SCORECARD (each category ranked on a 10-point scale):
Storyline – 7
Art – 8
Captivity and Length – 8
Identity – 10
Use of Medium – 7
Depth – 8
Fluidity – 8
Intrigue/Originality – 9
The Little Things – 10
Overall awesomeness – 9
Not all superheroes come in hulking bodies, a limitless supply of cash or come from a mysterious foreign planet. In the case of Hit Girl and Kick-Ass, they come in the form of regular people. This revolutionary series by two of the industries heaviest hitters redefines what fans think of superheroes, and it does it without ever being unaware of what it is. It is satirical of the comic book industry, while still paying homage to the near century of comic book lore that has preceded it.
Fans of the movie Kick-Ass 2 (our review here) will be familiar with the vague outline of the story in Hit-Girl, as the events of the story were kind of covered by the film’s plot. After the events of the first Kick-Ass, Mindy has thrown up the mantle of Hit-Girl (yeah, right!) and Dave is back in the streets cracking heads over loose change. When Mindy’s high aspirations of taking down the new Boss in Staten Island demand a sidekick, Dave becomes the most suitable candidate. Meanwhile, Mindy finds that she is having trouble fitting in with her classmates in junior high. I suppose a decade of one on one training with a crime-fighting dad will do that to you. It’s an enjoyable story that does the franchise justice, and I enjoyed reading it the whole way through, even if I was rolling my eyes at how over-the-top it has all become.
What makes this Kick-Ass interlude kick so much ass is Mindy McCready, herself. The young crime-fighter is barely old enough to like boys, yet she is one of the deadliest characters in comic books today. Although she cares for Dave as a friend and *snicker* sidekick, there is a business decision struck between the two. Being raised on nothing but hardcore vigilante justice has left Mindy’s soft skills lacking, and she has recruited Dave to help her blend in with the rest of the mean girls in her junior high. It becomes apparent that punches and a sweet collection of fatalities isn’t going to solve this problem. The book is full of hyberbolic situations that young women Mindy’s age go through, and while it’s a little unrealistic to think that handling your problems like Hit-Girl does is a plausible solution to any adolescent troubles, they are all problems that tweeners go through.
In addition, Millar gives us some superb origin telling with Hit-Girl and her Big Daddy, which makes you sad that she misses him, but not quite sad that he is gone. While it was adorable to see her lure rapists into a car and then shoot them in the eye through her teddy bear, it really started to cross the line from over-the-top to gratuitous. The story was also very basic. It got the job done, and it set up the events of Kick-Ass 2 nicely in a fashion that could only constitute a Mark Millar-John Romita Jr. collaboration. The social commentary and excessive violence is what you come to expect with this franchise. Whether it’s discussing the lack of new superheroes in the industry or how to correctly deliver a punch line to catch your enemies by surprise, Hit-Girl is a mirror reflecting society’s highly romanticized view on the superhero world.
At the end of the day, you will know whether or not you like Hit-Girl before you open the front cover. It’s hilarious that tweener like Mindy whoops everybody’s ass, but it’s not a joke. Her size is one of her biggest assets, and her reputation takes a hit when she tries to play the mean girl game on their level instead of just being herself. Female superheroes do not need to be boob windows or short skirts to be heralded. There is a message to be had, but it might be hard to make out from the copious amount of blood, gore and obscenities. Damian Wayne, eat your heart out.
Genre – Comic Book/Action
Director – Jeff Wadlow
Cast – Aaron Taylor-Johnson & Chloe Grace Moretz (Kick-Ass), Christopher Mints-Plasse (Superbad), Jim Carrey, Donald Faison (Scrubs, Clueless), John Leguizamo (Ice Age)
Alluring element – A sequel to the 2010 movie about home-grown superheroes based off the original Kick Ass comics
Check it out if you liked – Kick-Ass, Watchmen, violent action movies, comic book movies
In a world saturated in comic book movies already, the Kick-Ass franchise well-represents the minority of the lesser-known stories. Unlike the hoards of comic book inspired films before it, Kick-Ass didn’t have fifty plus years of lore to pull from. All it had was one eight-issue run to create a fully-enveloped universe. There was no Batsuit to fit into, no Lois Lane to save and no Avenger to come save the day. Instead, Kick-Ass uses frequent fanboy references to characters of all nerd mythos. Come to think of it, I don’t know any other instance that the words “Batman” and “Stan Lee” are used together in the same movie. In doing so, Kick-Ass really makes viewers feel they are getting an entirely new experience. I also felt that the struggles of our main characters were much more relatable than those of the blockbusters hits. Struggling with superpowers is cool I guess, but what about just getting the crap kicked out of you for trying to stand up for what’s just? My childhood was much closer to the latter. Another great trait of the film is it’s ability to play as a comic book, full of Comic Sans panel transitions and bulging out character introductions.
The transition from comic book to film might have been done so well that few people have any idea it was based off a comic book to begin with – which, to me, is a big nod to the creator, Mark Millar, and the film’s director, Jeff Wadlow. Millar’s story is so well-crafted, with just as many witty comebacks and touchy feelings as there are gruesome violence and adult (like, SUPER-adult) language. There is a vast cast of characters that complement each other and the dialogue alone has enough momentum to carry the film to the end, which should be noted is very different from the book’s plot. All star talent like Jim Carrey and Donald Faison are great additions to the crew as Colonel Stars & Stripes and Dr. Gravity, respectively. Carrey serves almost as a father-figure to new “superheroes”, mirroring the same relationship that Hit Girl had with Big Daddy. However, as hard at Nicolas Cage tried, and believe me he tried, he’s just too corny to pull off being a badass superhero, especially one that was a cheesy rip-off of Batman to begin with. The charisma of Colonel Stars & Stripes reverberates throughout the film and he’s genuinely likable as an actor for the first time since Fun With Dick and Jane.
