Dave is riding high – but little does he know that the town’s head mobster, Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), wrongly thinks Kick-Ass is responsible for the murder of some of his men.
Based on the information that a man in a cape broke up some of his illegal drug activity, D’Amico cultivates a personal vendetta against the do-gooder and convinces himself that the man in question is Kick-Ass – even though the kid doesn’t wear a cape. Little does he know that the real culprits are two other superhero vigilantes, Damon Macready/Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and his daughter, Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz, “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”), who have their own reasons for hunting down D’Amico.
But everyone’s paths must eventually cross, and soon Kick-Ass finds himself in the middle of a tangled web that includes Hit Girl and Big Daddy, whose one desire is to remove D’Amico from the world of the living, and new superhero Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), who seems cool enough – he comes with an awesome car and an endless supply of technologically advanced devices – but may be a bit too mysterious to be totally trusted. And, of course, that web is splattered with blood, either spilled by D’Amico in his quest to find the superheroes or by Hit Girl and Big Daddy in their own journey to encounter him – and the various ingenious ways people are murdered will certainly stick with you. They’re not nightmare-worthy, but they are attention-grabbing at the time.
And that’s how the whole film is: It’s a nonstop experience that works equally well when its characters are their own regular selves or when they’re out battling crime. Dave’s not-remarkable life will seem pretty familiar to anyone who either is a teenager or can remember when they were in high school, and his idealism of wanting to create a better world is also believable and relatable – and far more suited to the big screen than the comics’ original depiction of him, which was more bored. In Millar’s original work, Dave’s reason for becoming a superhero wasn’t necessarily optimism, but “the perfect combination of loneliness and despair”; while that approach worked in that print format, he’s more sympathetic in the film. And Vaughn’s adaptation and tweaking of Hit Girl’s fight scenes are fantastic and wonderfully paced, and a sign that Moretz is certainly a young actress to watch.
Plus, “Kick-Ass” really wouldn’t be a superhero flick if it didn’t hint at a sequel. If so, Millar will need to get to writing – the eight comic books in his series were all used for this film, so more source material is definitely necessary. And based on how solid this first adaptation of “Kick-Ass” is, audiences will certainly be waiting.
Roxana Hadadi last reviewed “Clash of the Titans.”