Comic Fodder

Kick-Ass: The Movie

I caught a sneak preview of Kick-Ass during the ShoWest convention in Las Vegas. In the old days, they had you sign an agreement stating you would not review the movie before it came out, but attitudes have changed a little with the understanding of what good word of mouth can do for a movie. The overwhelming amount of print is obsessing over you bringing in a camera or other device to record the movie. Aside from some ushers with strange ideas about not wanting to let you back in the room if you needed to go to the restroom, the atmosphere was relaxed yet excited.

The Lions Gate people seemed especially pumped up. They have big dreams for their company, and they actually seemed to believe that Kick-Ass was the vehicle that will take them out of the little leagues and finally grant them a place at the table of the big movie distributors. The opening weekend box office might reveal the truth of that, but what about the movie itself?

It was awesome. It was funny and action-packed, and already I have to caveat things. Biggest, most important point for parents: it is not advisable for your children to see this movie. When Watchmen first came out, a lot of people figured it was yet another super-hero flick, and after the enjoyable goodness of The Dark Knight and Iron Man, who could blame them? But the 'R' rating was there for a reason, and it's got a purpose here, too. Profanity and violence start from the first few moments, and it doesn't really let up. If the viewer is too young, the proper understanding that this is all make-believe and designed for shock value will be beyond them. Most Christian people trying to stay "proper" would not go see the movie for themselves, let along bring their kids with them. So with all of that, why would I still be recommending the movie?

It was (censored) hilarious. You know those parts in the cartoons where you laugh because of the cartoon violence? It's funny because it is so exaggerated. Adults who understand that this is all Hollywood stunts and special effects can appreciate the gritty, real feel to the action and violence, but the matter-of-fact, this-is-how-it-would-happen-in-real-life presentation is shockingly funny. Chloë Grace Moretz steals the show as the eleven-year-old crime-fighter. She immediately destroys a bunch of goons to a fast-tempo rock beat, but reminds you right after that she is a young girl, with all the normal affectations and attitudes, except she knows how to fight, and is a matter-of-fact, ruthless destroyer when she does her superhero job.

Most people already know that this is based on Mark Millar's comic book, and that the movie was being filmed before the first story arc was even complete in comic form. Millar had people jumping on the concept before he put pen to paper, and he is having wonderful success at tempting all Hollywood ears whenever he comes out of the bathroom with an idea. Since the story was designed from the start as a movie vehicle, this is probably one of the better movie adaptations to a comic that there is, but only because it didn't have far to go to translate the already-cinematic images and punch lines onto the big screen. One fun surprise, though, is that a couple of the actual art pages of John Romita Jr. are included to show part of the story.

The director, Matthew Vaughn, keeps the tempo fast, the music rockin', and makes you feel like it's real, but still laugh at the absurdity of the situation. Nicholas Cage added a surprise guffaw-inducing quality to his speech mannerisms when dressed up in his hero costume, reminiscent of Adam West's Batman character on the old TV show. You just don't expect it, and it wasn't in the script. Cage just added it in, and it was so funny, it stuck. Even if you normally don't like Cage, you'll find him endearing here. More to the point, Chloë Moretz worked perfectly with him, even upstaging him for the most part, which is not something you would normally expect. The entire cast was great, showing that no matter what the subject matter, good actors can bring the best out of it. Each and every person involved fully embraced the in-your-face, shockingly violent hilarity of the concept, and their commitment helps the audience go along with all of it.

Since the comic is well-known among fans, and it's too easy to get a plot synopsis everywhere else, that's as much of a movie review as I want to do. However, it is worth adding a bit about the way the movie was received at ShoWest. The sneak preview was poorly coordinated, with the screening starting more than an hour late, but the company suits came out, introduced the sales team and a bunch of others who nobody will ever remember, and then expressed their excitement in the movie. It was explained that their focus is going to be on the big screen, which hints that some of their direct-to-DVD activity may dwindle. Kick-Ass is the movie upon which they are pinning all of their hopes. Lions Gate thinks this is THE movie that will propel them out of their small status among the distributors and make them and name to go alongside the big boys: 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney Pictures, Paramount Pictures, Sony Pictures Entertainment, Universal Pictures, and Warner Bros.

There are already plans for a sequel, but that will depend mostly on the opening weekend, and potential legs of the movie. The executives are confident (or maybe scared and neurotic in private, but in public, they are effusively happy), looking to use this movie as the vehicle to transform their little company into the next big thing.

As for the screening itself, it couldn't have gone over any better. There are a handful of movies that evoke audience participation, and sometimes it is time-sensitive. For instance, if you went to see Independence Day on July 4, the theatre would have been in an uproar. If you waited a week later, not so much. Others were a little more timeless, such as the standing ovation Sean Connery got in his cameo for Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves; the cheering during Braveheart; the gung-ho yells during Aliens; and the never-beaten explosion for any screening of The Hand That Rocks The Cradle. This movie had more than one scene. We're talking: yells of encouragement; abrupt, unexpected theatre-wide laughter; clapping during different parts of the movie before the ending; and sustained applause after it was all over. The movie was a crowd-pleaser, and just may be what Lions Gate needs to achieve its ambitious goals.

Stay tuned for another column when we follow up on the box office gross of Kick-Ass, and discuss the prospects of Lions Gate, along with the attempted takeover of the company by Carl Icahn.

Tpull is Travis Pullen. He started reading comics at 5 years old, and he can't seem to stop.