The Movie Dictator Club for the month of January, 2011 is a another take on the superhero genre, a fresh take if you will!
Screenplay By: Jane Goldman & Matthew Vaughn
Directed By: Matthew Vaughn
I’ve allowed Kick-Ass to roll around in my rather large and impressive brain (yeah, I went there) for a whole day now. That’s right folks, Kick-Ass is not some cheaply made indie, a bland comic book adaptation or the mindless bit of violence it may appear to be on the surface. There’s a lot going on in Kick-Ass, a hell of a lot actually. Matthew Vaughn has crafted a tale with many layers to it, a movie that hits you on the surface level with something that seems obvious but if you dig a bit deeper you’re bound to unearth some wormy gems. And all of this from a movie that more than one person decried as an abomination, who would have thunk it?
The movie that first came to mind for me when watching Kick-Ass was Watchmen. Both films tread in the same water, they revel in the idea of giving the viewer what they want and asking the viewer if they really do want what they are seeing? Watchmen does this through its portrayal of its heroes and through the way it uses its violence. Kick-Ass does much the same, but the key difference between the two is that Watchmen strives, and succeeds at, being a very serious entry in the story department. Kick-Ass isn’t as concerned with that, because it’s story is over the top and a bit loosey goosey. But, in doing that Kick-Ass is saying something about the world the film inhabits and the ideas that fans, and causal readers, have about comic books and by extension comic book movies.
Sorry, went off on a small tangent at the end of that last paragraph, let’s bring it back home for a second. I make the Watchmen comparison for one reason above the others listed in said tangential paragraph. Watchmen took the viewer to a world of gritty reality inhabited by super powered beings. Kick-Ass takes the viewer to a world of gritty reality that shows the truth of what would happen if people took up the mantle of super hero without the high tech gadgets or super hero powers of the comic book universe. Red Mist, Big Daddy, Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass all have moments of traditional comic book bad assery. They also have moments where they get thrashed from one side of the screen to the other, lose teeth, get broken in two and look like the misguided individuals they are. In the real world costumed vigilantes who actually went up against the bad guys would more often than not get their asses kicked and Kick-Ass presents this truth as it is. The depth of gritty and dark realism that Kick-Ass is able to find in taking this path isn’t something to be easily dismissed.
Getting back to that story for a moment, and how much of a comic book story it is. I don’t want people to take my comments as a slight against comic book storytelling. I love comic books and they do range the gamut of storytelling, all the way from deathly serious to farcical. But, there has always been a trend in super hero tales to attach a lot of silliness in the story of even the most serious tales. Kick-Ass is over the top, its characters are silly, but these things are the way they are because the world they exist in is fucking crazy. The characters swear like sailors, spew blood by the gallon and an eleven year old girl is the baddest bad ass the world has ever seen. I as a comic fan love that type of storytelling, the type that knows how over the top it is and goes with it. But, Kick-Ass does something different, it grounds its over the top-ness in the aforementioned gritty reality. This throws the entire movie at the viewer, it made me question what I was seeing. Was all the silly storytelling in those comics I loved was truly justified when contrasted with the reality of what was actually happening in all of those fight panels I read over the years?
Kick-Ass blends gritty reality and over the top zeal in a fashion that fascinated me. It made me horrified at what comic books had been hiding from me. I questioned if I really should love so many comic book movies like I do. It reaffirmed how much I really do love comic books, comic book movies (the good ones at least), independent film making and films that are willing to challenge the viewer while still being a lot of fun. Kick-Ass is bloody, it’s violent, and I’m sure plenty of people will view it as vile. It’s also well acted, funny, exhilarating, a great ride, and a film that questions its own existence. Kick-Ass is everything a great comic book movie should be, no hold that, it’s everything a great movie should be, period.