I realize that the summer movie season still is in its infancy, but there is no doubt that the most pleasant surprise so far is “Kick-Ass,” a delightfully fresh and action-packed film based upon the comic book series of the same name written by Mark Millar, illustrated by John Romita Jr., and published by Marvel Comics.
When I first heard about this film, quite frankly I had absolutely no desire to see it, but I’m certainly glad that I didn’t miss it, and I probably will add it to my collection when the DVD is released. The film is literally jammed with action, adventure, humor, and romance, and it’s just a lot of fun to watch.
The premise behind “Kick-Ass” is a very simple one: Why can’t ordinary people be superheroes? This is the question that plagues Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), a nerdish high school student who spends the majority of his time engrossed in the pages of comic books. Early in the film, Dave tells us that he has absolutely no outstanding traits and that he is about as far removed from being a superhero as is possible. However, he does admit to having a super power.
“My only super power was being invisible to girls.”
As Dave becomes increasingly obsessed with wondering why no mortal has tried to become a superhero, he decides to give it a shot himself, and he orders an outlandish costume. When it arrives, he embarks on a self-imposed training regimen until he believes he’s ready to enter the crime-fighting arena.
Unfortunately, his debut as the next savior of the world is a disastrous one to say the least, but Dave is not a quitter. He perseveres, and he soon finds himself a household word and the envy of high school students everywhere. But he doesn’t really have much time to enjoy his newfound celebrity because he soon becomes embroiled in a war with Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), a Mafia kingpin who ultimately decides to put a quick and violent end to Dave’s little crusade.
What makes “Kick-Ass” so much fun is that it is in no way intended to be taken seriously. It’s part spoof, part satire, and part fantasy, but all of these parts add up to a refreshingly unique 110 minutes of superb escape entertainment.
As you watch the exploits of Kick-Ass, you will also meet Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), a father and daughter dynamic duo closely modeled after Batman and Robin. Cage is absolutely hysterical in the part of the doting father who is intent on turning his young daughter into the ultimate fighting machine. The scene in which he explains the velocity of a bullet to her, knocked me out of my seat, and in the production notes Cage explained why he thinks a comic book can be successful and why he paid homage to Adam West, who played Batman on the television show in the 1970s.
“The comic book movie to me is a perfect form of entertainment. They’re like the modern Western in some ways. Big Daddy is my ode to Adam West who, for me, is the only Batman. I grew up watching Adam West, and he still has yet to be topped, in my opinion. He had this odd rhythm to his delivery, and I just wanted to tip my hat to him a little bit, to actors like him and William Shatner, who I think really started a whole cultural movement.”
The scenes between Cage and Moretz are a real hoot, and the 13-year-old Moretz seems to revel in her part as the foul-mouthed martial artist who prefers that her dad give her butterfly knives for her birthday instead of a puppy. In the production notes, Cage spoke about the rather unusual father-daughter relationship.
“I would say that he’s a man who genuinely loves his daughter, but he’s misguided. He’s been confused by anger and vengeance and has actually lost his mind thinking of ways to protect his daughter by putting her into violent situations. He feels that if she gets a dog, that might get her killed. But if he gets her a butterfly knife, that might actually save her life.”
Johnson is perfectly cast as the nerdish Dave, who evolves into a really likable character. Some of the film is done using Lizewski’s voiceover, and he manages to endear his character to us by making his voice crack at appropriate times. He also proves to be a master of the deadpan expression, and his comic timing in certain scenes is simply perfect.
I have seen a lot of comic book movies in my time, and this is one of the very best, but keep in mind that it is not for children. The film is rated R for graphic violence, partial nudity, and plenty of rough language. In the production notes, director Matthew Vaughn (“Stardust”) explained what he was trying to accomplish with the film.
“It’s a love letter to comic books. It’s a post-modern comic book movie; it’s a comic book movie for now. I feel that comic book movies have become creaky. You can’t get away with cookie-cutter superhero movies anymore, and I feel that kids are going to relate to this.”
In summation, “Kick-Ass” (Give it a score of 8.5.) has a perfect title because this film just kicks ass!