During a time in which superhero films are running rampant, it was no surprise that the subgenre of the normal man fighting crime would quickly get in on the action. Super, Griff the Invisible, and Defendor all have their places, and that’s just naming a few. And somewhere in the middle, there is Kick-Ass.
Lauren: I will admit that I was a little skeptical back when Kick-Ass came out a few years ago, mostly because of the names of the characters. Hit Girl? Big Daddy? Kick-Ass? Come on. But sometimes it really is all in a name, and the film did just what the title suggested by finding this amazing blend between humor, garish violence, and Nic Cage. Personally there was something so special about this movie, and it can’t quite be replicated by anything else.
And that includes the sequel. Though it wasn’t able to completely reproduce what the first film did, Kick-Ass 2 is still a great way to remember the film that came before, all the while allowing itself to be something else as the scale of what happened in the first film grows alongside the main characters that are growing up (more or less). I almost can’t even describe the difference I felt between the two films as they still contain the same elements that make each entry in the series great in its own right, but something was definitely different as Dave Lizewski trains to become an even greater hero among the growing numbers of both superheroes combing the streets and supervillains blowing them up. Do you know what I’m talking about, Zac?
***Warning: Spoilers Ahead***
Zac: They definitely stream the same DNA through both of the films, thanks to Millar’s comics, but I think the change of directors is where these films most contrast. That isn’t to say Jeff Wadlow’s film here doesn’t have its own merits, but I think the film is certainly lacking that special something that makes the first film so great. Matthew Vaughn shoots much better action (without needless CGI, but more on that later), KA2 lacks the iconic moments in the original, and the film might have a bit of a problem with tone. While I certainly enjoyed the coming of age story for both Mindy and Kick-Ass, probably more so than even the origin story of the original, there were a few too many moments where I think they might have gone too far. Limp dick rape jokes and excessive vomiting/diarrhea didn’t really do it for me.
Lauren: Ah… the director change. It really is as simple as that. Like Zac says, the action changes slightly because of Wadlow’s styling and CGI use, which I will say pulled me out of the film in a huge moment with Hit Girl finally taking down Mother Russia. I loved this fight so much up to that point because it actually had stakes as Hit Girl gets painfully thrown around the room, and I will even get behind the idea of the adrenaline shot, but it was a big fail to go to the computers to end it. Not only that, but Hit Girl doesn’t get another hallway fight set to a catchy tune as the falling bodies provide the beat. Thankfully there are still moments in which I just got to smile and enjoy being back with my favorite character from the first film as she brings the pain, but the lack of a scene like that hallway fight was never forgotten.
In actuality, even if it’s named Kick-Ass 2, Hit Girl provides the focus far more than Kick-Ass does seeing as his storyline is pretty similar to what it was in the first film as he tries to find himself as a hero. In opposition to his desire to not be overwhelmed as a hero, Hit Girl struggles with becoming a regular girl in the world without her crime-fighting persona when her adoptive father asks her to put her past aside. Seeing as we can’t keep Chloe Grace Moretz from aging, the hilarity in the dichotomy of the little girl fighting crime with no hesitation can’t be relied on as the main factor in drawing audiences to her character anyway, so Mindy has to evolve accordingly to provide more depth, which Moretz steps up to (and I can now say I am extremely excited to see her in the Carrie remake). I might not believe the One Direction swooning joke, and I really wanted her to punch the queen of the plastics in the face when Mindy gets date ditched, but her story has the most heart overall, diarrhea and all. And a reference to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off certainly didn’t hurt.
Zac: The CGI in with the van sequence, as well as her final adrenaline fueled moment, are both very cheap looking, and I would have much preferred some grounded fights with weight over “cool” looking impossible moments. Outside the jetpack in the first film most of the fights are pretty basic, but expertly executed, and while this film still has some solid fisticuffs I certainly missed the aforementioned hallway beatdown and Big Daddy’s big moment.
One scene that was fairly well executed (and seemingly mostly practically) was Mother Russia’s big cop slaughtering moment, but my audience kind of ruined this moment for me. Well, I shouldn’t blame everyone, but instead focus my rage on the four assholes sitting behind me that thought her brutally murdering cops was the coolest/funniest thing released in cinemas. Honestly, this was far more upsetting than the carnage on screen and I think Wadlow’s affective moment of terror was severely undercut by these idiots.
