Friday, June 11, 2010


It's hard to believe that prior to Bryan Singer's X-Men (2000) and Sam Raimi's Spider-Man(2002) superhero movies (as such) were rather rare. Superheroes were kiddie stuff throughout the '40s and '50s, and the campy "Batman" TV series would have seemed to be the gravestone on any non-goofy interpretation of superheroes—which may have been the reason that the Salkinds struggled so mightly with Richard Donner over the classic '70s Superman movies, with Donner wanting to play it straight and the Salkinds going for slapstick.

But the Salkind's Superman movies didn't translate into a lot of other superhero movies any more than Tim Burton's Batman did. Burton's aesthetic translated marvelously to Gotham City and rescued an otherwise shoddy interpretation. (Burton doesn't get comic books at all, as was disastrously apparent in his sequel.)

But with CGI, and the fortuitous application of some of our greatest younger directors, like Singer and Raimi, the box office bonanzas of the early part of the millennium have meant superhero movies galore.

Not only do we get a bushel of 'em every year, we also get parodies, deconstructions, and movies that pretend not to be superhero movies, but really are.

Which brings us to this year's Kick-Ass. In this movie, a nerdy, bullied high-school kid decides to get himself a ski suit, some clobberin' sticks, and fight crime.

Now, you never know which route a story like this is going to go. Does he succeed, empowered by suit? Er, training. Yeah, like Batman? Or, does he end up getting super-powers through some unforeseen random chance? Or does he just plain get the crap kicked out of him?

I don't want to spoil anything; in one of the nicer surprises I've seen in movies lately, the answer to the above is more complex than I've laid it out. Now, if you actually know anything about fighting and/or the human body, you realize that it's kind of stupid, too, but a little suspension of disbelief goes a long way.

In his adventures, our hero, who clumsily dubs himself "Kick-Ass", meets the equally clunky-named "Hit-Girl", an eleven-year-old girl who has been trained from a baby to be a killing machine. Her father, who goes by the moniker "Big Daddy", and dresses just like the campy Batman of the '60s, has raised her up to help him take revenge on the drug lord who ruined his career, and on whom he blames the death of his wife and her mother.

So, in other words, we have a full-on genuine comic book storyline and characters in the middle of our parody. Filmmakers do this from time-to-time, with a sort of ironic detachment (I'm better than this, so it's cool when I do it), and it can be disastrous.

It's not here, at least I didn't think so, until the climactic scene, when it's very clear we've completely embraced the comic-heroic logic and dispensed with the parody. The end is actually a bit campy, unfortunately.

Entertaining film. IMDB currently has it as #150 on their all-time greatest, right next to Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and The Bourne Ultimatum. I can't imagine it being in the same class as the former but I suppose it's up there with the latter.

As I said, entertaining, but also rather uneven as a consequence of trying to straddle two different sorts of realities.

Some people (notably Ebert) had a problem with the language that came out of young Chloe Moretz's mouth, to say nothing of the violence she was subjected to and visited upon others. I tend to think that's taking it too seriously, as the whole thing was patently absurd.

What else is notable about this film?

Let's see: Nic Cage, as Big Daddy, does a dead-on Adam West impersonation, which is fun, but really makes it impossible for anyone familiar with the old "Batman" series to take seriously. The movie is trying to go for gritty realism and shock value with that stuff; it just seemed cheesy to me. (You don't get any "realism" points in my book for adding violence or death or downbeat endings.)

The music is awful. It's largely pop-songs and musical strains you've heard in other movies, but better in those other movies. Like Joan Jett's Bad Reputation which was used rather more effectively in the original Shrek (when he beats up all the knights).

The one that drove me nuts was the use of In The House, In A Heartbeat, from the Danny Boyle Zombie flick 28 Days Later. (You can hear it on YouTube; about a minute in is the four note pattern that Kick-Ass uses.)

And none of the music rises (or lowers) to the level of Leonard Cohen's "Hallelujah", as used in the blue penis movie.

So it's got that going for it. Which is nice.

Anyway, The Boy said "It didn't piss me off." Which is high praise, because he thought it would. He rather liked it, though not so wildly as to put it at #150 of all-time movies.

It didn't piss me off either.


  1. I dug it. I dug it a lot. I don't like comics that much, nor do I think most comic movies are worth the effort. (there are exceptions of course)

    I liked this movie so much that I posted about it, the only movie that I have ever written about.

    While I didn't find the music amazing, nor did I find it annoying.

    Thanks for the post, my thoughts in this flick can be found at:

    Thanks again.

  2. Direct link to Schmoe's review here.

  3. I did dig it. I thought it was cute.

    I'm not a comic book geek either, though I sort of wish I were?

    Just FYI, technically a "superhero" has to have some kind, em, unnatural power, like flight, super-strength or speed, mutant powers, etc. Kick-ass is populated with plain-old "heroes" (of whom Batman is the archetype).

    I commented at your site: Dunno if it went into moderation or just got swallowed.

    The RPG thing was absurd, though. Just for starters.

  4. The interesting thing is that they are making the Marvel Comics movies so true to the originals that it is insane.

    I mean they did Spiderman,sFantastic Four,Iron Man, they have a Thor and a Captain America movie in the works.

    They are even going to do an Avengers movie.

    Pretty cool.

  5. I can't wait till they do a Luke Cage movie though. That will be very interesting.

  6. I always preferred Marvel to DC. The DC characters were always too one dimensional.

    They could really make a great Captain America movie but somehow I doubt they will.

  7. The doufy guy who plays Jim on the Office is playing Captain America.
    What a ripoff.

  8. OK Blake, I gotta say - The fact that you know the technical requirements for being a superhero make me doubt your statement that you're not a comic book geek.

    I'm just sayin'

    Thanks again

  9. Cap'n,

    Well, I think DC used to sue people for using the word "Super-heroes", which they trademarked.

    So I guess my response is: I'm a geek, but not really a comic book geek.


  10. Luke Cage is lookin'...urban.

    I was always a DC Guy myself: Batman, The Flash, Supes, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Green Arrow, Atom, Black Canary (Helloooo, Nurse!), Teen Titans, etc.

    Not for lack of trying, but I never could get into Marvel stuff. Don't know if it's just the era that I was reading, or the aesthetic or what.

  11. I've waited to post this to avoid possible spoilage:
    Young Mr. Kick-Ass was brutally beaten right at the beginning. (WET-suit, not ski suit!) The movie starts heading off into fantasy-land right after that. Could the entire rest of the story be Dave Lizewski's dream, while comatose in the hospital from that beating? Makes sense to me.

  12. George RR Martin who is one of my favorite authors and the creator of the "Songs of Fire and Ice" books that will be filmed in a miniseries on HBO this fall.

    Anyway he has some thoughts about Super Heroes!

  13. Oh and Happy Father's Day to one of the best fathers I know!


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