Day: August 30, 2010

V is for Vigilante: Review for Kick-Ass

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Some people in the film industry say that the superhero movie is getting stale and old. That seems really odd to me considering that there are…about five or so new films lined up, including Thor, Captain America, The Green Lantern, and The Green Hornet, not including the planned sequels to Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight and Jon Faverau’s Iron Man 2. Nevertheless, some are determined to say that the formula is getting tiresome, which again, is a little odd, because superhero movies are kind of a genre in themselves that have lasted for years and years. Yes, the formula tired, but then we get a reboot of something and we get to experience it “anew”, like the reconceived Batman Christopher Nolan brought us in his fantastic origin story Batman Begins and its look at darkness in The Dark Knight. Well, whatever they say, they’re trying to change the game again with a film called Kick-Ass.

Based on the comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr, Kick-Ass tells the story of a nerdy kid who wants to become a superhero. Haven’t we all had that daydream? The little boy who jumps on a trampoline wearing a cape? The little girl who deflects fake bullets with the plastic bracelet she wears around her wrist. The little boy who pretends he’s James bond, Indiana Jones, etc. Only, this boy, played by Aaron Johnson (Nowhere Boy) is in high school. And he is seriously thinking about this idea. He’s not very admirable, not even at the beginning of the movie. Just really whiny.

He buys his spandex, slaps it on and his first venture into crime fighting gets him…sent to the hospital. And the, on the other side of things are two particularly nasty people, who become the vigilante crime fighters known as Big Daddy (Nicholas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). They train for real. Big Daddy has a big vendetta against a man who sent him to prison for a crime he didn’t commit, which left his girl living with a cop. Back and ready in action, they’re ready to cause complete destruction.

Okay, I get the film. It’s lampooning the idea of hype and personal celebrity. Kind of. For every self-made TV reality star and YouTube sensation, there’s someone who worked harder for it. Think of it as the Kardashions vs. the Hiltons. While neither of them are particularly role models, at least one family did make it on top with work put in. And for an outrageously mainstream film like this, that idea of actually having an idea beyond “let’s kick ass!” sounds pretentious and snooty when it does not deserve the right to be snooty. One thinks, “Hmph, that opinion is reserved for art house, independent, and Christopher Nolan films; not silly superhero movies!” But the film’s characters are unlikable, and unlikability leaves the audience feeling cold and emotionally uninvested. Aaron Johnson is whiny throughout the entire film, and it’s worse that it’s an overhead-narrative film. We hear his nasally whine throughout the entire thing. It is, at points, completely unbearable. And it’s not very funny. Isn’t this supposed to be a comedy too? It’s just not…funny. Nor is it particularly amusing, or laugh inducing. Thus, we have a few problem…and a few more to boot.

The film’s violence is a little shocking at times, far more graphic than the Korean masterpieces Oldboy and Lady Vengeance. And at least with those films, it wasn’t served up on a platter as entertainment. It was to show pain, not to get a laugh. And in this way, the film is completely morally dubious. Oh yay, a little girl who can indeed slice your throat and shoot you in the mouth! Spewing profanity like a bizarre hose, Grace Moretz certainly does whatever her character calls for, regardless of whether or not it’s actually watchable.

The choreography is…interesting. Exciting, I suppose, but not nearly dipped in the black humor that films like Lethal Weapon, Rush Hour, or Shanghai Noon had it. But there’s another problem…we can barely see it. The camera work and cinematography is so frantic and manic that you can barely see anything most of the time, only seeing glimpses of blood here, a severed arm there, and twirling or gun shots. Often, this technique is prone to make the audience queasy. But it comes off more sloppy than pretentious.

Morally dubious and ultimately unfulfilling, this film wasn’t even that enjoyable on a surface, “I don’t care about real movie criticism” level. Its violence is sometimes nauseating, its plot pretentious and unwatchable, and its camerawork annoying and manic; the film is probably one of the worst I have seen this year. The pseudo-superhero is met with the pseudo-good idea. If you’re going to watch a movie with deep levels of intellect and surface level enjoyment, try Sin City or The Dark Knight. Skip this super zero.

Grade D