We just saw the violently entertaining Kick-Ass. Read our first impressions and learn why any film that makes fun of The Dark Knight, Spider-Man and the Spirit is OK in our book. Get ready for Nic Cage's latest superhero freakout. Spoilers.
Enough Genre References To Last A Lifetime
My favorite parts of this film are the 1,000 nods to other superheroes, comic book movies and comics. After the main character Kick-Ass is hit by a car, his x-rays are splayed across his hospital room wolverine-style; then he has an entire back alley Spider-Man montage trying to learn how to jump from rooftop to rooftop. The comic book shop is littered with copies of Runaways, Mike Mignola's name is practically framed in the center of one shot, and when Christopher Mintz-Plasse heads to the theater The Spirit 3 is on the marquee. The comics displays were Mark Millar's decision - he wanted to put his friends' comics in the front. But, as director Matthew Vaughn revealed to us at the Kick-Ass press conference, The Spirit 3 was originally Spider-Man 10 or 12. Later it had to be changed because Sony wasn't too happy about the reference. So they went with another film and worked with a studio that was "a little bit more open minded."
The whole feature is just littered with genre nods like this, and it was quite a bit of fun pointing them out in the theater with friends. Plus we love any film that can poke fun of the comic book and Hollywood industry while praising it at the same time.
This Is The Beginning of The Reign of Mark Strong
It's been a very long time since we've had a good Mark Strong fix, Sunshine being his last real bonkers scifi role. Sherlock Holmes overshadowed his talent with fast cuts and Watson and Holmes banter, but Kick-Ass ushers in what will surely be the beginning of the fantastic Reign of Strong. He's cast as the big bads in Robin Hood, Green Lantern and John Carter of Mars, but Kick-Ass truly is the first film where Strong gets to take a bad ass, "don't fuck with me stance" but with a wink and a smile. His take on Frank D'Amico, local mob boss, drug baron and callous killer, was riveting. He made a character that could have easily been a throwaway glamor cameo an important and pivotal member of the Kick-Ass team. Strong marries humor and fear perfectly. He almost outshines Hit Girl, but sadly for Strong he's not an 11-year-old girl calling people cunts, which wins on shock value alone.
Kick-Ass and Red Mist are funny and entertaining to watch to be sure. But no one could rip their eyes away from little Chloe Moretz when she was running her blades through the backs of drug dealers. She was fantastic. Her chemistry with her father, played by Nic Cage, was spot on; her fight scenes were expertly choreographed, and she knew how to kick ass on screen. Everyone is going to be talking about her attitude, and everyone will be dressed like her for Halloween. Her screen time was nothing short of delightful.
A Little Of Both
Nic Cage Is An Insane Person
Nic Cage finally gets to don a cape and cowl and make his superhero dreams come true. His role as father to Hit Girl, trainer, and masked vigilante is the stuff dreams are made out of, or nightmares. We're not sure just yet what to think of his rat shit insane take on this already-bizarre character. When Cage is in Big Daddy character, he speaks with the pauses and jolts of William Shatner and Adam West. Why? Because that was what Cage decided to do, explained the director at the SXSW Kick-Ass panel:
When we did the first costume fitting, Nic started running lines, which I was pretty impressed by because the costume fitting was 6 weeks before we shot, and he knew all of his lines already. And he started doing it in the Adam West style. I thought it was very funny. I just encouraged it. We went for it...Also if anything the Dark Knight just drove me nuts with that stupid voice, so it was a little bit of like we'll have a silly voice as well and we'll do it in a way that's actually meant to be funny.
So on one hand you have Nic Cage acting like the spawn of a Shatner and West science experiment completely throwing the audience off at every angle. And then you have his non-superhero character, Damon Macready, played with style and ease. Just watch this clip: He's fantastic.
So we're split. We're not sure if we are laughing at or with Nic Cage, or if he even thinks it's funny at all. Plus Big Daddy's big climax moment where he's literally lit on fire while tied to a chair is so screamingly horrible mixed in with actual hilarious Nic Cage screams that again, we're at a loss. It's a whole lotta good mixed in with a whole lotta strange. Which is something so unique to Nic Cage that we lean towards loving this completely messed-up interpretation.
Not Enough Blood
This is a tricky topic to be sure. While the film itself is violent, it's not nearly as gory as the comic book. But not every film can be a Kill Bill-eque splatterfest can it? That being said many times it felt like Kick-Ass went for the gag over the gore, swapping out gallons of blood for a few more "little girl swearing at the camera" moments.
That's not to say the violence isn't there; Matthew Vaughn does a fantastic job giving the main character Kick-Ass a good beating. They spared no expense mangling his pretty face. But the rest of the characters got off pretty light. Even Cage's graphic demise (which is different from the comic) was covered by a shadow so as not to horrify audiences. Hit Girl probably got off the lightest, violence-wise. In the comic she's literally dipped in blood after every fight, but in movie the only drops of blood shed by this hero are from her nose after getting kicked in the face. Which the director explained was purely because Mark Strong wasn't willing to kick an 11-year-old in the face. That's weak sauce, Strong.
It's like this poster. The blood has been changed to paint, so it's there in theory - but it just feels off.
But to say the entire film is devoid of aggressively violent acts would be a total lie. There's even an amazing moment in the film that toys with our obsession with violence where a pack of mobsters live-stream their planned execution of Kick Ass and Big Daddy. Plus, as I mentioned before, the film does an excellent job demonstrating what a real life hero would experience at the hands of a pack of thugs. And it is refreshing to watch someone don a superhero mask to the soundtrack of the Olympics only to take a knife to the gut. Ultimately it's wonderfully graphic, but I could have done with some more of that colorful red stuff that paints the original comics. Then again I always want more blood.
Comic To Movie Translation Goes A Little Wonky
We're well aware that Millar wasn't finished with the book before the movie was made, so of course the two endings are going to be different. Too bad for us - we liked the comic book ending a bit more. The book left the characters in a much more devastated frame of mind, which mirrored the harsh reality of being a real life superhero. All the characters reach a similar place at the end of the movie, but the way they go about getting there seems a bit forced and convenient. When the film's big conclusion is wrapped around the reveal of some crime fighting appliance that has little to nothing to do with the story at all, it feels wonky and shoehorned in to finally get the audience to the end.
Not enough bad to outweigh the good. It's still a fun film with some major moments from Cage, Strong and Moretz that shouldn't be missed. Go see it.