Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Kick Ass (Vaughn 2010)

Here is the truth about Kick Ass and me: I honestly don’t have much of anything to say about the film, and that is not because the film is awful in any way shape or form. I had a great time watching the film, and the film is one that is jam packed with ideas and moments designed to provoke, shock and move the audience. Everyone, from director Mathew Vaughn down to actress Chloe Moretz, has more or less nailed this adaptation of the comic, save a minor flaw or two. They have crafted one hell of a film out of the tale of a idealistic, superhero obsessed teenager (Aaron Johnson) who becomes an internet sensation after video of him fighting crime (poorly) is posted online.

So, you might be asking, if the film is so great, why am I lacking in having much to say about the film? After all, I am the man who wasted over three thousand words on the Universal Soldier films. Believe me when I say it isn’t for a lack of trying. I have come at this film in every possible way I know how, and all that came with it was pure frustration.

Instead, I have spent a good amount of time mulling over why I have felt no need to say anything about the film, and the answer only really dawned on me over the past twenty four hours. While it is somewhat odd to say, Kick Ass feels like it has already been discussed to death, torn apart and analysed in detail. This is of course absurd, as the film has only just been released. However, when you come right down to it, Kick Ass is really more or less a dramatization of the higher end of comic geek discussions on message forums across the web, about our own forms of spectatorship, our obsession with superheroes, what fantasy means to us as individuals and as a society. And much like a forum discussion, Kick Ass is alternatively insightful, horrifying, vulgar, funny and contradictory.

The catch 22 of this is that because of this familiarity, most of the propositions and satirical observations made are already familiar for the target audience. We have already had these conversations time and time again. It is fun to see these thoughts put on screen, given life, but for long term comic fans, Kick Ass doesn’t provide any new insights or propositions that we haven’t heard before, particularly having gone through the deconstruction tales of the 1980s and 1990s comics.

This leaves the general audience as being the one to which Kick Ass will have the most to offer, and this is the audience who will likely be the least receptive to the finished work, with its moral ambiguity, emphasis on geek culture and moments of grotesque violence. Even the supposed shocking nature of the violence featuring a child is not a major shock for those who have watched films such as Robocop 2 (1990), written by comic auteur Frank Miller.

In the end, Kick Ass is fun, providing plenty of laughs and, more importantly, giving Nicolas Cage a great comic character to play. Is it a classic though? I would say it is a film that is certainly of the moment, and will earn a well beloved cult reputation over the years. But it is not the big watershed event some would like to make it out to be, nor the film to push the comic to film genre to new heights. With all likelihood, the film will become lost as the decade moves on.


  1. So, what does it say about us as geeks when the acts depicted in Kick-Ass don't horrify us very much? Cause I know that I was pretty shocked at some points, and had to rely on the surreal-comic-book-ness of the film in order to cope.

    Now I'm trying to imagine the full-out impact of it on an viewer who is completely unfamiliar with geekdom.

  2. The flaw in Kick Ass as I see it is that the ending of the film tries to midigate the horror of the implications earlier in the film, dulling the earlier criticism of our media obsessed culture.

    As for what it says about us if we are not horrified, well, it is hard to say. The film's overtly outlandish tone invites laughter, so it plays with us quite a bit as viewers. I am not so sure the film is a total condemnation, rather than an ackowledgement of our long existing taste for bloody entertainment. Gladiator combat anyone?

  3. Sure, I don't think the film is a total condemnation myself. I'm just thinking about how it can be interpreted as a representation of geekdom. You know, that one person that gets people talking about how video games promotes violence. That kinda stuff.

  4. I think the film is able to dodge, to a degree, the issue of how geekdom itself is represented by evoking the broader spectrum of culture as a whole. Big Daddy, outside of costume, is just as constructed from the culture around him as his "heroic" geeky persona, with 1950s sitcoms of the father knows best variety being the basis of his persona.

    Likewise, the focus on the you tube incident is sadly all to reminicent of the 15 minutes of fame that all too many people achieve for, well, nothing really (SeeL "Leave Brittney alone!", and the Jackass crew). So we might get the lead here, but we're taking everyone down with us ;)


What Is Your Cinematic Experience? Post Here!