Movie Review: Kick-Ass (aka the title that is its own rating)

Kick-Ass Splash

A reviewgitation by Direcow Avatar Direcow and Kakita Avatar Kakita

So 2 out of 3 of the HBG crew finally got their act together and went for some comic-book-goodness in the form of the movie adaptation Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass. Ever since 300 became a blockbuster, smaller, lesser known comics are being mined for their potential for translation onto the big screen, and this time we have Mark Millar and John Romita Jr’s Kick-Ass. Kick-Ass hasn’t been doing well at the box office in the US, and the cinema we were at was far from full even in opening week – some put it down to the negative press that its been getting recently, and others to just general disinterest in the movie – possibly having the appetite for only 1 comic book movie a year and we know what’s looming over the horizon (dahh dahhh dahh-dah-dahhhhh), and I’ll have to say that with an M-18 rating, half your target audience is going to be gone. Also, exams are looming. But even with the bad press and the lack of viewers this wasn’t a movie that we were going to miss out.

Direcow Avatar Kick-Ass tells a story about a normal human being turned vigilante, set in the real world – kinda. Some liberties with how this world works had to be taken or conveniently explained away to frame the story and allow it to move along. Kick-Ass himself had to have metal implants and deadened nerve endings to explain his ability to handle a beating and Big Daddy managed to scrounge up loads of cash taking out Frank D’Amico. Still some of this is inherent in the original comic, and the movie proves to be rather faithful to it, obviously still with some changes to keep the plot short and snappy.

Kakita AvatarI had no idea that Kick-Ass was doing badly in the box office. But I suppose that it’s understandable. Firstly it’s an M18 film, secondly it’s a pretty niche market (a metatextual superhero retelling ) vs your everyday superhero action blockbuster like, say.. Watchmen? 300? I dunno.

Direcow Avatar I think we shouldn’t forget that Watchmen didn’t do too well either.

Kakita Avatar Yes. And unfortunately Kick-Ass is even more niche. ‘With no power comes no responsibility’ requires a certain geek frame of reference to get. While it got some middling responses from your non-comic book fan, I myself was just too busy going crazy at all the references. Comic book montages? His practicing his building leaps? Campy Batman/Adam West/Kirk voice? Callouts to Scott Pilgrim, Runaways, Spiderman? Kick-Ass has it all.

I will say that while Kick-Ass might not appeal to the mainstream (you need a bit of the comic book geek language set to get it, much like The Big Bang Theory), any superhero fan worth his salt will be going crazy over it. Hell, he reads just like a real-life Spider-man! When Katie was all crying and sad and shit I was just imagining them channeling Mary Jane and Peter Parker!

Direcow AvatarNot to mention the sheer number of Spidey references, from the afore-mentioned jump to his grand quote about responsibility near the end. With artist John Romita Jr providing pencils for the flashback sequence I think a huge part of it felt not just like a love fest to comics, but also a nice shout out in particular to Spidey.

Kakita AvatarYeah. And of course, me being a great Spidey fan, loved it. I know that isn’t the story in the comic, but when I saw Dave unmasking before Katie I was just reading Peter Parker and Mary Jane into the roles. Easy peasy.

Direcow AvatarEven moreso than the supposed parallels with Clark Kent and his glasses, yeah? Kick-Ass just feels more Spidey, given the school setting and, well, the human characters.

Kakita AvatarSERIOUSLY. If you reboot Spider-man, use Aaron Johnson for Peter Parker. And Lyndsy Fonseca (How I Met Your Mother) could be a better Mary Jane than Kirsten Dunst. Or maybe Felicia Hardy.

Probably is of note that I said ‘read’ just now. I didn’t react to Kick-Ass like a movie, more like a motion comic strung together. You know, Issue 1: Kick-Ass. Issue 2: Hit-Girl / Big Daddy. Issue 3: Red Mist. Issue 4: Downer cliffhanger. Issue 5: End of Arc . Which might be why some people are crazy over it and some aren’t.

Direcow AvatarI think that’s strongly the case. In-jokes aside, Kick-Ass at its very heart is a movie about someone showing his love for comic books outwardly – and in turns shows the creators’ love for comic books. Without that in mind it’s probably going to be hard to fully take it all in – because we’re just going to simplify into just another violent movie. I do know one person who dips his toe into comics irregularly who thought it wasn’t anything special – and in my heart my first response was “you didn’t watch it with other fanboys, did you?” That being said, us fanboys can be quite an overbearing lot.

Still, Kick-Ass does have a lot going for it – the cast was quite amazing, especially Aaron Johnson as Kick-Ass (who the girls found cute with his glasses off), and Chloe Moretz is a huge revelation, especially with that level of chutzpah she brought to the role. Nicholas Cage was – just – pitch – perfect, and the rest of the supporting cast did really well too. Christopher Mintz-Plasse continues to do really well at whatever we throw at him (and coming a long way from McLovin’), and let’s not forget Mark Strong doing is villian thing once again, and a little shout out to good old Witchblade – Yancy Butler. A nice little wink and nudge from the casting people.

Kakita AvatarNicholas Cage was being his creepy comic book fan self, haha.

Direcow AvatarIn the end, is Kick-Ass a failure? It might not have made the projected 30 million in the box office in opening weekend, and it might have barely scraped past How To Train Your Dragon, but in the end as a movie and an adaptation, Kick-Ass is a triumph, and I honestly believe this scrappy little fighter isn’t going to go down so easily, bruised, bloodied or bent. Kick-Ass IS Kick-Ass.

Kakita AvatarIt’s damn kickass. And I think it bears noticing that Kick-Ass, made by a small independent group, was more or less a success. It might not be an Avatar-level success, but it’s wasn’t an Avatar-level budget either. It reminds me a lot of Firefly and Serenity. It’s going to speak to a select group of people, who are either considered awesome (by ourselves) or weird (by others). And maybe we wouldn’t have it any other way.

I’m still not going to dress up in green scuba gear and fight crime though.


Singapore’s resident Press Ganger, that is, the man to go to for Privateer Press’ WARMACHINE, and HORDES. Kakita also dabbles in Games Workshop’s WARHAMMER FANTASY and WARHAMMER 40K lines.

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