Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Serving the campus of the University of Alabama since 1894

The Crimson White

Superhero satire kicks ass

I remember how angry I was a little over a year ago at Zach Snyder’s “Watchmen” movie, primarily because I thought it was too violent.

I was angry mainly because I was familiar with the “Watchmen” graphic novel, and I knew that Snyder had made the same mistake as countless knock-off graphic novelists in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s. Snyder emulated (and even increased) the graphic novel’s violence, but not the weight behind it.

He took a serious examination of the problems with being a superhero and turned it into a celebration of ultra-violent super-“heroic” fantasy. I remember thinking, at the time, that there’s a time and place for that hedonism, but “Watchmen” isn’t it. “300” is. “Wanted” is. And now, “Kick-Ass” definitely is.

The title character of “Kick-Ass” is a high school comic book nerd named Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) who gets sick of getting ignored by his crush Katie (Lyndsey Fonseca) and getting his money stolen on the city streets. So he dons a scuba super-suit and, with a lot of luck and even more pluck, turns his super alter-ego into an Internet sensation.

At the same time, ex-cop Damon McReady (Nicholas Cage) is entering the final stages of a revenge plot against drug overlord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), one that involves both him and his daughter Mindy (Chloe Moretz) fighting as two of the most brutal costumed vigilantes ever seen. When a chance encounter with Mindy’s alter ego Hit Girl leaves Frank believing Kick-Ass is the one killing all his men, Dave’s fantasy becomes much more dangerous than he ever intended.

Mark Millar, who also wrote the shocking, amoral “Wanted,” wrote the “Kick-Ass” comic. When I learned that Millar was involved, it certainly explained why “Kick-Ass” contains one of the most controversial superheroes ever created: the gun-toting, limb-slicing, 11-year-old Hit Girl.

Expect Hit Girl to trigger a spectacular debate over whether her character is the funniest thing since the days when “Family Guy” was actually funny or the most inappropriate thing since Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction.” Personally, I like her.

Yes, an 11-year-old on a killing spree can be funny, but more importantly, the writers (Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn) never forget there is a child underneath Hit Girl’s mask and cape. There are moments where Moretz brilliantly shows her character struggling to hide her vulnerability. Many of those moments come near the film’s end, when the danger for her becomes very real, the laughing stops and her final few fights become the tensest action sequences I’ve seen since “The Dark Knight.”

Moretz is a standout, but every other performance is also excellent. Nicholas Cage is back on his game for the first time in a while, and he is truly hilarious whenever he appears as Big Daddy. If you’ve ever wanted to see Cage parody himself, you have to hear his Adam West voice.

Christopher Mintz-Plasse finally breaks out of the McLovin typecasting he has suffered from since “Superbad” as Frank’s son Chris, who uses his father’s resources to become the extremely cool Red Mist. And as Kick-Ass, Johnson is a pitch-perfect caricature of Tobey Maguire’s Peter Parker, from the voice to the facial expressions all the way down to the crying.

I also have to give credit to the four-man team of John Murphy, Henry Jackman, Marius De Vries, and Ilan Eshkeri who composed the score. The use of rock guitars is the best since “Iron Man,” and their parodies of classic superhero movies are varied and put to ingenious use. I was happy, for instance, to hear a great parody of John Williams’ “Superman” theme when Kick-Ass suits up for the first time. I was even happier, however, when villainy was at hand and I heard a vertiginous ascending guitar chord exactly like Hanz Zimmer’s leitmotif for the Joker in “The Dark Knight.”

I have exactly one complaint about Kick-Ass, and it’s unfortunately a big enough misstep to knock half a star off the rating. Vaughn and Goldman set up a truly compelling series of complications that I won’t spoil for Dave’s relationship with Katie, but when those complications are brought to the fore, they instantly disappear. They had an excellent opportunity to complicate comic book romance in ways “Spider-Man 3” could only dream of, but those complications simply melt away.

Overall, Kick-Ass stands as one of the best superhero movies I’ve seen. It’s explosive, it’s hilarious, and yet, for the most part, it’s smarter about how it handles its subversions of the genre than most other satires. Even if you aren’t absolutely in love with the idea of Hit Girl, don’t let that scare you away. “Kick-Ass” does more than push the comedic envelope. It’s also a thrilling, intriguing superhero movie.

Bottom Line: “Kick-Ass” is a must-see for fans of the superhero genre, especially the ones who like to see the genre played with. If you don’t have a problem with Hit Girl, the only problem you’ll have is with its underdeveloped central romance.

3 and a half out of 4


Runtime: 117 minutes

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