Welcome to the latest installment of “Doom and Doomer,” in which members of the Legion take a look at comics on the big screen. Tonight, your participants are Jim Doom and Doom DeLuise, looking at the new Kick-Ass movie, starring Aaron Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, and Nicolas Cage, based on the comic created by Mark Millar, written and directed for the big screen by Matthew Vaughn.
WARNING: THERE ARE SPOILERS IN THIS REVIEW.
DOOM DELUISE: A couple of nights ago, you sent me a text message that read, “Holy crap, Kickass is amazing.” Care to expand on that? What do you think worked so well about this movie?
JIM DOOM: Well, to start with, I think if we’d have had this discussion Saturday night instead of right now, things would be a little different.
But I can’t deny that I loved the movie and more specifically, I loved the experience of watching the movie.
I knew nothing of the source material. I don’t have the grudge against Mark Millar that many seem to have, but I’m no huge fan either. But something co-created by John Romita, Jr. doesn’t exactly inspire me either. So I’d never had even the slightest interest in picking up the books.
Which probably helped me, because I had no idea what was going to happen, and I thought the movie did a fantastic job of staying relatively unpredictable (at least when it needed to be), keeping the adrenaline rush, and using humor to make it all seem so oddly real.
Also, I thought the casting was fantastic. I have no idea who that kid was that played Kick-Ass, but he was really good.
I don’t want to cover everything in my opening statement. What did you think?
DOOM DELUISE: I had a similar response to the movie, though I came into it having read a few of the comics. I gave up after the third or fourth issue, because I really wasn’t enjoying it. Interesting, though, that I loved the beginning of the movie as much as I did, seeings as how the movie’s a pretty faithful adaptation.
I guess it just goes to show how much of a difference the visual presentation can make, since the words and the story were the same. John Romita, Jr. just took the fun out of the whole thing with his stiff, lifeless art.
And I think that’s something the movie did really well. There was a great deal of energy to the entire process, and it really jazzed me up in watching it, which is something I’ve noticed all the great comic book movies do. When I got out of the theater after Spider-Man and Iron Man and the Dark Knight, the energy from those movies had really inspired me and pumped me up. I had the same reaction to Kick-Ass.
JIM DOOM: Totally. Honestly, I’d been having a terrible day Saturday and this movie was enough fun escapism that I had totally forgotten about all of it. It’s like I went to Cheers, except Sam and Cliff and Norm were wearing spandex, and Carla was smoking hot.
I wonder if that girl that played Kick-Ass’s girlfriend looked at the comics, saw how John Romita, Jr. attempted to draw “attractive teenage girl” and was like “Eww, you want me to play THAT?”
DOOM DELUISE: I wouldn’t be surprised. Hopefully, we’ll come back to the JRJR bashing (with good reason), but I think that, and Lord knows I’m going to get some crap for this, but I think that the best part of the movie was Nic Cage.
JIM DOOM: He was amazing.
DOOM DELUISE: Any review would be incomplete without mentioning how unbelievably great he was in this movie.
And the soundtrack, too, was a particular highlight.
JIM DOOM: Yes! I loved that “Starry Eyed” by Ellie Goulding played in the tanning scene.
DOOM DELUISE: It was a nice departure from the typical over-important Danny Elfman types of scores and the metal-heavy garbage that nearly tanked Iron Man.
The only thing I can say against this movie is that the appeal of the movie isn’t very broad, so it won’t make very much money. It’s already covered its budget, but it’s unfortunate that it won’t probably even top a hundred million in its run.
JIM DOOM: Since we’re getting into negatives, I want to talk about my main problem with the movie, but it stems out of what I thought was the best part.
So I first knew I was going to love the movie when Kick-Ass is fighting the three guys alone at first, when he says something about how everyone’s standing around as they beat up a guy they outnumber three to one, and this guy wants to know what’s wrong with him. Terrible paraphrase but I’m sure you know what part I’m talking about and it was amazing.
But when the movie went from great and enjoyable to something more for me was when the bad guys sat down to watch the teddy bear footage of Big Daddy taking out the lumber store goons. During that fight scene, and something with the way it was put together, it clicked for me that this was the Big Daddy story. Kick-Ass was just the vehicle to tell the story of this wronged man’s journey of revenge.
And suddenly Cage’s character went from quirky sideshow to the main event for me.
And so with that established, for me the biggest flaw was in the ending. As this really was Big Daddy’s story, Hit Girl needed to close it. Kick-Ass didn’t need to save the day; his story was told and so he didn’t gain anything from killing off the bad guy. That was something Hit Girl needed to do.
