“I always wondered why nobody did it before me. I mean, all those comic books, movies, and TV shows. You’d think that one eccentric loner would have made himself a costume. I mean, is everyday life really so exciting? Are schools and offices so thrilling that I’m the only one who ever fantasized about this? Come on. Be honest with yourself. At some point in our lives, we all wanted to be a superhero. Who am I? I’m Kick Ass.”
You have to give the folks at Lionsgate some serious credit for the way they promoted Kick Ass. The film was generating a lot of buzz almost a year before it actually came out. It was a huge topic of conversation at last year’s ComicCon, and I must have gotten promo alerts from the studio once a week for several months. But even with all of that hype, the film just refused to interest audiences enough to show up in any great numbers for the quirky superhero spoof. We’re talking under $50 million for a film that got so much pre-release attention. And so it was with that history in mind that I rather cautiously approached the film when the Blu-ray arrived here from the studio. Most of what I had heard wasn’t so good. I figured, at best, it’ll be a nice diversion.
So, imagine my surprise when I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. Granted there were moments that I really could have done without. The overt sexual stuff and a classroom scene that is nothing short of disgusting likely did this film more harm than good. Perhaps these rather awkward moments went a long way toward keeping potential fans away in droves. Honestly, I’m not sure what the point was. Whatever it is that director Matthew Vaughn was trying to do, I hope it was worth killing what is otherwise a very entertaining film. Let’s chalk it up to relative inexperience, shall we? Let’s hope it was a lesson learned, because Vaughn is currently helming the next entry in the X-Men franchise, First Class. If he can’t learn to keep his adolescent tee hee’s in check, it might be his last big budget film.
Dave Lizewski (Johnson) is a typical teenage comic geek. He spends a lot of time at the local comic shop and hangs with other comic geeks. He’s obsessed with the idea that no one has ever put on a costume and tried to be a superhero before. His friends think it’s crazy, but Dave just can’t get the idea out of his head. So he orders a spandex suit and decides to take to the streets as the new real-life superhero Kick Ass. His first attempt to fight crime occurs when he spots a couple of thugs trying to jack, of all things, a PT Cruiser. He challenges the crooks and ends up beaten, stabbed, and left for dead. After a long stay in the hospital, all Dave has to show for his trouble is a body full of titanium rods and a reduced sensation of pain. Does he realize he’s in over his head and take the hint? Of course not. What would be the fun in that?
This time things are different. He still gets the crap beat out of him, this time protecting the victim of a gang beating. But, his heroic refusal to allow the hoods to continue their beat-down gets caught on a few camera phones and becomes an internet video sensation. Before you know it, Kick Ass is a national craze. He’s opened up a Facebook account where people can E-Mail him their troubles. All the while he falls for Katie (Fonseca), who thinks he’s gay in a Seinfeld “Not that there’s anything wrong with that” running joke. His story comes to the attention of two elements.
The first is the father-and-daughter team of Big Daddy (Cage) and Hit Girl (Moretz). Big Daddy was once a detective, and he had a run-in with local crime boss Frank D’Amico (Strong). Hit Girl is about 9 years old, but an expert with all kinds of weapons. Their idea of a father-and-daughter outing is trying out a new flak vest while Daddy pumps shots into the 11 year-old’s abdomen. They hear about Kick Ass, but realize he isn’t prepared for the job. They decide to back him up.
Then there’s Frank D’Amico. He thinks Kick Ass has been taking out his boys, when it’s really the revenge-seeking Big Daddy. He decides he wants Kick Ass dead. His son Chris (Mintz-Plasse) wants very much to show his father that he’s tough enough to be part of his criminal enterprise. He takes the guise of yet another superhero named Red Mist, in an attempt to win the trust of Kick Ass and deliver him to his father. It’s all going to end in a big blowout.
