*Spoiler free review*
I should first warn you that this review will contain a lot of foul language, but then again, if you have an issue with swearing, it is unlikely that you would be interested in Kick-Ass 2 in the first place.
I was a big fan of the first Kick-Ass film. I enjoyed all the swearing, the badass little girl, and the stylized violence. It always baffled me why people had such an issue with the violence in the film – there are so many violent films, with realistic violence, that never seem to spark a furor. So why was a film with comic book style violence worse than a film that depicts what could be real action/violence?
Unfortunately, Kick-Ass 2 is already at a disadvantage. What made the first film great was the unexpected (and somewhat gimmicky) shock value. But it worked very well. Without that shock value, what does the sequel have? The story isn’t as good and there’s no Nicholas Cage. Ok, not a great start. The sequel is still enjoyable, and certainly better than a lot of the shit churning out of Hollywood these days, but it does suffer the usual sequel issues. It just doesn’t know how to follow on from its successful origins.
This film has three plotlines intertwining with each other: that of Kick-Ass, Hit-Girl (Mindy), and The Mother Fucker. After the first film, Kick-Ass gave up the life of the ordinary man cum superhero, and went back to his humdrum, ordinary high school existence. But guess what? He’s bored. How pedestrianly teenage of him! He wants excitement and adrenaline – and presumably he enjoyed getting his ass kicked (‘cause let’s face it, that’s all he was ever really good at).
Meanwhile, orphaned Mindy is supposed to be following in Kick-Ass’s wake, giving up the life of a superhero. But being Hit-Girl is who she is. For the benefit of her guardian, she plays the good girl. After being dropped off at school in the morning she catches a cab to her training ground. When Kick-Ass wants back in, he begs Mindy to train him.
The dynamic duo barely gets off the ground when Mindy’s ruse is up. Marcus makes her give up the superhero life – for her dad. Hmmm, it’s hard to buy this and it does seem a little forced that she would give into Marcus so quickly. This girl is a badass ninja; her dad didn’t just teach her how to fight but how to be strong of mind, but she’s outwitted by this kind-hearted fool of a cop?!
Kick-Ass teams up with a ‘superhero’ he meets online, who in turn introduces him to a group of superheroes under the guidance and leadership of Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) – a born-again ex-mob enforcer. But most of the superhero work they do falls less on the side of beating up bad guys and more along the lines of community service.
Enter The Mother Fucker. In the first film, Chris D’Amico/Red Mist’s father is killed with a bazooka. As you can imagine, he’s a little pissed. Instead of continuing on with his superhero persona, he decides to become the very first super villain (and social media pundit). He builds himself an army of thugs to do his bidding and sets out to take revenge on Kick-Ass. Things quickly escalate into a battle of good and evil, forcing Mindy to make a return as Hit-Girl and save the day.
The escalation of stakes
The stakes were pretty damn high in the first Kick-Ass, so it must have been (understandably) difficult to increase them for the sequel. And it fails to really do so. There’s more of the same – foul-mouthed dialogue and a lot of violence. But what’s it all for? Kick-Ass hasn’t learned his lesson; he goes back out on the streets to carry on with the exact same pig-headed idiocy he failed at in the first film. Meanwhile, Mindy/Hit-Girl is out of the crime-fighting game and into the political mind field of teenage girls. So where is the escalation coming from?
Disappointingly, the stakes aren’t a result of any inner turmoil/character conflict, but rather from the inevitable social implications of having ‘real-life superheroes.’ This isn’t a bad thing in and of itself, but it does let the film’s characters down, especially Hit-Girl. These characters had real potential to be interesting, and they’re given very little to work with. Instead, Kick-Ass 2 is really the story of Newton’s third law of motion. Physics, really?! Yes! Physics!
For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
With real life superheroes wandering the streets, what is the logical conclusion? They need real-life super villains to fight. Ordinary criminals aren’t quite enough anymore, so the escalation of stakes comes through Red Mist’s transformation into the inept super villain, The Mother Fucker.
Is The Mother Fucker really so bad?
I am all for well-rounded bad guys with actual motivations (thanks Joss Whedon for making them possible), but The Mother Fucker is a curious one. Like the best villains, he isn’t always brilliant at what he is trying to do (not unlike Kick-Ass). He is trying to be bad but sometimes has trouble with what is required of him. What turns him into a villain is seeking revenge for his father’s murder. This would make him a vigilante, in a way. Seeking justice and retribution. Hang on a minute, isn’t that also Hit-Girl’s MO? What’s the difference, then, and who is the real bad guy?
Hit-Girl shows some awareness of the issues surrounding her stance as a vigilante: ‘Vigilante’s don’t get a free pass.’ Nor should they. But I’m failing to see the real difference between Hit-Girl, Kick-Ass, and the other ‘superheroes’ with the villain (The Mother Fucker). He is after the same thing – justice for the death of his dad. Sure, his dad was a bad guy, but does that make his desire for justice wrong?
This blurred line between good and evil is encapsulated perfectly when The Mother Fucker says, ‘I’m going to be immortal, like some kind of evil Jesus.’ It is all a matter of perspective. None of the characters really have any moral high ground; it is just a mess of shit – violence, swearing, sex, and revenge.
The many, many controversies
Jim Carrey doesn’t like the violence
Jim Carrey spoke out before the release of the film, saying that he could ‘now in all good conscience I cannot support that level of violence.’ Suddenly he came out with this after recent violent events… what makes this any different from any other time? The sad fact is that there are heinous, violent crimes happening everyday, especially in the US. He had that knowledge before making Kick-Ass 2 and must have known the level of violence that would be portrayed. Why come out after the fact to condemn a film that he chose to be a part of?
Mark Millar, creator of the Kick-Ass comic books weighed in on Carrey’s complaint. To him, this was just great press. Any publicity is good publicity, right? Millar was quoted saying, ‘For your main actor to publicly say, “This movie is too violent for me” is like saying, “This porno has too much nudity. We’ll have to go and see this now.”’ Honestly, I have to agree him. This is good PR – whether Carrey intended it to be or not. Although it does nothing goof for Carrey – other than to make him look like a massive ass.
Meanwhile, badass bombshell (and my new major girl crush, Chloë Grace Moretz) has also chimed in. Her point is that films – along with books, video games, comic books, etc – are fictional. Anyone consuming these mediums goes into it knowing that they aren’t real. Art of any kind is there to explore ideas, none of it puts a gun in anyone’s hand and says ‘fire.’ So, what is all the fuss about? Good question. People need to get over themselves. If the criminals of the world weren’t exposed to violent films or video games, do you think they wouldn’t have been mentally ill? Do you really think that they would not have committed such violent crimes? Unlikely. This real world violence exists independently of the art that comments on it. Grow up.
Mark Millar is a misogynistic bastard
Mark Millar seems to live in a perpetual state of foot-in-mouth. Given in context, he isn’t so bad… I mean, after the panel for ‘Superheroes: The Never Ending Battle’ where Todd McFarlane, Mark Millar, and Gerry Conway all stuck their foot in it when it came to gender stereotyping in comics, it looks as though Millar is just one of many. They argued that there is no place for well-rounded, interesting female characters in comic books because comic book audiences ‘are not interested in those characters.’ What? Really? I guess I must not be a comic book reader then?
But the real issue is Millar’s casual, throwaway approach to rape in his work. A number of his comic books feature rape scenes, which according to Laura Hudson, ‘There’s one and only one reason that happens, and it’s to piss off the male character.’ The film actually handles the rape scene fairly well. In the comic book, The Mother Fucker and his buddies gang rape Night Bitch. