Kick-Ass gets the star billing, because this is a movie about someone without super powers (Dave Lizewski, a.k.a. Kick-Ass) donning a costume and embarking on a career as a super-hero, but a better name for Kick-Ass may very well have been Hit-Girl, for she truly steals the show. She, and her father/partner Big Daddy, are actual super-heroes inserted into a world in which they ostensibly don’t exist.
As every previous film adaptation of a comic book has, in my eyes, fallen short of the comic, I went into this movie with mixed expectations, especially since, while I enjoyed the comic book, I didn’t *love* it the way many fans did. I didn’t expect anything amazing; what I saw was quite possibly the best comic book movie I’ve ever seen.
So much will be made of the violence, especially since much of it is being perpetrated by an 11-year-old actress, but to me, that’s beside the point. The movie got everything right that most other super-hero films get wrong. Take Iron Man– I enjoyed that film, and I found the portrayal of Tony Stark as a complex individual who is part alcoholic playboy and part torn humanitarian to be quite gripping. Had the movie been called Tony Stark it would have been a fine character study, but it had no place in a movie called Iron Man. In my mind, the ideal super-hero film is Die Hard with a guy in tights replacing Bruce Willis. Take a few minutes of screen time to introduce us to Peter Parker/Bruce Banner/Steve Rogers/Whoever, then pit him up against someone or something seemingly unbeatable. After about 90 minutes of epic battling, engineer an unexpected method of victory for the seemingly out-matched hero, then roll the credits.
Kick-Ass does exactly that, in spades. There are just enough civilian-identity shenanigans to flesh out the characters, and a couple genuinely tender scenes that never drift into the maudlin. The rest is Hit-Girl kicking ass, Kick-Ass futilely trying to keep up with her, and McLovin’ showing us what the well-to-do super-hero is driving this season.
Don’t get me wrong– Kick-Ass is not populated by one-dimensional characters and stereotypes. You understand why Dave dons his costume, and when he wins the fight that launches him to fame, he does so in a way that is simultaneously heroic and believable. That scene more than any other illustrates why he ultimately is the star of a film that at times seems to focus far more on Big Daddy and Hit-Girl. He is in many ways the Jack Benny of the super-hero set– the guy in a costume surrounded by heros and villains, not grasping the full gravity of any of it, but somehow stumbling through to the final reel. By that time he has come to terms with what ought to be his mantra, with no power comes no responsibility, and he does what he ought to have done all along: get out of the way and let Hit-Girl go to town, while still managing to do a bit of day-saving of his own.
I don’t think I’m alone in my love of this film, or my belief that it is better than its source material. A row of ten über-geeks seated directly in front of us last night all left the theater proclaiming likewise, and I overheard many comments to the effect of “best movie ever,” “way better than the comic” as I exited the cinema. If I didn’t have tickets to see Hot Chip, I’d go see this again tonight; I’ll almost certainly be back in a theater this weekend to watch it once more.