Artificial Continuum

Friday, April 16, 2010

Does Kick Ass kick ass? Or does it just sort of drop one of those wimpy little kicks at your shin? The answer is somewhere in between, but a little closer to the ass kicking one.

Based on the critically acclaimed comic series by Mark Millar, Kick Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a lonely geek, who asks the question that defines the film: "Why don't people try to be superheroes?" With good intentions and fanboy dreams of success, Dave buys a wetsuit and pair of batons and becomes the masked vigilante, Kick Ass. After initial attempts and failures, Kick Ass becomes an Internet star, and inspires superheroes across the planet. Dave soon finds that he's not alone in the superhero business. Its not long before he encounters the mysterious Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl(Chloe Grace Moretz). However, their acts of heroism and violence soon attract the attention of some rather dangerous people including crime boss Frank D'Amico(Mark Strong) and his son (Christopher Mintz-Plasse). Kick Ass soon finds himself in the midst of gangwar, and way over his head.

Kick Ass is a strange little film. It truly excels in some areas, but finds itself floundering in others, which is strangely like the novel its based on. Kick Ass gets so many things right, but really misses the mark on others.

The acting in Kick Ass is superb throughout. There is hardly a bad performance in the entire cast. Even some of the extras are standouts. Johnson is a capable and likable hero, despite his obvious flaws. Mintz-Plasse is perfectly awkward and uncomfortable as D'Amico's son and feels oddly genuine, something that the comic character never really achieved. However, every performance in the film is eclipsed by the duo of Cage and Moretz. The chemistry between these actors is perfect and is many ways the highlight of the film. Cage is the best he's been in years, and plays a truly demented father that can be considered almost as villainous as the crime lords he fights. The real star of the entire film though is Moretz as Hit Girl. Moretz commands attention and provides for most of the films laughs as the bad mouthed and overly violent preteen vigilante.

Kick Ass really excels when showing its frantic and over the top action sequences. Whether its the almost embarrassing fights between Kick Ass and gang leaders or the over the top badass violence of Hit Girl or Big Daddy, the film never fails to convey the necessary emotion. Most of all the action scenes are fun. They never drag, and contrary to some other reviews, are not overly violent. The film version of Kick Ass succeeds where the novel did not. Director Matthew Vaughn manages to convey the necessary level of violence and action of the comic without feeling like your being bludgeoned over the head by it. Millar's comic action, though exciting and gory, grew tiresome and even sloppy. Vaughn's never does so. Even in the final act where the action is played as much for laughs as for plot, Vaughn never fails to deliver.

Vaughn also never fails to tell a joke. The film is filled with laughs from beginning to end. Jokes are funny, but most importantly well delivered. They do not feel forced or tired, but rather feel incredibly natural. Even when the tone of the film takes a rather annoying turn in the second half, the humor stays consistent.

The real problem in Kick Ass is the oddly uneven script. What many do not realize is that the film version and the graphic novel were actually a joint venture, and were made simultaneously to one another. Despite this, Kick Ass takes several liberties in adapting Millar's tale to the big screen. Some major plot elements are changed, mostly to make the films plot more cohesive and cinematic. There are some changes made to the backstories of the characters that actually work better in the film than in the comic. We also get further exposition on Mintz-Plasse's character . The real problems come when addressing some of the satire and parody presented in the original comic. The original Kick Ass graphic novel told a consistent, if not always sucessful, satire of superhero cliche. The film starts out with this in mind, but eventually devolves into a standard superhero film. Despite this change in tone, the film still remains fun and entertaining, but it feels as if the writers lost the goal they were shooting for in the earlier portions of the film. However, most disappointingly Kick Ass actually falls for some of the cliches it is parodying. One of the things I liked about the original graphic novel was the realistic and pessimistic approach given to the books love interest. The film takes a completely different route, and it feels off kilter with the rest of the story. While the love story actually seems to work, it just feels out of place with the goal of the story. There is also a rather cliched scene at the end that is incredibly over the top and poorly executed. Things also wrap up a little too nicely at the end, something the novel avoided.

Overall, Kick Ass is an enjoyable and entertaining dark super hero comedy. While flawed and frustrating at times, it still succeeds in creating an above average film. While it may not define the superhero genre for years to come, it will certainly remain as one of the better films that have been churned out in recent years.

(Note: In the end, I am giving this film the same score I gave the novel. Despite this when comparing the two, I prefer the film. )

Score: B+


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