I didn’t really think about that at first, I just knew the ending didn’t work all that well for me, and the more I thought about it, I think that’s why.
The previews made me fear that this movie was going to be Mystery Men 2. For the most part, I think it avoided that with the exception of the ending. Both movies, at their climax, end up kind of emulating the worst elements of a genre they strive to be smarter than.
DOOM DELUISE: I see what you’re saying, and you’re absolutely right about almost all of it, but I disagree a little when you say that Hit Girl needed to finish it rather than having Kick-Ass save the day. I think Kick-Ass saving the day worked, because his story wasn’t complete. He was directly responsible for Big Daddy getting caught and killed, so if he hadn’t redeemed himself in some way, it would’ve been a weaker ending.
JIM DOOM: Yeah maybe. Maybe if I look at it that way the next time I see it that’ll work better for me. I wonder if maybe everyone’s fascination with the jetpack took away from the personal stories that were unfolding there.
DOOM DELUISE: It almost makes me wonder if the writers knew how good the rest of the movie was, cuz they really did get caught up on a gimmick and seemed to forget that they’d just spent the better part of an hour and a half getting the audience invested in their characters.
JIM DOOM: Yeah seriously, that really does kind of sum up how it feels. Either it was ignorance as to how good the rest of it was, or shame that they ended up telling a good story that lacked the irony of its setup.
DOOM DELUISE: What did you think of McLovin? I thought he was the weakest part of the movie, to me.
JIM DOOM: It’s kind of hard to separate him from his previous roles for me. I didn’t think he was bad by any means, and it was nice to see him play a villain. I thought he handled that well.
And honestly I was happy to see that happen. I was so afraid from the previews that he’d just be a hapless goof sidekick or something, played solely for laughs.
What about his presence hurt it for you?
DOOM DELUISE: Two things, one of which has nothing to do with the movie.
First, in regards to his acting in the movie, I just thought he was a little too dorky. They were seeming to try to make him the bad version of Kick-Ass (with money), so when they fought at the end, they were evenly matched in their ineptitude; however, in real life, Kick-Ass would’ve beat the crap out of that dork.
Second, completely unrelated to the movie, I met the guy in real life and he’s a prick.
JIM DOOM: But I thought they did a good job of justifying the stalemate — Kick-Ass was a total amateur who was also burdened by the jetpack. Red Mist may be dorkier, but he also did a little of the martial arts training. And I loved that they had the loser geek be into martial arts, since that’s how it is.
And I also thought it made his villainous turn a little more interesting, since the standard young villain is buff and good looking, allowing the losers in the audience to identify with the more average-to-dorky hero. I liked how they turned that convention on its head.
DOOM DELUISE: Yeah, that was a pretty cool twist. I definitely didn’t see Red Mist’s heel-turn coming at all.
One of the criticisms I’ve read again and again about the movie is that they never established a reason for Kick-Ass to become a hero. They said it was just because it was something to do that hadn’t been done before, for him. How would you respond to that?
JIM DOOM: Well, I’m surprised people are saying that. The response to that is pretty clearly addressed in two scenes — the one in which Kick-Ass and his buddy are robbed, and an onlooker turns away and does nothing. The second is when Kick-Ass replies to the 3-on-1 attacker. He’s tired of people watching bad stuff happen and not do anything about it. The motivation is there; the wonder about it not happening superhero style is a comment on the solution. That’s not his motive.
DOOM DELUISE: I agree with you. Movie reviewers are dumb. Kick-Ass was a great movie. What other superhero movies would you rank it alongside?
JIM DOOM: Spider-Man, Iron Man and the Dark Knight. It was charming like Spider-Man, fun action like Iron Man and had some good underlying themes like Dark Knight. And it was great like all three.
I will say that I was starting to think I wasn’t going to like Kick-Ass during the “let’s figure out how to be a superhero while jumping around on rooftops!” scenes. I couldn’t help but think “Spider-Man did this already and did it very well.”
But that was easily and quickly forgiven.
I have a question for you. To me, the mark of a good comic book / superhero movie is whether or not you’d feel comfortable taking a girl to see it. For example, I had no problem treating Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2, Iron Man and The Dark Knight as date movies. I would never dare take a date to Ghost Rider. Would you take a girl to see this?
DOOM DELUISE: Well, first of all, you and I went on a double date to Ghost Rider, but let’s never mind that.
As a point of fact, I did take a girl to see Kick-Ass, and she enjoyed it just as much as I did. Afterward, we got drunk and I got laid. So, yes. Kick-Ass works as a date movie.
JIM DOOM: Put that on a poster.