I wasn’t a big fan of the Kick-Ass comics. I read them in 2010 when a preview for Kick-Ass caught my attention and I wanted to read the source material beforehand. The shock value of the title was a novelty at first, but something that grew old very quickly in print form. I wasn’t even able to finish the Kick-Ass 2 comic when it came around. However, my dislike of the comic wasn’t enough to keep me from the film. I even enjoy John Romita Jr.’s art in that title, and I’ve never really been one of his fans. But 2010′s Kick-Ass was a welcome surprise despite whatever reservations I may have had, a great dark superhero action-comedy that served as a vehicle for Nic Cage to chew the scenery and for Chloe Grace Moretz to shine.
Well, Kick-Ass 2 has Chloe Grace Moretz, at least.
More on Hit-Girl, and the rest of Kick-Ass 2, after the jump.
There’s a lot of Kick-Ass 2 that will be problematic for a lot of people. I like to get my own thoughts on a film out before reading much of others’, so I can’t be absolutely certain (there hasn’t been an internet uproar from what I can tell yet), but considering the violent nature of the Kick-Ass comics themselves, there was no way this film wasn’t going to rustle some jimmies. There’s violent loss of limb, more than one threat of castration, and an almost-rape that’s played for laughs. Like with the Kick-Ass comic, some of the violence and vulgarity for the sake of shock value wears a bit thin. And that’s from someone who generally enjoys super violent cinema. The problem here is that the filmmakers decided to tone down the comic’s content, which included an actual rape and the murder of an animal. From what I read of the Kick-Ass 2 comics before I gave up out of sheer disgust, the Motherfucker (formerly Red Mist) isn’t a comedic character. He’s a psychopath and he’s pretty fucking horrible, not comic relief. So the film remains stuck between trying to remain faithful to the source while not wanting to be quite as extreme. Honestly, I would have preferred if they’d gone for full comic relief here. You never quite buy the Mintz-Plasse as a super-villain (and I’m not sure you’re supposed to) and playing to his strengths here would have been beneficial.
However, despite Kick-Ass 2‘s flaws, I found myself enjoying it. I think the movie’s main problem is that it has to follow Kick-Ass. There’s a lot of trying to capture the same magic that Kick-Ass 2 falls just short of. As much as you try, you’re not going to be able to emulate the fun of the bazooka in the first film, and while I genuinely enjoyed Jim Carrey’s performance, his character was never going to be as fun as Nic Cage’s Big Daddy was. So what you end up with is a film that feels like it has to somehow top itself and falls just short. Even Hit-Girl’s arc (my favorite part of the film) suffers from trying to top the shock value of the first film. Her plot comes from the Hit-Girl comic, which I really enjoyed. I like that particular character a great deal and the five issue series that focused mostly on her was what I came out of the first Kick-Ass film wanting. One of my favorite parts of that was Mindy trying to adapt to being a normal teenager, trying to make friends at school and break out of the Hit-Girl persona that her father built for her partially out of necessity and partially to feed his own twisted revenge fantasy. The film leaves those bits in— Mindy having to deal with a group of ‘mean girls’ at her new school— with the addition of an unneeded plot device that provides a little gross-out humor. I personally preferred the comic’s take on Mindy’s story there and hated to see it reduced to what it was.
The film still manages to be funny among all of the violence that I feel is often played for shock value. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is just as ridiculous here as he was in the first film, and despite a few previously mentioned instances where I felt the script itself went a bit over the top, I enjoyed him (when he wasn’t stuck in the script’s problem with compromising between source material and what would work on-screen). Unfortunately, both he and Moretz outshine Aaron Taylor Johnson, who plays the titular character of Kick-Ass, and the lack of Evan Peters is more distracting than it should be. (He was replaced by Augustus Prew for the film, and I’m not sure if it was because Peters is a bigger star now than he was then or because of X-Men Days of Future Past or American Horror Story obligations.) Hit-Girl, as with the first film, was pretty much the star here, and I really wish that this film had mostly been about her instead of Kick-Ass and his team of superheroes. I will, however, say that I enjoyed the overall message that anyone can be a hero and that anyone can make a difference, and I’m glad that they weren’t heavy-handed with it. Ultimately didn’t feel like the film was a waste of time or that I’d wasted my $5 on a matinee, just that director Jeff Wadlow and writer Mark Millar didn’t manage to make the quality sequel that this could have been.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ (but closer to 2 and a half.)