Just got back from watching KICK-ASS 2 at the movies.
In honor of this weekend’s soon-to-be blockbuster sequel, maybe the most arresting cover from the original KICK-ASS:
Comic: KICK-ASS #6
Artists: John Romita, Jr. (pencils) and Tom Palmer (inks)
What have we got here?
I figure most of us — at least those even passingly familiar with KICK-ASS as a property — are desensitized to the ultra-violence of it. But probably at some point in our pasts an image like the cover to KICK-ASS #6 would have demanded a double-take.
A little girl, drenched in blood, a sword in either hand; standing over the bodies of fallen men. Can you say “juxtaposition”?
The girl is Hit-Girl (as the cover indicates); possibly the most important unique element of the KICK-ASS franchise; a little girl who is a deadly killer. Foul-mouthed as she is lethal, Hit-Girl is actually what made me fall in love with the original movie. And here we have her origin story! (or at least the lower-right-hand-corner claims)
KICK-ASS isn’t for everyone, certainly. I “get” what Millar and Romita (and later Vaughn) were getting at with this. If you understand where they were trying to go, I think there is really only one reading: whiz-bang smashing success. KICK-ASS is the PULP FICTION of superheroes. It is a straight story; not a satire… But it constantly forces you to look twice and think twice, even challenge your suspension of disbelief.
But yeah, even someone who gets it — and buys in — has to think a second over Hit-Girl’s smile in this one… Especially as the titular ass-kicker looks on horrified from behind.
For those of you who don’t know what Movie Klub is, it is a klub… err… club that Lan D. Ho and Jon Finkel started a few years ago. Lan, a onetime (and one-time) Grand Prix Top 8 competitor [although a participant in the greatest Grand Prix Top 8 of all time] moved to New York City a couple of years back. Lan originally moved to NYC to make his Magic: The Gathering documentary I Came to Game, and live the real life Big Apple adventure with his friends (Magic and otherwise) along the way. He showed up without a job or anywhere to live (so a somewhat less prepared, though equally handsome Felicity), but brought with him longtime friendships and contacts, and a love of new experiences and slightly-above-average mind that landed him, eventually, a position at Susquehanna International Group.
Anyway, when Lan first moved to New York, he took up “resident gamer” status at Jon Finkel’s apartment (basically you get to live in Jon’s lavish New York luxury apartment in return for being the sixth- or eighth-man to fill out drafts when we are short)… Rough life, I know.
Lan started the once-per-week New York Movie Klub, whose original members included himself, Jon of course, Webb Allen, Dan O’Mahoney-Schwartz, Tuna Hwa, YT, and Tom Martell (plus other awesome people, obv).
Some years later, Lan has located a little south to the City of Brotherly Love, but Movie Klub continues strong, having become the social center of the week for some thirty-plus mostly awesome New Yorkers (and the occasional New Jersey-er) from various walks of life, hanging out at Jon’s every Wednesday.
This week it was my turn to show and I showed the kick-ass movie Kick-Ass.
I knew I wanted to show Kick-Ass ever since I was invited to the New York premiere by then-UGO television blogger Hillary Rothing (@tricia_tanaka), whom I had met over Twitter. The premiere feature Kick-Ass [comic book] co-creators Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. in a Q&A afterwards, where we learned all kinds of reasons why the making of Kick-Ass may have in fact been even more interesting than the movie itself (and the movie is effin’ great).
Kick-Ass is a somehow non-satirical, often hilarious, ultra-violent movie about a kid who decides to become a real-life superhero. He has no StarkTech, no great physical or financial super resources, and no “great responsibility” borne by possession of great power. He is just a kid who likes superhero comics and buys himself a goofy green wetsuit and some surplus police batons… I know that as a teenager who grew up on a mix of Dungeons & Dragons and Marvel zombie-dom, the same kind of fantasy occurred to me more than once, but the protagonist of Kick-Ass, christening himself (ahem) “Kick-Ass” just took that vital step that separates the boys from their, you know, eventual padded rooms.
But his heart is in the right place.
Kick-Ass follows essentially three story threads, the heartwarming, uncomfortably funny, and somewhat Dexter-like birth and colossally unsuccessful early adventures of the aforementioned Kick-Ass; the backstory and development of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, a father-daughter team of actually competent, well-funded, and well armed super vigilantes who befriend him; and the latter family’s arch-rivals, a wealthy drug cartel who eventually produce their own superhero.
