Kick-Ass Movie Review: Step Away From The Comic Book

An average high school student learns the painful answer to the question of why there are no real superheroes in Kick-Ass, a completely new kind of comic book movie.

Based on the critically acclaimed comic book series from writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr, Kick-Ass tells the story of one Dave Lizewski, an unassuming comic book geek who decides that the world needs superheroes more than he needs his physical well-being. During his self-destructive journey of self-discover as the costumed hero Kick-Ass he gets tangled up with a couple of more capable heroes, Big Daddy and his preteen daughter Hit Girl, and proceeds to get hurt.

A lot.

Does Kick-Ass' pain translate into movie-goers pleasure, or does the film answer the question of why there aren't more successful comic book movies?

Loved

Kick-Ass: English actor Aaron Johnson's portrayal of everyman high school student Dave Lizewski, the boy who would be Kick-Ass, is an echo of Toby McGuire in the first Spider-Man film. He speaks with the same sort of warbling uncertainty, and carries himself with the same optimistic awkwardness that made McGuire's initial take on Peter Parker so charming.

Hit Girl: She might not have top billing, but Chloë Grace Moretz's Hit Girl is the true star of Kick-Ass. The 13-year-old actress from Atlanta (OK, I'm a little biased there) commands your attention in every scene she appears in, switching effortlessly between sweet little girl to hard-assed killer in the blink of an eye. She doesn't bat an eyelash while delivering dialogue that would make many grown-up actors blush. Moretz takes on a completely over-the-top character and very nearly succeeds in making her believable, and her fight scenes contain the best little person fighting since Yoda went apeshit on Count Doku in Star Wars: Attack of the Clones.

Big Daddy: Nicolas Cage's take on Hit Girl's father threw me for a loop at first. The doting father routine while out of costume was pleasant enough, with Cage riffing on the stereotypical father who'll do anything to make his baby girl happy, every now and then displaying subtle ticks hinting at a less-than-stable mental state lurking beneath the surface. That part of his performance was fine, perhaps even brilliant. It wasn't until he showed up in full costume, delivering his lines in the same stilted fashion as Adam West in the old live-action Batman TV series that I began to twitch. I initially found it completely ridiculous, but the more I thought about it, the more it made sense. Just as Dave Lizewski apes the heroes of his age, so does Big Daddy. It's not his fault the heroes of his age were corny.

Red Mist: It's McLovin! What more do you need? Christopher Mintz-Plasse might never live down his Superbad character, but he does a fine job in the role of Chris D'Amico, the son of the movie's mob boss villain and wannabe super hero. A sheltered rich kid, Chris just wants to be accepted. His father won't let him in on the family business and his bodyguard doesn't let anyone else get close, so when he finally teams up with Kick-Ass, you really feel for the guy, which makes it slightly easier to forget the character's true motivations. Mintz-Plasse manages to add a little bit of depth to an otherwise shallow character. Well done!

Senseless Violence: One of the biggest concerns I had with Kick-Ass being made into a movie was the danger of losing the outrageous violence. The Kick-Ass comic book featured some pretty brutal scenes; scenes I was sure wouldn't make it into a studio film, especially one featuring a 13-year-old girl. Much to my chagrin, director Matthew Vaughn didn't simply keep the violence intact, he amplified it, adding in new elements like the random bazooka or the giant, industrial grade lumber microwave. You can't go wrong with an industrial grade lumber microwave.

Comic Brilliance: Kick-Ass would not have worked at all without comedy. The movie laughs at its violence, its heroes, its villains, and its overall premise. It takes standard comic book movie themes and exposes them for how ridiculous they are. It manages to pull off some great comic moments without ever straying into the realm of outright parody. It gets dangerously close at times, but the humour in Kick-Always manages to catch itself before crossing the line.

Hated

Melodrama: Kick-Ass mainly stumbles when it tries to depict genuine emotion. The movie's dark humour and ridiculous levels of violence set my expectations to the point where when I was called to care, I wasn't sure if I was supposed to take it seriously or not. Imagine that Quentin Tarantino had slipped in a touching, heartfelt romance into the middle of Pulp Fiction; that's how awkward Kick-Ass's (thankfully) few emotional moments felt.

It's Not the Comic Book: This is where I rant about the difference between the Kick-Ass comic book and the Kick-Ass movie. If you don't give a damn about the comic, then ignore this bit entirely.

