The Plight of the Modern Superhero
Starring: Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
By Tom Bevis
For all the hype Mark Millar gets (you may remember him as the guy who wrote the comic book Wanted, which was adapted to film – remember that disaster?), the comic book Kick-Ass, which many consider to be his peak-performance, is surprisingly poor in quality. It suffers from a rushed storyline, half-developed characters, and an entire reliance on profanity and ultra-violence to propel the story forward. Luckily for movie-goers, everything that the comic book did wrong, the film does right.
The film follows the stories of three real-life superheroes (sans the super powers, of course) as they struggle against crime and fight to achieve their own ulterior motives. The spotlight is cast on Dave Lizewski, a teenager who is credited as the first of these superheroes and in a stroke of brilliance (I can’t type sarcasm, but it’s there) decides to name himself Kick-Ass. He’s quickly overshadowed, however, both in the public realm and in his own mind by other emerging crime-fighters who are better equipped and more skilled than himself.
The film casts one of the ugliest casts ever assembled, uniting a trio of lackluster young men to lend authenticity as a group of comic-reading loners. Aaron Johnson, despite his wavering accent throughout the picture, carries himself well and convincingly. His supporting cast, however, aren’t so lucky. Christopher Mintz-Plasse, while being a fan favorite from his earlier works, shows a weak performance as he bobs between the McLovin’ the audience wants him to be and the budding sociopath the character wants to be.
And poor Chloe Mortez (remember her from My Name is Earl?) spits profanity like a tobacco-dependent dock worker as she tries out her Clint Eastwood impression in an attempt to look badass. Unfortunately, her performance is pathetic, mixed with a bit of hilarity, like watching a cat trying to walk on its hind legs. Nicholas Cage, though, is a different story. Criticized by many for his flat acting, Cage seems to pick fun of his own methods throughout the picture.
The film’s strongest aspect is its successful plotting and pacing. The story moves along seamlessly with no struggle as the events weave in and out of one another with ease. The film doesn’t drag, slow down, or rush through the plot. The script, written simultaneously as the comic book script, is thick with authenticity and punchy dialog that will be quoted for weeks to come. Sadly enough, it is dragged down by the thick, poorly-placed profanity that has made the comic book popular among pre-teen boys trying desperately to expand their vocabulary into the wings of vulgarity.
A lot of the fun in watching the movies, though, is catching the onslaught of cultural references. In one scene, the group of friends leave a multiplex criticizing their choice in movies, as the camera scrolls up to reveal a marquee reading The Spirit 3. In another scene, Kick-Ass contemplates his death and everything he’ll be missing out on: losing his virginity, learning to drive, and figuring out what the hell was going on in television’s Lost. This is especially true for fans of comics, as characters compare themselves to various comic book archetypes and build surprisingly effect parallels.
The film’s weakest aspect is its trigger happy use of profanity, but that’s easily ignored for the lighter-minded individual, and the leaps in story, pacing, and entertainment is well worth the sacrifice. Fans of comic books and the young-adult crowd will be geared toward this film naturally. The younger crowd will be clamoring to see it for all the blood-packed action, but unless you want your kids trying out new and exciting swear words, you might want to give this choice a second thought.