“Come on, be honest with yourself. At some point in our lives we all wanna be a superhero”
In light of the release of ‘Deadpool,’ I thought I’d go back to one of the original “subversive” Rated-R comic book films, ‘Kick-Ass.’ I remember seeing the initial trailers. They promised a satirical and humorous take on the comic book film, and possibly even reinvigorate it. To be fair, it is a pretty decent, pretty humorous, but right from the start it tells a lie. The main character, Kick-Ass, or as he’s known to his fellow schoolmates, Dave Lizewski (in a Spider-Man-esque voiceover), immediately tells us this isn’t the average comic book film, and he isn’t the average comic book hero. But this voice-over is the Richard Nixon of voice-overs.
As Dave tells us, his parents didn’t die at the hands of a super villain; he didn’t get bitten by a radioactive spider or end up on Earth, a refugee from his own planet. He’s simply an average teenager who reads too many comic books, masturbates a lot, and wants to become a superhero. He is still a nerd disliked by the majority of his high schools companions (although he doesn’t look that much like a geek, compared to his two buddies who look exactly like geeks. Why don’t they ever cast some pimply, squeaky-voiced guy as the geek-turned-superhero?). After donning a scuba diving suit and intervening in a crime, he’s stabbed and hit by a car, and thus begins the film’s downward spiral to comic book movie conventions. After an absurd operation to give him Wolverine-like metal boosts to his skeleton, he can now be classed as a ‘superhero.’ His nerve endings are burned out as well. It’s a twist that’s hard to believe, and detracts from the previous twenty minutes of funny realism and comic book satire. He’s has the same absurd creative process that other superheroes go through.
“This is awesome! I look like frickin’ Wolverine!”
It then degenerates into standard comic book fare: he gets the girl, thinks about retiring from the superhero profession, then re-dons the costume to save the day. Of course, it does this through rather funny plotlines. For example, the girl of his dreams initially thinks he’s gay, and he becomes her ‘gay BFF.’ In a ludicrous plot turn, however, he invades her room in costume, and has to reveal that not only is he Kick-Ass, but he’s also not gay and is in love with her. Then she accepts this and they presumably copulate. It is moments like this that pollutes the attempt at comic book satire. Why doesn’t she think he’s just dressing up as Kick-Ass to get into her pants? Rather than satirizing ‘Spider-Man’, the film goes through loopholes to end up in the same place as ‘Spider-Man.’ Even one of the “hilarious” lines, ‘With no power comes great responsibility’, is a prelude to Kick-Ass’ acceptance of great responsibility.
Another staple of the comic book film that this film strictly adheres to is the generic big city. This takes place in New York, and although you see some rough-looking back alleys, New York is still displayed in all its grandeur. Times Square has a flattering aerial view, skyscrapers dominate the landscape. Why does every comic book film have to take place in a big city, either on the West Coast or East Coast? It’s one flaw of ‘The Dark Knight’ for me. In ‘Batman Begins’, the city was a believable hellhole. Bruce Wayne’s father had grand plans to make it just another city, with its own monorail, skyscrapers and so on. However, this dream died with him, and the city fell into disgrace. Crime had literally morphed Gotham into a dingy and dark place to live in. Then ‘The Dark Knight’ arrived, in a completely different city that professed to be Gotham. It made no sense. The downtrodden Gotham of Batman Begins became a Mecca of capitalism. It was just another city. Why didn’t Kick-Ass take place in a similarly downtrodden hellhole, or depict more of New York as a scum-filled pariah state? This convention needs to be changed, as every comic book film looks the same nowadays.
“A world full of superheroes, eh?”
The biggest star of the show is Hit-Girl, the pre-pubescent foul-mouthed superhero. She says words that are unrepeatable in this review, but they are really, really bad words. One rhymes with ‘shunt’, for example. Although she indulges in ultra-violence, swears, and is no more than eleven years old, she is the typical ‘superhero.’ Her mother was killed by a gangster, and she wants his head on the plate, after years of training by her father. It is a disturbing aspect, a father training his young daughter to substitute justice for murder. It’s one that could have been played out a lot more. However, the audience are meant to disregard that and enjoy the ultraviolent scenes Hit-Girl is involved in. And the scenes are spectacular, orgiastic melees of guns, blades and blood keep the attention. But they are also another weak aspect of the film. In reality, minus the gore and the little girl, they are just the same as other comic book film fights. At least Kick-Ass looked like a fool trying to fight off criminals. Hit-Girl, on the other hand, is a movie martial artist.
(Another disturbing aspect is the underlying theme that guns can make anybody a superhero. Even little girls AND Kick-Ass can become a super-hero if they use an extensive array of weapons. I bet there are a lot of would-be heroes in the USA…)
‘Kick-Ass’ does have a lot going for it: it’s funny, had some great action scenes, and had Nic Cage’s finest performance since ‘Leaving Las Vegas.’ He does a great Adam West. And all the hints pointed at a scathing satire of comic books. Instead I was left with a pastiche of the usual comic book film. In between this lay the grounds for a revolution, but it was quashed by lies. It even ends with the usual sequel-begging references that plague comic book films. To parody Nic Cage’s line in the film, comic books films are still in dire need of an ass-kicking, and Kick-Ass still got it’s ass kicked by comic books conventions.
VERDICT: 6/10. An enjoyable comic book film that slavishly follows comic book films conventions as much as it professes to overturn them.