Sunday, April 18, 2010

Kick-Ass: Meh, it was OK

I started reading the Kick-Ass comic series when it came out in 2008 because it was All. Anyone. Was. Talking. About. I swear, I couldn’t put up with another, “This is the story of what would happen if a kid REALLY put on a costume and tried to fight crime!!!!oneone!gasm!” No. It’s not. It’s a slightly more realistic story about a kid who decides to put on a costume and see what would happen if he tries to fight crime. By slightly I mean that the story should have ended shortly after his first encounter.

So, I can’t really do a decent review of this movie without giving too much away. So, for those who don’t want SPOILERS I’ll just leave it at this: If you like Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez movies and aren’t bothered by that level of violence and profanity, you’ll be fine with this movie. If those things bother you, avoid this movie. Now, for the rest of you, there are SPOILERS below:



There are three big problems with the movie Kick-Ass. The first problem is that you have to greatly suspend your disbelief for the central thesis to work. Two, as I said above, the kid should not have survived his first encounter. Three, it’s nowhere near as good as the comics are.

The primary story focuses on 16-year-old David Lizewski, a comic-book geek in a single-parent household who decides to start wearing a costume (a wet suit) and see what he can do to fight crime. So far so good – this isn’t too far out there. There are plenty of comic readers who want to do this. But on his first real trip out, David runs across a pair of hooligans who are trying to steal a car. When he tried to fight them, he winds up getting his own ass kicked and stabbed in the stomach. After the stabbing, he stumbles into the street where he is hit by a car (the driver of which promptly drives away). In the comic and movie, he survives. His body is put back together and in a few months he’s pretty much as good as new. Heck, in some ways better – he’s only got about 15% of the feeling left in most of his body.

I’m not saying that a person could not have survived what happened to the character, but it would have been a hell of a long shot. On top of that, to make a full recovery is beyond disbelief. So, there are problems one and two – you have to believe that not only does this kid survive, but that his injuries provide him with “special” properties – metal plates and pins “protect” him rather than hinder (like they do to every other person who’s ever had a pin or plate) and the numbness means he can take a hell of a punishment. But, hey, it’s a movie. In fact, it’s a comic-book movie. We can write all that off.

Problem three is a bit more detailed. See, in the comics, David gets the hell kicked out him, winds up falling in with these two other costumed characters – Big Daddy and Hit Girl – and barely survives taking on the mob. When all is said and done, his life as David does not change. He’s the same person. His second life had some unintended consequences on his civilian life, but not so much that he became anything more than he was before. However, in the movie, it is completely due to his Kick-Ass alter-ego that he becomes a cool guy and is eventually able to hook up with the girl of his dreams. There’s a happily ever after ending that just doesn’t exist in the comics. Not like it’s presented in the movie, anyway.

The other issue with the comics vs. movie is that all the primary characters in the comics have pathos. We understand their motivations or we’re at least given enough to identify in some way with why these things are happening. It’s even heavier for a comics reader, I think. The movie doesn’t give us this. Rather, we’re fed some pap that’s as clichéd as every other action-comedy out there.

This following comparison and contrast, to me, illustrates the difference in the execution and mentality between the two. In both the comics and the movie, David Lizewski is infatuated with his classmate Katie Deauxma. Katie is an attractive popular girl who doesn’t want to have anything to do with him. After the mugging and car accident, though, Katie is suddenly chatting him up and wanting to have coffee with him. He eventually finds out it’s because everyone at school thinks he’s gay and that Katie has made him her gay best friend. David wants her so bad that he doesn’t deny, goes along with it just to spend time with her. Now, in the movie, he eventually gets fed up and appears to her as Kick-Ass only to unmask, apologize, almost leave, but then be welcomed into her bed. They wind up hooking up and becoming a couple. It winds up being a primary motivation for him in the movie. This happens to him about 3/4 into the film. In the comics, David ALMOST approaches Katie as Kick-Ass. He stands in the Alley below her window and yells out to her, but before she can show up, he runs away. She catches a glimpse of him running away. At the VERY END of the book, he finally comes clean to her and she is so offended that she has her new boyfriend kick his ass. She and her friends send him abusive text messages and she even sends him a sexually explicit photo of her with her boyfriend.

The comic book ending seems like something that’s more likely to happen in real life. It doesn’t make you feel good inside, but it rings more true. There was no catharsis to David’s stupidity. Not in the comics anyway.

Hit Girl was great though. They pinned her character to a tee. The movie’s worth seeing for her alone.


Anonymous said...

Total agreement. But you didn't whine about the music at all...

- Kory

Cullen said...

But the music didn't piss me off as much as it did you.

Sheila O'Malley said...

I haven't seen it yet - a good friend of mine is in it! He plays Posh Goon. Speaks very highly of Nicolas Cage, said he was a great guy - they still correspond.

Cullen said...

Sheila, that's very cool. When you see it, you'll have to tell me what scene he was in!

I imagine Cage being a cool guy. He comes across as a real fan of the material and that really helps.

I'd love to discuss some of the performances with you after you've seen it.