So how does the film translation of Millar’s and Romita Jr’s study on teen apathy and ultra violence hold up? Answers await.
I had the good fortune of seeing an early screening of Kick Ass last night, and for the most part it serves as an accessible window into the creative duo’s world. The main problem with all things Kick Ass is that the book itself has just as many flaws as the film. Somewhere between the two versions lies a near-perfect story. You almost wish you could pick and choose elements from both, and combine them into something completely new.
For those unaware, Kick Ass was originally an 8-issue mini series (that took almost up to the release of the film for Millar and Romita Jr. to complete). The story focuses on Dave Lizewski, an average teenager in every way except for the fact that he’s decided to don a cheap costume, and attempt to become the world’s first superhero. Of course, things go just as horrible as you’d imagine, and along the way he meets up with Big Daddy and Hit Girl, and The Red Mist. While Big Daddy and Hit Girl are the extremes of what Dave is trying to accomplish (just imagine if the Punisher had a daughter), Red Mist is much more lax in his role as a costumed crime fighter than Dave, often smoking up before going on patrol to ease his nerves.
The film, directed by Layer Cake’s Matthew Vaughn, takes these elements, and rearranges them into something more streamlined, while maintaining the important beats and character moments. While there are times you can almost see the actors pause after these beats, as if waiting for audience laughter to die down, Vaughn and company pull of the transition fairly well. Aaron Johnson makes for an excellent Dave, with just the right amounts of Peter Parker and Travis Bickle sprinkled into his performance. Nicolas Cage, while not the first actor that comes to mind when thinking of Big Daddy (not that he often comes to mind at all with casting- not a big fan), makes for a better Big Daddy than father figure to Hit Girl. When in costume, he chews the scenery as a warped parody of Adam West. When playing Damon Macready, however, his performance often comes off as forced, seeming closer to a doting uncle than a loving, if not homicidal, father to Mindy.
And what about Mindy/Hit Girl? Well, if you couldn’t tell from the trailers and online material, Chloe Mortz is the real star of this film. She owns every second of screen time, and you can tell just by watching it’s the most fun she’s ever had in her young career. Seeing Hit Girl in action alone is reason enough to check out the film.
So what are my problems with the film? Well, there’s a few (but remember, I also have a few complaints with the book itself). First off, backtracking a second, I really don’t feel Nic Cage was right for the film. Big Daddy is a bruiser- a big, hulking, intimidating bastard of a character in the book, and that never comes across in the film. Cage just isn’t built for it. Second, I’m a huge fan of Romita Jr., and I feel his costume designs didn’t need to be tweaked and altered. They looked like horrible costumes in the book, and that was the point. This is the real world, and ordinary people just wouldn’t have access to some of the materials used to construct the film’s costumes. Third, and my biggest complaint, is there’s a moment at the climax of the film that completely breaks the fiction of the story for me. It was an unnecessary choice, and turned the story from something plausible, to yet another larger than life superhero story. The way things played out in the book worked fine, and the injection of this new element (again, staying away from spoilers), really fudges the landing, so to speak.
All that being said, Kick Ass is exactly the type of movie it needs to be for the audience it’s going after. It’s popcorn in every sense of the word, and I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better time at the movies this spring.
Kick Ass is set to be released on April 16th.