The film starts badly. The referenced off-putting scenes made me want to turn this thing off. Fortunately, I stuck it out until the action started. From there on, the movie never loses another step. It’s like a huge ride at Disney and is a hoot. Nicholas Cage does a spot-on Adam West imitation as Big Daddy, who even resembles the campy caped crusader. But it’s 11-year-old Chloe Moretz who really steals this film away. The kid is so good in this part. I can’t remember when I saw a better performance out of a child star. The chemistry between her and Cage is priceless, and that alone is worth the price of admission here. Comic geeks won’t be able to keep track of all of the superhero conventions that get roasted here. Kick Ass trains himself on rooftops in an obvious homage to the first Spider-Man film. In fact, under the mask, Aaron Johnson resembles that film’s Peter Parker. Even the voice and inflection reminds me of Tobey Maguire. It’s a bit unfortunate that as Kick Ass, the title character Johnson’s performance, gets so lost compared to the cast supporting him. Mark Strong is always a strong bad guy, and he tops himself here. The film’s effects show that Vaughn was taking the stuff seriously. It all looks rather stylish, with the use of comic-styled frames and balloons from time to time. You really will feel like you’re watching a comic here.
The original comic is quite violent. There’s the kind of bloody panels that made 300 such a hit. While the film has toned a lot of that blood town, there is still plenty of blood to go around here. I guess I can understand why some folks might be turned off by the gore. I’ve heard a lot of criticism over the fact that you have a 12-year-old girl playing with knives as she slices and dices her way through a gauntlet of bad guys like a holdover from a Kill Bill film. I say, get a life. No one is suggesting that this is expected normal behavior. It’s a thrill ride. Sit back and enjoy the scenery. And while the fan-boys often take this stuff way too seriously, this is not the kind of movie you analyze. It’s the kind of movie you eat copious amounts of popcorn until you feel like puking your gets out. Yeah, now that’s … well… kick ass.
Kick Ass is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.40:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC/MPEG-4 codec at an average of about 25 mbps. This is a slick film that mirrors the colorful splash pages of a comic book splendidly. The high-definition image is quite vibrant and alive. There are some weak moments with the Kick Ass costume where it appears to change from green to blue and several shades in between. Contrast is exceptional providing very sleek and well-defined lines. Flesh tones are great. The level of detail is impressive. There’s plenty of eye-candy here, and I couldn’t even imagine watching this in standard definition. Black levels are awesome so that you really get some sweet shadow detail here.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 does offer incredible expansive range. Again, the film just shines in its presentation. Everything here is so vibrant. The mix does everything it needs to do to provide a completely immersive experience. Dialog is perfect. The catchy theme music never intrudes; rather it makes for some exhilarating emotional beats at just the right times. The mix is aggressive, and the sub is alive with bottom end.
There is an Audio Commentary by Matthew Vaughn. He does provide some insight, but it’s all in the huge behind-the-scenes feature. You can get all of this and more from the Bonus View Mode.
The menu system takes a bit to load. The reason is the inclusion of some gadgets that include giving you your local time and temperature. Cute, in a way, but I’m not sure it’s worth the extra wait time.
A New Kind Of Superhero – The Making Of Kick Ass: (1:53:04) HD This feature is longer than the actual film. It is very inclusive and covers pretty much every aspect of the film from the original comic to the post-production. Very sweet feature.
It’s On! The Comic Book Origin Of Kick Ass: (20:36) HD This feature is loaded with plenty of comic panels from the original book. You get to meet everyone involved with the book including the inkers and color guys. Of course there’s plenty of John Romita, Jr. and Mark Millar.
There are also trailers and storyboards.
DVD Copy and Digital Copy
I’m glad to report that the film’s rather disappointing box office hasn’t kept talk of a sequel from going full throttle. Kick Ass 2: Balls To The Wall appears to be on Vaughn’s plate after the X-Men film is finished. Unfortunately, the title suggests a potential lesson left unlearned. Give everyone involved for giving this film another chance without the big bucks that might have been expected. It’s nice to know that “It’s not always about the money”.