Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Kick-Ass 2 (Film)

I really enjoyed the original Kick-Ass despite its various flaws. Based on a comic book of the same name by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. they, as I understood, were banking on getting the book turned into a film from the day they started planning it. However it wasn’t a seamless translation. Actually the movie took major liberties with key characters and moments that, at the end of the day, made the film way more lighthearted and, in my opinion, a far easier to enjoy story (Big Daddy in the comic was significantly more crazy and pathetic in the comic and the main character does not win the girl at all).

A sequel wasn’t completely guaranteed following the first one but as it was something of a sleeper hit it was only a matter of time. Kick-Ass 2 is based on two sequel comics to the original story: the Hit-Girl miniseries and, unsurprisingly, Kick-Ass 2. But since the film still follows the continuity of the original movie it by default can only adapt so much from the comic it’s named after. However my main concern with the film was that Mathew Vaughn, who directed the original AND X-Men: First Class which was my favorite X-Men movie, would not be returning to direct this film (also he would not be directing a sequel to X-Men: First Class either, presumably because he hates us all).

But Hit-Girl is here and Hit-Girl was the reason we all loved the first one. So there’s hope.

Full review after the jump.

"Now come one; the soup kitchen ain't gonna man itself"
It has been a few years since Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) donned the costume identity of Kick-Ass only to subsequently give it up following his near death experience with the mob. However since then many ordinary citizens, inspired by Kick-Ass’s heroics, have become real-life superheroes and are trying to make the city a better place. Bored with his ordinary life, and overly excited by the newcomers, Dave decides to once again fight crime as Kick-Ass. To this end he approaches similarly retired Hit-Girl aka Mindy Macready (ChloĆ« Grace Moretz) and convinces her to train him so that they can become superhero partners. Meanwhile Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), half insane after the death of his father, decides that he wants revenge against both Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl and thus becomes “The Mother Fucker”, the world’s first super villain, with the intent of building his own evil army.

The best thing about this movie was easily depiction of the new superheroes that appeared in this film. Likely inspired the “Real Life Superhero movement” that popped up over the last half-decade I really enjoyed how most of the heroes were mostly eccentric good Samaritan who worked at food kitchens and brought awareness to things like child kidnapping. They was aren’t just shown as being bored crazies with no lives (although there implication was that they probably were in many cases) but rather concerned everyday people who wanted to make a different. In the real world this is what I also like the most about the Real Life Superhero movement; putting on a goofy mask and acting as a neighborhoods watch is A-Okay in my book.

Shippers, you've gone too far this time
That said I certainly enjoyed the more violent aspects of this in this film, even though I DO NOT like the equivalent in real life. So when Justice Forever, the superhero team Kick-Ass joins, successfully busts up a sex trafficking I was down with it. I really like Justice Forever and I hope that we haven’t seen the last of them. It’s ironic that Jim Carrey has disavowed this film since his performance as Colonel Stars and Stripes was a highlight of the film and one of his best. The character was pretty complex I really wished they utilized him more. Also Mother Russia was pretty goddamn awesome. The fact that they played the theme from Tetris during her big fight scene was one of the most amazing cinematic experiences I’ve had all summer. The film wisely utilizes Clark Duke more this time around, not surprising seeing as his stock rose a bit thanks to Hot Tube Time Machine. I also enjoyed John Leguizamo as Javier; another character I wished was used more.

The problem many had with the first movie was that Kick-Ass felt like a supporting character in his own film but if you recall in my review I said that I was okay with that because it felt like he was more of a POV character who has gotten involved with a war between Big Daddy/Hit Girl and the Mob and that was the story we were supposed to be watching. Even so the film clearly tries to fix this and have Kick-Ass be more of the focus and they kind of succeed. Unfortunately it turns out that Dave Lizewski is a boring ass character. Even his character development from the last film is basically wiped away in the first few minutes of the movie (“I’m bored now. I better go back to fighting crime despite EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED TO ME BACK THEN”). There’s not much to Dave; he's an awkward teen (somehow he’s still a teen?) who escapes reality to pretend to be a superhero in the exact same way he’d done before. It’s not particularly interesting to see that story again, especially as it rushes through most of the beats. But you know what was the most interesting story of this film? Chris D'Amico’s story.