Hit-Girl is among the most unique, interesting, and irreverent characters in the history of fiction, an eleven-year-old girl with the fighting prowess of a less scrupulous Drizzt Do’Urden; it is the presence of Hit-Girl that at once makes Kick-Ass such a singular piece of fiction… and simultaneously what made the movie hard to sell to studios in the development process. Not to say too much that might spoil the experience for those of you who haven’t watched it, but she is not only and eleven-year-old murderous sociopath (with a heart of gold), but the only eleven-year-old character in the history of mainstream fiction whose typical dialogue involves “giant cock” and (in the parlance of Arrested Development) the ever-popular “Seaword” [you know, if you grok].
Millar and company, in making Kick-Ass were attempting to create the Pulp Fiction of superhero movies, and I think their particular combination of emotional poignance, inappropriate hilarity, casual bloodletting, and genuinely surprising moments mean they were successful in that. It is in fact one of my favorite films.
Kick-Ass was directed by Matthew Vaughn, who also directed Movie Klub classic (also selected by YT), Stardust. The amazing thing about Stardust, adapted from the Vertigo fairy story by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess is that it is actually better — that is, in my opinion, ends better — than the original… And Stardust has been one of my favorite stories since its late-1990s publication. Vaughn’s most recent film is X-Men: First Class… so I can only assume he likes the comics as much as I do.
General consensus among Movie Klubbers was overwhelmingly positive for Kick-Ass. During my introductory speech, hosting Jonathan Magic asked what the Rotten Tomatoes score was; I didn’t know offhand, but looked it up on ye olde iPhone 4 during the movie, and later responded with 76%.
The best possible recommendation, then, coming from Jon was:
“Then 24% of movie critics are morons.”
Kick-Ass was (among this group) least well-received by former Beckett Magic: The Gathering and Star City Games Premium author Mark Young, who keeps the general Movie Klub blog. You can read Mark’s significantly less enthusiastic review (and learn more about different movies shown) here.
My Four Perspectives Kick-Ass Review:
What was great about Kick-Ass?
The movie is beautifully filmed. The colors are alive in shot after shot. You can really tell that the people who made this movie, from Big Daddy Nic Cage to original story writer Mark Millar absolutely love the material. There are little winks, like Brian Vaughan’s Runaways being read in a local comics shop to the kinds of banter about whether or not Bruce Wayne is a bona fide superhero or just crazy rich dude that really ring true to IRL comics fans.
Cage’s performance as Big Daddy was visually evocative of Tim Burton’s Batman, but played like Adam West’s Batman. The con-fusion is something that anyone watching the movie might notice, but that longtime fans of comics-to-film and such can appreciate as a kind of micro-Easter Egg.
More than anything else, the character of Hit-Girl, so solitary in all of fiction, is something to behold. She is hilarious and tragic, and simply fun to watch. We debated after the film what Kick-Ass might have been like with a twenty-five-year-old actress in a Hit-Girl-like role… and while some Movie Klubbers might have appreciate Angelina Jolie in such a role, the general consensus is that every action movie since The Matrix has had some kind of Trinity, and it just wouldn’t have been that special.
I might be a little bit biased though… like I said, Kick-Ass is one of my favorite movies.
What about Kick-Ass gave me pause?
The biggest barrier to my potentially showing Kick-Ass was that I had already shown a Matthew Vaughn movie at a previous Movie Klub, and I didn’t want to typecast my own choices; so I suppose that “self-consciousness” would be the biggest thing that gave me pause.
This is a little bit of quibbling, but Kick-Ass takes place in New York (and there are some unmistakably “New York” shots), but it is pretty clearly not actually filmed in New York for the most part (someone at Movie Klub suggested Toronto). I mean NYC just don’t look like that.
That said, if you are one who is sensitive to harsh language — especially coming out of the
pie ice cream hole of a murderous eleven-year-old girl — you probably won’t be able to distance yourself from the raw in-your-face-ness of this film to actually enjoy what is good about it.
Why would someone want to buy (or in this case, rent) Kick-Ass?
Besides the fact that it is really, really good, I am pretty sure it streams gratis on Netflix. So if you have a Netflix membership, it’s a free roll!
On Amazon streaming you can catch two of the best hours of filmdom of your life for… let’s see… $7.99:
Unapologetic Ad. Mise.
Buy / Don’t Buy? [rent / don’t rent]
Obviously buy / rent / etc.
All the movies I have shown so far at Movie Klub: