Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Just Awesome Cinema: Kick-Ass

The 2010 Film Kick-Ass can be summed up joyfully in this one sentence: it's Watchmen's hyper-active popcorn little brother. While this comparison won't be agreed on by many(after all, Watchmen, both comic and film, wrestle with much deeper focuses on humanity's flaws and various schools of thought), it cannot be denied that both share very similar concepts and premises. In fact, if one could squint their eyes, one could picture the titular Kick-Ass later developing into the Nite Owl from Watchmen.

The fact is, Kick-Ass and the cinematic adaptation of Watchmen share a lot in common: "realistic" superheroes(I think the term would be mysterymen, i.e. the two-fisted heroes of the Golden Age that didn't have superpowers, like Crimson Avenger, Batman, Mr. Terrific, The Angel, etc.), cool pieces of music (An American Trilogy by Elvis for Kick-Ass, Ride of the Valkyries for Watchmen), and a "realistic world" devoid of costumed supervillains. They both stem from comic books, the Mark Millar-penned and John Romita-drawn Kick-Ass and the Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons Watchmen, respectively. But, I can safely say that more people will enjoy Kick-Ass, simply because it is more straight-forward than its earlier counterpart.

The film is about Dave Lizewski(Aaron Johnson), a stereotypical teenage comic nerd in NYC, who wonders why there are no costumed heroes in real life(an very, very good question, espically when he points out that it seems everyone wants to be Paris Hilton, and no one wants to be Peter Parker. His best friend's response to this is priceless.). Purchasing a green scuba suit from the internet and a mask, Dave initially wears the outfit under his regular clothes. But after days of "training", he publically reveals his superhero identity in a first outing that does not go well. After healing from his disasterous first mission, he gains a large measure of exposure when a subsequent battle with thugs is video-taped by a bystander and uploaded on Youtube. Meanwhile, in his civilian life, Dave pines after Katie(Lyndsy Fonseca), who, after news of Dave's accident(devoid of Kick-Ass's involvement), becomes interested in him...as a gay confident.

Meanwhile, Big Daddy(Nicholas Cage) and the super-lethal Hit-Girl(Chloe Grace Moretz) cultivate a vendetta against Frank D'Amico(Mark Strong), a powerful New York crimeboss. The war between the two forces comes to a head in a New York apartment, where Hit-Girl wipes out "mercenaries" working for D'Amico. And Kick-Ass? He's there for a different reason, but is realistically useless without any training whatsoever. D'Amico, thinking that Kick-Ass was responsible for the murders, targets him for execution. His eager-to-please son, Chris D'Amico(Christopher Mintz-Plasse) wants to help in this as well, by assuming the mantle of another superhero, Red Mist.

A comparison between the source material and its film counterpart in inevitable, and I must say that this film as way more heart and soul than the comic. The comic, imo, is simply mean-spirited, and over-the-top for the sake of it. I remember being a little put off when Hit-Girl, after slaughtering hundreds of goons, suddenly experiences human feeling, wanting to cry. Sorry Millar, you can't have it that way: you build Hit-Girl up as some mindless killing machine, then suddenly, we're supposed to feel sorry for her? In the film, Hit-Girl is done right; she is fleshed out and her relationship with her father developed, giving some belivable reasoning behind this tiny ninja of a girl. Another improvement on the comic comes from Red Mist, who is fleshed out beyond being some random gangster's malicious son. I can't tell you more details without fear of spoilage.

I've heard somewhere that people disliked the film because of its shifts from satire to straight-forward superhero antics. I guess I did not catch that vibe. It was a simple superhero fantasy story for me. Let's face it, it's impossible to really tell the story of a "real-life superhero", because for the star of the story to exist, he would need a character shield. In real life, a superhero probably wouldn't just get killed by a common thug. He could get hit by a car and paralyzed for life, or go into a coma or something. Now, you could tell a story that plays with genre conventions. Sure, maybe not exactly the same thing as what the original creators of the book were going for, but its better than what some consider "realism", which seems to mean "dark, disturbing, gritty"...fantasy in the opposite direction, i.e. its unbelivable, but not as bright as the word fantasy usually brings to your mind.

The movie gets an A+ from me, and two thumbs up. Besides the great characters, wonderful action scenes, and more heart/soul, I love the bigger message(not in the comic, if I remember) of why Kick-Ass really does what he does: because no one else will stand up to the injustice they see; they only watch from the sidelines while others suffer. I'm sure there is a smaller, more intellectual way of presenting that, but I can't think of it right now. Also, let me leave you with another note: Kick-Ass was better than its source material, but Wanted, from the same writer...no where near its source material.

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