I'm not naive enough to think that any graphic novel could make it to the big screen completely intact, but several elements from Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr's work were altered to the point where I feel the spirit of the original story didn't make it through intact. Notable changes include Big Daddy and Hit Girl's true origin, which would have made Nicolas Cage's character much more disturbing had it remained the same as the comic, and the character of Katie Deauxma, Kick-Ass's love interest. The change to Katie's role is particularly jarring, as the situation that plays out in the film is so implausible that it appears in the comic book as a dream sequence, before the real consequences of Kick-Ass's actions come to light.

It's extremely difficult to review Kick-Ass after having read the comic book series. I understand that the comic book and Kick-Ass movie were written separately. Mark Millar handled the comic book writing, while director Matthew Vaughn and screenwriter Jane Goldman handled the screenplay. I admire Vaughn for championing elements of the book that no movie studio wanted to touch, from the violent content to a 13-year-old spouting the C-word. What they've created here is the sort of comic book movie that Quentin Tarantino would make, destined to be a cult classic.

I just feel the comic book series would have made a much better film.

I leave you with the same advice I give people about Wanted, another movie adaptation of a Mark Millar comic book series: Don't read the comics first. Go see the film, appreciate it for what it is, and then, should you be curious, pick up the graphic novel to see where it all began.

Kick-Ass was written by Matthew Vaughn and Jane Goldman and directed by Matthew Vaughn. Released in North America on April 16. Based on the comic book by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. Purchased my own ticket.


Comments

    Personally i found this to be one of the best films i have seen over the last two years.

    Not only was it extremely entertaining as a comedy/action flick, but it was extremely well designed. As in; holy shit the smooth action sequences and cinematography will make you shit bricks if you are into that kind of stuff.

    Agreed with the Katie Deauxma difference in the movie, actually sort of shat me, the direction they took was a little too wholesome for my liking

      hollywood always has to put happy in it somewhere

    To be honest when I originally saw the trailer for it on TV I thought it was going to be one of those horrible and lame 'parody' movies (Meet the Spartans, Superhero movie etc), but boy was I wrong.

    Despite my belief this film was fantastic and much better than I had expected. In my opinion, it's currently the best movie out for 2010 and a definite MUST SEE.

    ...why is this on Kotaku?

    The problem i have with this review is the whole "movie adaption of a comic book".
    Okay it is - but this isn't Spiderman, a comic book that was released before some of our parents were even born! That wasn't made into a film almost 40 years later. A franchise that fans would pick apart things from the movie because of the iconic status that Spiderman the COMIC holds and the movie missed.

    Kick Ass's comic & film was written at the same time. A movie that is based on a comic book and a comic book written for a movie. It just so happens that a comic book doesn't take as long to make compared to a movie, hence why people are all "Ohh its missed all this - yet another Movie adaption of an awesome comic book".

    I can understand some elements of the film were changed from the comic book, but that was done, deliberately (as always?) but whilst the comic was being developed aswell. It could be a Hollywood thing yes, but, bear in mind that Kick Ass was financed independently because all major studios turned the idea away. Either way, Kick Ass is... KICK ASS! Best film of 2010 so far.

    Wow! Saw "Kick-Ass" and my jaw dropped in disbelief and disappointment. What made the comic series so unique and interesting—e.g., the faux origin story of Big Daddy and Hit Girl and Katie's O. Henry reaction at the end—have been discarded for this fanboy wetdream. (Hell, even the fat kid gets a hottie!)

    I didn't know this film was based on a video game. Oh, it's not? So how come it's getting reviewed on a games site?!

      "What made the comic series so unique and interesting—e.g., the faux origin story of Big Daddy and Hit Girl and Katie’s O. Henry reaction at the end—have been discarded for this fanboy wetdream. (Hell, even the fat kid gets a hottie!)"

      Well, that in particular is what is interesting about the comic.

      The movie has Hit Girl himself, the Adam West-ish Big Daddy, and the torture video ("Kickass Unmasked")

    After watching the movie first, then reading the comic...I have to say the movie was much more enjoyable.

    Although the difference between the Big Daddy in the comic and the movie was huge, I do think the movie's version was a bit better because it kept with the whole awesomeness of Big Daddy being some legitimate, badass, real-life version of Frank Castle instead of some tragic comicbook dad.

Join the discussion!