Colonel Stars & Stripes’ merry band of misfits, Justice Forever, is comprised of various inspired citizens with tragic “origin stories,” especially a suspiciously familiar Battle Guy whose parents were shot in an alley behind the opera house. Or maybe that was Batman’s origin, whatever. Another is a slender gay man that battles against bullies and discrimination while refusing to wear a mask because “it reminds him too much of being in the closet.” My favorite, though, has to be the middle-aged married couple in Knicks-colored jumpsuits, trying to avenge their son’s death. On the other side of the spectrum is the Motherfucker and his Toxic Mega-Cunts (Sidenote: in case you were wondering if this was going to be a family flick, I can tell you now that it is not. You’re probably better off taking the kids to see American Pie.) Formally the Red Mist, The MF’er is bent on the destruction of Kick-Ass and all that he holds dear after Kick-Ass blew his dad up with a bazooka. I mean, vowing revenge is one thing, but dressing up in your mother’s BDSM (oh God, I wonder how many searches for BDSM will bring views here. How disappointing!) outfit and calling yourself a supervillain might be taking it too far. It’s a archetypical approach that often feels heavy-handed through the film from Christopher Mints-Plasse. McLovin has managed to typecast himself after just one film (Superbad) and has really lost his charm by trying too hard to be a douchebag supervillain. I haven’t figured out if I dislike the acting or the character, but I just really can’t stand that Motherfucker.
The same dark and violent humor from the original returns in Kick-Ass 2, bringing back the same formula, but turning up the intensity – more death, more brutality and more foul language (most of which is handed out by Hit-Girl). Contrary to the popular belief that this is pointless and gratuitous, I feel that the tone of the movie and the book are both very dark and violent, in the same way that Sin City and Watchmen portray a bleak and dangerous outlook on their worlds. In fact, the movie actually pulled a few punches instead of unleashing its graphic content on us to prevent some bloodshed and sexual violence making it on screen and avoiding those scenes with awkward humor. That’s not to say Kick-Ass 2 is full of warm fuzzies. After the Sandy Hook massacre, supporting actor Jim Carrey came on the record of saying that after such a tragic act, there’s no way he could support that level of violence. I see when he is coming from, but I do not agree. After the Aurora theater shooting last year during The Dark Knight Rises, nobody rushed to condemn Batman and his use of violence. The truth is, Kick-Ass 2 is one of the most violent comic book movies you can watch, but it is also keen on showing the consequences of that violence and goes far to make clear that it is not something to be glorified. Dressing up and playing superhero isn’t a game. The most violent urge I had after watching the movie was to find a DARPA “sick stick” and use it in line at the DMV.
Another dynamic to the movie is that Hit-Girl is actually the main character. Although Kick-Ass is the title character, Chloe Grace Moretz has just as much screen time and character development as her male counter-part. She actually refers to herself as the Batman to Kick-Ass’ Robin throughout the film and is constantly saving Kick-Ass’… ass, training him and teaching him to be a better hero. It’s funny, because even though this is a Marvel book, there are deeper comparisons to DC Comics’ Batman and Robin – beyond the one that’s mentioned in the trailers. When Big Daddy dies at the end of the first Kick-Ass, hit girl is left grieving in a way that begs asking the question “what would happen if Damian Wayne survived Batman at 15 years old?” Both Damian Wayne and Mindy Macready are callous, trained killers that have a stubborn issue with authority. In this analogy, Kick-Ass plays Nightwing, an older more stable family-figure that brings Robin/Hit-Girl back from the darkness to find deeper meaning and guide them back on the right path. It’s an interesting angle that makes me appreciate the writing a little more.
Kick-Ass 2 has a lot to say, but the message can get muddled amongst the Tarantino-level violence and harsh language, but overall it is a great follow-up to an original idea. In a lot of ways, the sequel actually surpasses the original in terms of supporting cast and character development. The action scenes are on a larger scale and the comedy keeps you from crying from the tragedy. Its great writing leaves it open for a third installment to play out in a way that the comic book (ongoing) has a noticeably different direction than the movies.The Kick-Ass franchise is not just creating its own universe, but reflects a very real part of society in which people try to go out and make a difference doing the very thing that Justice Forever does in the movie. One thing that is transparent is that these real life superheroes aren’t gimmicks, well at least all of them. If you want to dress up and fight crime, you need to go out and do it. Or just watch this movie. All the reviews I’ve seen on it have been quite polar, but I recommend going out and seeing it for yourself to decide how much ass it really kicks.
Even past the above-mentioned connections, Kick-Ass 2 pays homage to comic book mythology in a number of ways. During the scene where Justice Forever christens their new hideout, all the heroes line up and take a picture very reminiscent of the photo that the Watchmen take when they form the team. Kick-Ass also wears an ironic “I Hate Reboots” Star Wars shirt to bed. Also, you can find references to other Marvel and Mark Millar work throughout the film, all found in Kick Ass’ room. Colonel Stars & Stripes is actually two different characters in the comics, Colonel Stars and Lieutenant Stripes, with Stripes being the other founding member of Justice Forever with Colonel Stars.