Superheroes are easy to make fun of: they dress weird, they have dark, twisted histories, serious personality defects, and their real life sucks. But Kick-Ass goes beyond the superficialities of a spoof and delves deeply into the strengths and flaws of superheroes. There are so many levels on which this movie could have failed, but against all odds, it succeeds.
The premise of the movie is novel — a teenager wonders why nobody tries to be a superhero and makes it his business to dress up in a wet suit and help strangers. This intriguing idea might have been stretched too thin over this two-hour fare if Dave (Aaron Johnson), a comic book fan, hadn’t been the perfect commentator. As the hero whose only superpower, as he says, is being invisible to girls, the futility and inanity of Dave’s life is explicated right at the beginning. For a while it seems that the movie will flounder in a sea of American Pie humour and embarrassingly bad jokes about teenage boyhood.
But with the introduction of the father and daughter duo of Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage) and Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz), the plot marches crisply forward. The Macreadys are the real crime-fighting superheroes — they don’t have any superpowers but, like Batman, they have loads of expensive gadgets. Mindy, a mere 11-year-old, has been trained since childhood by her father, a former cop, in the subtleties of weapons to wage war against the local druglord (played by Mark Strong, who’s been busy being a bad guy in various movies this year). They are the ones who don their costumes — purple wig for Hit Girl, false moustache for Big Daddy, capes and masks for both — and assume their alter egos with a poignant single-mindedness.
It takes a while to figure out which way the movie is going: first it seems as if it’s going to be a facile spoof, then it looks as if it might become a failed attempt at satire. Making a superhero movie to make fun of superheroes is not a cinch, but Kick-Ass, despite the veneer of comedy, is not out to provide just laughs. It is a considered look at the lives of superheroes from the point of view of a comic book reader. Dave is not simply a bumbling foil to the Macreadys’ violent finesse. His whiny accent and geeky looks might not be in his favour but he is an intelligent observer of and commentator on the lives of superheroes and if he dons a ridiculous wet suit it is for the sake of first-hand knowledge.
What follows is a weirdly entertaining discourse on superheroes. From the clothing, to the dark pasts, to the concept of vigilante justice, to the expensive gadgets this is one movie which takes care of all elements of superhero movies. In the course of his adventures, Dave does find an answer to his initial question: people don’t step in to help strangers because they have to think about the people they love. Despite all of this, the movie has some high adrenaline face offs amd thrilling violence. Its most impressive achievement is that it manages to be a superhero film and a nuanced comment on the genre at the same time.
Published in the Express Tribune, June 20th, 2010.
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