Article by Jason Helms
I’ll admit, though I’ve been reading Kick Ass the comic for over a year now, I wasn’t expecting much from the movie. The comic, by superstars Mark Millar (Wanted) and John Romita Jr. (X-Men, Spiderman, The Eternals, Wolverine, as well as being the son of the legendary John Romita), was overhyped to say the least. The first issue’s cover proclaimed, “THE GREATEST SUPERHERO BOOK OF ALL TIME IS HERE.” In comic circles this caused two things: backlash and fanatacism. First, local comic shop gurus would talk about how mediocre Millar is (it’s true, he basically only has variations on one story) and how mediocre the plot is (the first issue isn’t entirely amazing, merely solid). Then came the obsequious comic geeks in herds to worship at the feet of Millar and Romita, driving it almost immediately into a second printing. When yoga goes horribly wrong.
The book’s not bad, actually. The plot follows high-schooler Dave Lizewski, a geeky comic nerd who decides one day to become a hero. Dave ends up just multiplying his problems. Now his secret identity is pretending to be gay to get close to the girl he’s in love with while his alter ego gets his ass kicked by local hoods. The ass kicking in question isn’t typical comic fun. He lands a hit or two then gets stabbed and stumbles into oncoming traffic. After a short hospital stay, he finds that he’s become addicted to suping (hang around comics long enough and their jargon infects you). Dave races back out into crime fighting, know taking the name Kick Ass to commemorate his initial foray. As you can imagine, shenanigans ensue. The plot has progressed well, but it’s felt plodding mainly due to serious delays between issues.
The movie looks amazing. I was expecting typical superhero fare, that would hopefully pick up a bit on Millar’s biting wit. The outcome is a cross between Snatch, Superbad, and the better parts of Wanted. I suppose this makes sense. McLovin (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is in it, afterall, and Matthew Vaughn (producer of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and Director of Layer Cake) is directing. The clips we saw had the fast pace of a Guy Ritchie flick with the irreverent banter of a Judd Apatow romp. Add to this some spectacular fight scenes and the pubescent superhero fantasies of every American Man-Child and you’ve got something pretty promising.
Aaron Johnson embodies Dave Lizewski with a mix of false bravado, falsetto stutterings, and quick wit perfect for the part. I don’t often say, “Man, I sure can’t wait for that new Nick Cage movie,” but, man, I sure can’t wait for that new Nick Cage movie. Cage plays a retired cop training his young daughter (Hitgirl) to become a vigilante. But his daughter, played by Chloe Moretz, steals the show.
She had me at “hey c**ts,” her initial line as Hitgirl saves Dave from some drug dealers. And by save, I don’t mean grab him and run away. I mean brutally murder the opposition with dual katanas and a butterfly knife as only a twelve year old could, all to what sounds like the sound track to Happy Tree Friends. With an actor of twice her age it would be a thrilling, well choreographed fight sequence. With Chloe it becomes a side splitting journey into madness. I haven’t felt that excited for a fight scene since Uma Thurman faced the crazy 88s in Kill Bill. Kick Ass overflows with all the same boisterous carnage.
Moretz shows off her chemistry with Cage as she trains to become Hitgirl. The two stand in a dry reservoir as Cage, holding a gun, tries to convince his daughter that it will only hurt for a second, that it will feel no worse than a punch in the chest. “But I don’t like being punched in the chest.” Cage apologizes, raises the gun, and fires, propelling Moretz off her feat and onto her back. Cage walks over and opens her coat to reveal a bullet proof vest. “See, now you won’t be afraid when some junkie pulls a gun on you.”
“I wouldn’t have been afraid anyway,” Moretz counters. “I want some Ice Cream.”
“Two more rounds?” Cage asks, pulling her to her feet.
“Do I get ice cream?”
“Sure do, sweetie”
“I’m gonna get fudge on mine,” Moretz dreams as Cage cocks the gun and takes aim again.
“You can have it all, baby doll” Cage exclaims as he fires again.
Various other scenes showed Dave bantering with his friends about becoming a super hero, filled with crude Superbad style dialogue. Overall, the film feels like a lot of fun. I’m betting we’ll be seeing a good bit more hype before long. It’s set for release first quarter next year, but like the comic, it’s looking like it will be delayed. According to Vaughn, it’s still being shopped around various studios. The film itself is 90% done, it just needs some distribution. So write your local congress person or studio exec and demand a chance to see what could easily by one of next year’s sleeper hits. Hopefully this time next year I’ll be buying the DVD, but is it to much to hope that Millar and Romita will finish the comic by then?