Life isn’t a comic book. That’s the story behind Kick-Ass 2, the sequel to a movie based on a comic book about people who dress up as superheroes, but not like in comic books, because this takes place in real life, with real people, who get in costumes and fight crime. It’s a not-a-comic comic book movie.
I’m making fun, but it’s a novel premise. What if you or I decided to create a superhero alter ego and took to the streets to fight the good fight? The first Kick-Ass, and the comic book that it was based off of, answered that question in the character of Dave Lizewski, a high school nerd who dons a scuba suit and calls himself Kick-Ass.
Kick-Ass gets his ass kicked, but a cell phone video of his existence goes viral and spawns a whole trend of regular people playing dress up. Unfortunately, Nicholas Cage and his preteen daughter actually are superheroes, waging a very real battle against New York’s criminal underworld. Kick-Ass gets involved, Nicholas Cage dies, and that’s where we left off at the end of the first film.
Kick-Ass 2 is basically more of the same, but because the concept is still somewhat original, the movie is entertaining. We have the preteen daughter, Hit Girl, struggling to fit in as a high school freshman. McLovin is back as the would-be heir to his deceased dad’s criminal empire. He’s looking to show the world he’s not a joke while at the same time exacting revenge on our protagonist. And then there’s Kick-Ass, trying to take his heroics to the next level, getting in shape, learning how to fight, and finding some like-minded partners to form a real-world Justice League.
So while the plot of Kick-Ass 2 isn’t really that different from the first, the team dynamic introduces an expanded group of characters. Jim Carrey plays an ex-mafia turned Captain America wannabe, Captain Stars and Stripes, or Colonel Stars and Stripes, something like that. His performance was good enough to make me forget that it was Jim Carrey under the mask. That is, until he made a wacky Jim Carrey face, and then I was like, yup, classic Jim Carrey, always making crazy faces.
Speaking of out of the woodwork, John Leguizamo has a role as McLovin’s bodyguard. That’s all there’s to say about that, really. The whole time he was on screen I just kept thinking to myself, man, that’s John Leguizamo. He looks old. Much older than he did when he played Luigi in Super Mario Brothers. And I don’t want to knock him, like I’m glad he’s doing movies and stuff, but he didn’t add anything to the film or the story. They could have probably gotten away with a few carefully placed John Leguizamo posters on the wall.
Oh yeah, and it’s a pretty violent movie, very graphic. I kept trying to justify the violence by telling myself, well, the real world is a violent place. This is probably a pretty good depiction of what would happen if a guy in a costume got beat up on the streets by four robbers. But it was just too much sometimes, running lawnmowers used as projectile weapons, multiple close-ups of broken arms and necks. Crack!
In trying to be real, or in trying to imagine how this story could take place in real life, the movie went beyond anything I’ve seen in this world. Like a barbecue propane tank being ignited and thrown through the windshield of a cop car. I’m sure that it could happen, but it doesn’t really strike me as anything I’d label realistic.
It’s like, in trying to point out or make fun of the ridiculousness of comic books, Kick-Ass 2 winds up shoving our faces in it. And then after the message has been rammed down our throats, the principle characters wind up just as guilty as everything they claim to rebuke. For example, one of the super-group members is gay. He doesn’t wear a mask because it reminds him of the closet. Similarly, Hit Girl early in the film chastised some street punks for throwing around the homophobic f-bomb. That sounds pretty progressive, right? Cut to somewhere toward the end, she’s fighting a group of thugs at high-speed traffic, calling them “cocksuckers” before casually throwing them out of a moving vehicle. What’s the message, that some slurs are more acceptable than others? Or that only the good guys are allowed to throw around epithets?
Like I said, it’s an entertaining movie, sure, but I’m not sure it was really a good movie. I wasn’t bored, but it would be hard to get lost in a daydream in a movie stuffed with so much visual, violent stimuli. I remember liking the comics when I read Mark Millar’s series years ago, but I don’t know, something about that story was easy to read and something about this film made it difficult for me not to look away. It’s a comic book made through a real life filter, thrown back through the comic book filter, and then adapted for a movie. I guess it’s not that far from what you’d expect.