** (out of 5)
August 16, 2013
Aaron Taylor-Johnson as KICK-ASS
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as CHRIS D’AMICO
Chloë Grace Moretz as HIT-GIRL
Jim Carrey as COLONEL STARS AND STRIPES
Donald Faison as DOCTOR GRAVITY
Lindy Booth as NIGHT BITCH
Clark Duke as MARTY EISENBERG
Morris Chestnut as DETECTIVE MARCUS WILLIAMS
Directed by: Jeff Wadlow
BY KEVIN CARR
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It’s not uncommon for me to revisit the first film or two before watching a sequel. I did not do it this time for “Kick-Ass 2,” and I’m wondering if that was a good or bad decision.
I did go back and read my review of the first film, which I liked quite a bit. Not only would seeing “Kick-Ass” right before “Kick-Ass 2” have accentuated the fact that the former is a far superior film, I would have also been reminded of how much fun I had watching it. That would have possibly soured my taste for “Kick-Ass 2” even more because this film is anything but fun. In fact, it’s downright depressing.
On one hand, “Kick-Ass 2” follows a predictable pattern for a superhero franchise: Make the second film darker and grittier, and have the hero (or heroes, in this case) face a crisis of identity with their secretive normal life.
The problem with falling into this pattern is that the original “Kick-Ass” was already quite dark. By making “Kick-Ass 2” a darker film, it just made it bleak and depressing. Moreover, when shit really starts to get real in “Kick-Ass 2,” it’s downright unpleasant (and not in a good way).
As I understand it, “Kick-Ass 2” is pretty true to the original graphic novel sequel and its sister publication about Hit-Girl. However, watching this film reminded me that comics are a very different medium than movies. The baggage of a comic book – including the prolific use of narration, the simplification of dialogue for space economy and a somewhat choppy story that comes from cramming your plot into eight panels a page – becomes glaring problems in the film.
Plus, combining the two graphic novels mashes them up too much, and we’re left with a disjointed tale that really has no lead character. In these stories, Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) deal with their own family issues. Kick-Ass has to live with his oblivious but weirdly overbearing father, who doesn’t want him to be a superhero any more. Hit-Girl is still recovering from losing her father while trying to navigate the sea of popularity at school in a storyline that feels like just another “Heathers” rip-off.
Meanwhile, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) hasn’t forgiven Kick-Ass for killing his father. To exact revenge, Chris puts the Red Mist aside and becomes “The Mother Fucker,” what he sees as the first real-life supervillain. He then gathers a group of henchmen to help him bring down Kick-Ass.
One of my gripes with the first film, and it’s shoe-horned into this movie as well, is the absurd attempt to present this as what could happen if real people became superheroes. I’m all for excess and fun violence in movies, but these movies are no more realistic than the “Iron Man” films, or even “Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham.” It wouldn’t be so bad if the film didn’t keep throwing down lines about how this is what happens in real life.
This is indicative of the movie not realizing what it is trying to be. Is it an over-the-top superhero movie? Or is it a depiction of what might really happen if people became masked vigilantes.
Similarly, the film tries to balance between satire and social commentary, and it often stumbles off this fine line. The extreme violence is often played off as humorous (which it can be), but then it present really horrible and emotional moments for the characters. Even then, these moments spin on a dime and become farcical again.
This ends up being confusing, as if the filmmakers wanted to deliver a bitingly sardonic satire of violence in society, but the studio was forcing them to make a mainstream superhero movie. In the end, no one wins on this battlefield.
Between the competing storylines and the murky focus of the film, “Kick-Ass 2” ends up being a conundrum that is neither entertaining nor fun.