Matthew Vaughn’s 2010 film Kick-Ass is one of my favorite superhero movies ever. It really breaks down the archetypes, underlying messages, and mythos of superheroes just as well as M. Knight Whats-his-face’s Unbreakable did. It pulled no punches and entertained from start to finish. Even the low ticket sales for Kick-Ass didn’t stop it from becoming a cult hit. It is the pure definition of lightning in a bottle. Unfortunately, lightning doesn’t strike in the same place twice. Kick-Ass 2 lends some credence to that old saying. Whoa! Whoa! Whoa! Easy fanboys. I’m not saying Kick-Ass 2 is a bad film. It’s fun. It’s mostly entertaining. Compared to it’s predecessor though, the movie comes off as just a little too CLUMSY.
Not to sound presumptuous, but I kind of knew this was coming. New writer/director? Check. Concept lacking initial luster and shock factor? Check. Actors who seem to have grown out of their characters age-wise and talent-wise? Double check. The writing was on the wall, but I hoped to be proven wrong. Sadly, the magic of the first film is never fully recaptured in this sequel. A very common occurrence with sequels as a whole. The frustrating thing is that there are moments in Kick-Ass 2 that you start to feel the same joy of the original. Then the movie quickly stumbles and squanders those moments. It’s like watching a newborn doe trying to walk or a child learning to ride a bike without the training wheels. Just when you think they got it, they fall flat on their face.
Kick-Ass 2 is a victim of it’s own genius. The first Kick-Ass, in my opinion, should have been left as a stand-alone. Yes, I know this film is based on creator Mark Millar’s follow up comic book series aptly named Kick-Ass 2. However, Hollywood is so preoccupied with whether or not they could make a sequel that they don’t stop to think if they should. Yes, I’m indirectly quoting Dr. Ian Malcolm. But it is to make a valid point. For every Jaws, there is a Jaws 2. For every Men In Black, there is a Men In Black 2. Speed, The Sting, The Fly, The Matrix. I could go one. Some films hit the mark so perfectly the first time, it is best to just leave well enough alone. I personally wish that thinking was used for Kick-Ass, because it pains me to see the sequel not live up to the expectations.
There are some interesting concepts attempted in the film that I was very enthusiastic to see. Hit Girl trying to deal with high school sounds great on paper. But even with the…how should I put this…messy end result, I felt a little shortchanged. With all the emphasis of this movie obviously switching over to Hit Girl, you’d think the film would spend a little more time filling out that arc. Chris D’Amico becoming the first ever supervillain sounds great on paper. However, you don’t get a fully fleshed out arc of him going to the darkside either. It is done through quick disjointed scenes and a humorous but also rushed montage. Even Kick-Ass himself joining a team of real world heroes is passed over so fast you don’t get a chance to really enjoy it. This is due to one of the main flaws I think this film has. The running time. With a film with so much more going on in it, you’d think it would be much longer than the original. Not fifteen minutes shorter. I know the impatient filmgoers/youth of today scoff at anything longer than two hours. However, I can’t help but think that this film needed a much longer running time to properly tell this story. I mean, I haven’t even mentioned that they try and pack in a storyline with Kick-Ass and his father, Hit Girl her surrogate father, a break up, a romance, an unrequited romance and a friends growing apart angle all in a film that is a smidge over an hour and a half.
The performances thankfully are one of the few things that don’t decline in this sequel. Aaron Johnson still delivers the comical awkwardness of Dave Lizewski. You still pull for him and still believe in him. Christopher Mintz-Plasse hams it up a lot, but you never get annoyed by it because it totally fits his character. Jim Carrey, is not as delightfully quirky as Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy, but has a fun and surprisingly restrained performance. Chloë Grace Moretz’s return to the character that put her on the map was the one thing I was initially worried about. I’ve stated how much of a fan of her I am. And she herself has proven to be a fine actress since. However, time has erased much of the novelty of her age matched with her attitude in this role. Thankfully, the strength, wit, and charm of Hit Girl are still brought to bear by Moretz and still makes her a great character. Though maybe not a fresh one. The story takes Hit Girl out of her element, as I mentioned before. A take no prisoners superhero forced to deal with the hierarchies and cliques of high school? Awesome! And Moretz does a great job with what she is given. It just feels hurried. Thankfully Moretz will get a similar crack at this subject matter in her upcoming take on Carrie.
Moretz and all her fellow performers, however, suffer from a script that has too much expositing and too little clever dialogue. A ratio that was clearly flipped in the original. Speeches are given by these characters almost at nauseum. And where it felt natural in Kick-Ass, it feels out of place here. Don’t believe me? Drinking game then. Take a shot whenever someone gives a overly wordy, long winded, score driven speech that completely stops the story’s momentum. I’m not talking about Dave’s narration either. It literally happens with Hit Girl in back to back scenes. A character who is supposed to be the true definition of short and sweet. She is supposed to show, not tell. Writer/Director Jeff Wadlow navigates his way around these characters like a CLUMSY late night watchmen. Matthew Vaughn would have guided them better on the page and behind the camera.
Kick-Ass 2 again is not a horrible film. In a summer of disappointments, it ranks as just fine. But for a film that is supposed to be the celebrated follow up to one of the most original superhero films ever made, it under-delivers. It won’t scar you like Green Lantern or upset you like The Amazing Spider-Man, but it certainly won’t kick your ass. Don your costume…stay away from sick sticks…watch it…then tell me I’m wrong.