Apr 13, 2010

'Kick-Ass': Reality or Oxymoron?

Justify Full[This not a review]
To say the least, when I began 2010 off, I only had a handful of titles in mind as being highly anticipated: Toy Story 3, The Green Hornet, anything Judd Apatow, Kevin Smith, or the Coen Brothers... But never had I considered the possibility that a movie called Kick-Ass (which prior to any knowledge sounded like the dumbest movie in the world) would be considered.

In fact, I was late in discovering it, at least my definition of late (as a reader of Ain't It Cool News, Imdb, and Rotten Tomatoes, I usually am up to speed on these things). I discovered it upon seeing Michael Cera's latest opus Youth in Revolt.
Somehow, as I sat there watching the trailers, I saw a lot of the same boring kitschy movies. Either they were way action packed with no substance, or some hot girl with no substance in love. Then suddenly, the trailer began for Kick-Ass. A man draped with wings and a Jesse Eisenberg-like narrative, I was ready to write it off. And then, the trailer actually started and I had no idea what the hell I just saw, but I was probably in love.
I investigated the hell out of the project, down to the source material, written by Mark Millar over the course of the past few years. I read each issue in awe. I considered it to be Quentin Tarantino-style gore with a Kevin Smith sensibility. It sounded like a perfect mix. The story was nothing new, but the approach was amazingly fresh.

Since, I have followed the developments as they have happened.
To some extent, I have even bought into the hype surrounding it by many geeks. The initiator of my extended glee was from Empire magazine, the first to give it Five Stars and call it "Your new favorite movie". Since, I have been trying to find every way to praise this movie without losing any interest in it.
Let's name a bunch of pros before I delve deeper.
1. It's Matthew Vaughn who produced two awesome Guy Ritchie films: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels and my other favorite Snatch.. (this may also explain an appearance in the film by Mark Strong). If any of Ritchie's charm has rubbed off on Vaughn, the stylized violence is sure to work to an epic proportion, especially in the graphic later half.
2. The young and talented Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl, who in my opinion was an underused but very effective character in (500) Days of Summer. I felt her young, intellectual personality in that film gave her an infectious vibe and sets her up for a promising future (which she seems to have likewise, as she has already been plucked for Martin Scorsese's The Invention of Hugo Cabret)
3. Whether or not you want to accept him as anything but that guy from Superbad, here is Chris Mitz-Plasse as Red Mist. It's interesting how many have turned on Mintz-Plasse since being labeled as McLovin', but for those who have stuck around will notice that he has done another awesome job in Role Models, which while type-casted, showed more emotional range than the hormonal McLovin' role really did. I got hopes that he is progressively getting better and that this will help unlabel him as McLovin'.
4. You actually got me interested in a Nicolas Cage movie. I find majority of his work stale and formulaic. National Treasure? Dull piece of work. Knowing? Sounds the same. While I don't totally write him off (he has done good movies, like Raising Arizona, Face/Off, Valley Girl, and Adaptation), he doesn't sit well with me. However, getting me to find him funny is another story, but this clip gives me hope.

So, what makes me think that this movie is more than another superhero movie about overcoming your weaknesses? I don't know.
I just know that from what I gather, it is going to be a satire on the superhero genre while holding it's own dramatic and comedic tension. I believe that it is going to popularize a trend of not necessarily tearing down superhero films, but making them into more of an accessible commodity.
Sure, we can look at Spider-Man 2 and think he's really cool, but it is hard to make a movie that cool. It's failed so many times before, like in The Incredible Hulk, Fantastic 4, and even Batman and Robin. The way I see Kick-Ass is this... I see it as a way of analyzing what was so wrong with these attempts and making us laugh and think about it.
This is of course if the movie follows Millar's storyline word for word.
But is this movie going to be the gem of everyday superhero like Scary Movie was the resurgence of parody movies? Probably, though with Scott Pilgrim vs the World made by superior Edgar Wright, there is stiff competition. I feel that Kick-Ass will popularize the trend and Scott Pilgrim will lock it in.
Popularize? Has it been done before?
I think it's safe to say that the concept of the under dog being the hero has been with us since the dawn of time. It just hasn't been in superhero form as clearly as we'd like to think. There are the movies like Sin City, which created heroes out of thugs and strippers wielding swastika samurai stars and mutilating genitalia. It wasn't the most clearly superhero story, but it did seem to be slowly reaching into the everyman concept.
Then there were films after that, including Iron Man, which is probably the rich man's Kick-Ass. Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark didn't have any superpowers, but he had more tools than Tim "The Tool Man" Taylor and knew how to use them. He wasn't necessarily an analysis of superheroes, just a very well crafted everyman.
The film that I felt could have started this franchise was the Zucker Brother's Superhero Movie, which was a parody of films from Spider-Man and X-Men. It did manage to capture some of the ridiculous concepts of the franchise, but nothing too clear and meaningful to make it a memorable movie. It's over-exaggeration of familiar scenes also lead to the downfall and it turned out to just be another parody movie.
Then there is Watchmen, probably the king of borderline. Alan Moore's epic tale of superheroes coming out of retirement to solve a murder mystery was indeed an epic tale not only on superheroes, but their emotions and weaknesses. While it wasn't entirely a superhero movie as the only one with powers was Dr. Manhattan, it was indeed a changing point as it made regular people into heroes. Many could argue that Nite Owl II is the predecessor to Kick-Ass or Red Mist.
2010 started off strong with a limited release title Defendor, which stars Woody Harrelson as a mentally unstable man who is a hero by night. The movie may have not been big, but it set up the trend for the year with numerous titles to come (including the Ellen Page and Rainn Wilson comedy Super coming out later this year). I have not seen it, but I do hold high expectations on how good it possibly is.

To be blunt, I am excited for Kick-Ass because it is not necessarily different, but it is a continuing shift in how we perceive movies. While I am sure this formula WILL burn out by 2015, I think it's important to keep improving on how we perceive cinema. After all, it only takes one film to make us view everything else differently. Will this be it?

I don't know, but to find out, check out Kick-Ass opening this Friday.

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