As with a lot of movies of late, there seems to be a very genuine disconnect between the Kick-Ass 2‘s supposed message, and what is actually on the screen. While the first one did, to a certain extent, work as a hypothetical “what if somebody decided to be a superhero” for about the first half before devolving into standard ass kicking, this one has characters regularly contradicting themselves. This would, of course, be fine, if the film showed even an ounce of awareness. Instead, the filmmakers decided to try and take these characters seriously without adjusting the actual plot of the movie to accommodate the decision.
Let me show you what I mean. The characters routinely talk about “going out and doing the right thing”, about being a concerned citizen… Yet Kick-Ass, the teen from the first movie, became a superhero not to do the right thing, but because he thought it would be interesting. His motivation was that nobody had done it before; he wasn’t motivated by an overwhelming need to fix the world, or save people. This may be selfish, but at least it’s interesting. You know what is considerably less easy to empathize with, or interesting, than that? Simply being a superhero because you’re bored not being one. Granted, we frequently feel bored in our lives, too, and part of our need for superhero fiction is to alleviate that. The heroes we like, however, are ones that are motivated to act by a grave injustice, or simply an outstanding moral compass.
Another commonly stated theme in the movie is “what if superheroes were in the real world, with real consequences”, but no such world is shown to us. Instead, it is simply an ugly world, with no reality to any of that lack of morality. The thesis of the movie should be “what if superheroes were just bored, and had no sense of morality”. It isn’t that the superheroes do anything particularly nasty, they certainly aren’t portrayed as villains at all. But other than fighting some villains, and beating up some generic thugs, they don’t do anything to help anyone, except for one scene.
Parents in the film are not the most well represented, which makes sense – this is a film about teenagers, doing things adults wouldn’t approve of. The role of the adults in a movie like this is to be minor obstacles. However, they are so astoundingly understanding, and wise, and kind, that the way they get treated by their offspring is simply absurd, basically being told to shut up regularly for no reason. Then, sentimental promises are made to them, and the movie drives on, secure in the knowledge the promises will be broken.
Now, it’s not all awful. While Aaron Taylor-Johnson is actually given very little to do this time around, despite his pure joy of being a superhero being very infectious the first time around, Chloë Grace Moretz is still a pleasure to see on the screen. Her character, Hit Girl, is probably more violent and foul-mouthed than ever, and actually undergoes a fairly serious character ark throughout the movie. The promise she makes actually holds for a good portion of the movie, we can see she’s really trying to fit in after giving up her crime-fighting identity. And yet, the impact is lessened by the fact that she is no longer eleven. None of that is Moretz’s fault, she’s a very fine young actress, and as I’ve said, the character is still by far the most interesting thing happening on the screen, but part of the reason Kick-Ass was such a hit was that character’s age. Again, the effort put into turning Hit-Girl into a three-dimensional character, and her Carrie-like arc pay off, but it would have worked better if she was the focus of the movie. Incidentally, Moretz is playing Carrie in the upcoming remake; I honestly feel like I watched a comedic preview by seeing her in Kick-Ass.
There could also be some interesting things happening with Christopher Mintz-Plasse playing the Motherfucker. He kills his mother in the first act, dons her leather bondage gear as his costume, and picks a surprisingly Freudian supervillain name. He subsequently experiences erectile disfunction. All of this could make an interesting portrait of a megalomaniac madman, if any more time was spent on it. The great thing about Kick-Ass was always the willingness to put all of the tropes on the very surface, plane for anyone to see, and that’s still valuable. However, because there is absolutely nothing under the surface except anger and misplaced sexual energy, the obviousness of the cliches does not help.
What’s more, you have a story which simply does not make sense. The Motherfucker recruits his army of bad guys through Twitter; all are invited to his secret lair and paid to be bad. It’s obvious they don’t do any vetting, and that the arch-villain himself is not very smart about what he tweets. After all of the noise made about “real world, real consequences”, the fact that they can’t find him seems absurd considering how clearly public he is about his plans. It’s just mind-numbingly stupid.
I tried to decide if the plot would play better in a comic, and while I do think some of the wonkier moments might look better in a comic, that really wouldn’t make it any less dumb. The differences in the mediums mean that some lines of dialogue, or action shots, might look better in one context than another. The basic fact that the internal logic of the movie is simply nonsensical does not change.
Anyway, I really don’t want to dwell on this any longer. I’m going to go watch the first one, it’s a fun movie. I wish I’d stayed home and re-watched that instead of seeing the second one, actually.