The next logical evolution of the angry internet nerd is here!
I loved Christopher Mintz-Plasse in this flick, and I’ve never loved him in anything despite having seen him in a lot of movies. Usually he plays slight variations of his character from Superbad (and he did that in the first Kick-Ass too) but here I feel like he finally got to go beyond that stereotype and he ended up stealing the show. Plus D’Amico’s quest to become a super villain was 1000 times more entertaining, funny, sad and gripping than anything that happened with Kick-Ass or Hit-Girl in this film. I almost wish that The Mother Fucker was the protagonist of this film, but that would have greatly altered the tone and themes of the story so it's probably just as well.

Speaking of Hit-Girl I want to point out that despite being several years older (the eleven year old foul mouth killer thing can’t happen anymore) I still loved ChloĆ« Grace Moretz as Hit-Girl. The best scenes of this movie were Hit-Girl kicking ass, just like the first film. Unfortunately she doesn’t do as much. Instead she spends most of the film being retired and dealing with mean girls issues at school, which is fine except that I wish there was just more slicing up criminals to go along with it. The sad fact is that even here Hit-Girl is a significantly more put together, or at least more interesting, character than Kick-Ass and we want to see more of her rather than Dave. However unlike the first film this flick seems to be trying to fight against that. As bad as it sounds I paid to see “Hit-Girl Returns” as opposed to “Kick-Ass 2” and I suspect a lot of people did the same thing only to be disappointed.

If it's a superhero team movie they gotta "slow walk"; it's the law
The film seems tamer than the first one and it’s really makes it feel like a half-ass attempt to expand on it. I assume the reason for this is that a) the first one was essentially an indie film that turned into a big hit while this one had a bit more executive eyes on it looking for a wider audience and b) Hit-Girl not being utilized to her full violent potential. Regardless of the reasoning the film lacks a lot of the fun and over-the-top nature its predecessor and it really affects the enjoyment of it. The timeline of this film is actually a bit confusing as Mindy, who I believe was eleven originally, is clearly stated to be a fifteen year old high school freshman here meaning that about four years have passed. However the movie kind of acts as if the events of the first film were just a few months ago (Dave’s decision to become Kick-Ass again actually makes a lot of sense if he wasn’t enjoying a pain free, sex filled High School experience for years). Also it’s weird that Dave is still in High School if it’s been four years. I mean, I guess he could have been fourteen in the last movie but he didn’t seem that young. It’s confusing. Also Dave’s girlfriend Katie is written out of the film pretty early since her actress Lyndsy Fonseca was not available for long due to a TV show commitment. And, because whoever wrote the scene is lazy, she’s written out a bizarre way that makes the character look like a terrible human being completely contrasting with her portrayal in the previous film. The hell? To make up for this the filmmakers…add some romantic tension between Dave and Mindy? That’s pretty gross, guys.

Though Kick-Ass was a great movie its sequel, like many sequels before it, doesn’t really re-capture the lighting in the bottle. It’s similar but has significantly less to say. I wish this movie was Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl working together to save the day, but we didn’t really get that. That said it has plenty of good points and is far from a bad film. It’s still has some great action and a lot of fun moments. It’s more than enough to justify checking it out. But at the end of the day if you loved Kick-Ass and are looking to recapture the experience you may better off just re-watching the original.

Hit-Girl Will Return In
"Hit-Girl Forever"
I give Hit-Girl Returns Kick-Ass 2 3 out of 5 Adorable Pandas.


-Has a great cast

-Christopher Mintz-Plasse is awesome as the villain

-The action sequences tended to be pretty fun

-Hit Girl is still cool


-Kick-Ass is a pretty boring main character

-Some of the coolest characters are underused

-Not enough Hit-Girl doing what she does best

 -Some script problems

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