Aug 2010 13

by Damon Martin

“Why do you think nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero before?”

“I dunno. Because it’s impossible.”

Thus the saga of Kick-Ass begins. When social misfit Dave Lizewski sits with his friends one day and ponders why there are no real life superheroes, he decides to take it upon himself to be the first real life vigilante. Ordering a wet suit from eBay, taping up some pipes, and donning a mask and soon Dave is on his way to fame as a superhero.

Well, not quite, but that begins the epic journey of Kick-Ass, a comic book series created by Mark Miller and John Romita Jr. that follows the adventure of the wanna-be superhero. The comic would immediately be optioned into a full-length motion picture directed by Matthew Vaughn, and starring Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, Mark Strong, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse.

The film didn’t break any box office records, but it was released on DVD recently with some great extra features, and the movie may take on a life of its own as a cult favorite among comic book fans for it’s ultra-bloody and unapologetic telling of a not-so-typical comic book.

The movie itself stays fairly close to the source material of the comic book, outside of some plot points, but Hollywood tends to do that with any film they adapt from the world of comics. The great thing about Kick-Ass is that it’s not an everyday comic book. It’s about the everyday kid who reads comic books, and decides to take matters into his own hands. He gets stabbed, and is left bleeding for his trouble, but you get the point.

Of course it’s a rough going for young Mr. Lizewski because without superpowers and real guns and knives, it’s not a safe place in this world to take up the cause of vigilantism. Dave runs into more problems than Tiger Woods trying to leave his house while his wife is yielding a 9-iron, but he tries and tries again to prove he can do the hero thing.

He thinks he’s doing a good job until he meets up with a pair of truly kick-ass superheroes going by the names of Big Daddy and Hit Girl. Big Daddy played by Nicolas Cage is one part Cliff Huxtable and another part Rambo. He plays the doting father to his young daughter in the movie, but doesn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on her as well (although he does offer her ice cream afterwards).

Many of the standard film critics including Roger Ebert, who taunted the film for its excessive violence involving a child, probably never actually looking past that part of the film and see what the film is at the core. It’s a superhero story set in the modern day crime world, where nobody was bitten by a radioactive spider, and no one was sent from a dying planet on a mission to protect Earth.

Hit Girl is played by 11-year old actress Chloe Grace Moretz, and she really is the show-stopper in this movie. At first, jaws drop when a little girl starts blurting out curse words like she just hung out with Joe Pesci in GoodFellas, but Moretz is brilliant in her role as the young, yet unbelievably tough, hero in this film. She’d make Tony Montana blush with her use of the seven dirty words, and then she’d probably attack him and stab him through the neck with a kitchen knife.

The casting in the movie was extremely well done all the way down to Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who many know as McLovin from Superbad, and he does a tremendous job as the son of the lead mobster in the movie. Like a child being told that he’s not allowed to go out and play, Mintz-Plasse plays the role to perfection. Always looking for his father’s approval, and trying to find a way into his dad’s business, the son of the mob boss is going to do anything to make a mark.

Yes, Kick-Ass is excessively violent, but read the comic book and you’ll realize quickly that the film was toned down compared to the source material. The reality is that the film is no more excessive in the violence shown than any martial arts movie from Hong Kong or even critically acclaimed films like The Departed. The biggest complaint most had is that the violence is being conducted by an 11-year old girl, in what is supposed to be a standard comic book movie.

The fact is Kick-Ass isn’t a standard comic book movie, and there have been comic books for years that haven’t been standard issue good guy vs. bad guy stories. Maybe the general public isn’t ready for comic book characters that don’t swing from rooftops or stand for truth, justice and the American way, but the fact is some of the strongest writing that becomes Hollywood’s biggest films start from comic books, and Kick-Ass is another great example.

The DVD release of Kick-Ass also includes some fantastic bonus features. The biggest one being a making of the comic book special feature which goes behind the scenes with creator Mark Millar, artist John Romita Jr., inker Tom Palmer and colorist Dean White.

The story from Millar about how this book was based largely on his own life, and his own desire as a 15-year old boy in Scotland who wanted nothing more than to become a real life superhero are fantastic. Watching the words come to life through John Romita Jr’s art is also fun to watch, as well as the final touches being added by Palmer and White.

For a 20-minute bonus feature, it has to be one of the most informative and fun extras on a DVD in a long time. There are also storyboards for the film, and art as drawn by John Romita Jr., which is used in the film as well.

All in all, Kick-Ass is a funny, action packed movie with plenty of good old-fashioned violence, and some great one-liners along the way. If you missed your chance to see this film in the theater, go pick up the collected graphic novel by Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., give it a read, and then get the dvd of Kick-Ass. A great combo for comic book fans, or just fans of great movies.