Which brings me to an odd argument I have seen against this film; is it too violent? I would say that no, it is not. But these losers behind me, and some other people as well, seemed to be relishing in the bloodshed of this film. I know this is nothing new for fans of cinema, but the moron crew were enjoying any and all violence thrown their way (these were all middle aged adults by the way, so don’t go blaming the young ones for this blood thirsty attitude). I think Wadlow does a pretty good job of projecting when something should be scary vs. fun, but I am not going to lie that these dumbasses’ reaction to the violence didn’t make me think twice at times.
Lauren: Personally the only reason I ever questioned the level of violence was because of the whole Jim Carrey denouncement of the film, but I don’t think I really would have noticed otherwise because I am sane and have a healthy understanding of violence. That, and I’ve seen Watchmen. The Kick-Ass films have fun with the violence, sure, but I interpreted this more as a way of matching the excitement of the characters who are in the moment instead of just throwing in the violence to get a reaction from the audience. They’re having fun so the audience is allowed to match the enjoyment levels, but it always felt within reason to me (though I would have been ok with a few less bodies getting run over by cars during the van fight scene). Like it is later pointed out, this isn’t a comic book, but their real lives, and I do think that the film is balanced out by moments in which what the characters are doing really does become real to them. Kick-Ass’s dad being killed for him was one of these moments, as was the scene I mentioned earlier between Hit Girl and Mother Russia in which my favorite character was severely outmatched. So yes, the film is violent, but it’s not too violent.
Zac: Like I said, the film is very violent, but I don’t think it relishes in the gore. I think it makes it very real at times, Carrey’s death in addition to Dave’s dad in particular, and I also am not exactly sure if it is even as violent as the first film. Either way, this was a non-factor for us ultimately and if you could handle the first film you can handle this one.
I wish someone would have stepped into Nic Cage’s shoes, though, as the film was missing the magic that he brought to the first one. Jim Carrey seems like he could fill the void, but the film underuses him before eliminating him from the film rather early. With the focus on the two leads, and the two very capable actors playing them, it isn’t that noticeable, but they seemed to lean on The Motherfucker to fill that “weird” void. He is too evil and cartoonish, and Mintz-Plasse doesn’t have the range/chops to give us what Cage could.
As focused as the story is on the leads, I think the film might have been better served as much smaller story as well. The whole good guy army vs bad guy army looks cool in a trailer, but when none of the characters are fleshed out there aren’t really any stakes beyond the leads. Still, I did enjoy the film poking fun at comic archetypes of the bad guys, and I think they contrasted that well with the dead seriousness of the good guys’ motivations. I did think they were going to get into the reality of having these masked vigilantes roaming the streets a bit more, but with Watchmen covering that territory so perfectly it was probably for the best as it is.
Lauren: See, I didn’t have this problem with the armies. The main group of good guys provides some great characters to further develop the general tone of the film of these people not truly understanding the reality behind what they signed up for, and I think taking a closer look at this larger scale would have ended up on the cutting room floor had it ever been shot. I loved every moment of Donald Faison as Dr. Gravity, Tommy’s parents taking the night off to go see a Broadway show made me smile far more than it probably should have, and that fanny pack… Tommy’s Dad having a fanny pack in place of a utility belt was easily my favorite detail of the movie.
I loved all of these characters, yet going into more depth with the larger scale group, as opposed to having them go unrecognized, would have been too much to handle. Plus I had no problem providing my own stories for them based on their costumes. It was enough for me just to have the visual of there being that many people out there fantasizing about being able to call themselves super anything. If Wadlow had really wanted to drive the point home about the seriousness of the situation then he could have actually shown more death in this brawl, and I kind of wished for this. If Kill Bill can successfully spray blood around the room during the Crazy 88 scene, then it could have been done here without going over the top.
In the end I can’t really say which of the Kick-Ass films is necessarily the better because they provide two different experiences in how to produce a story like this. With that said, Kick-Ass one will always have a special place in my heart that the sequel couldn’t compete with, and that says something.
Lauren’s Final Score: B Follow @BewareOfTrees
Zac’s Final Score: B-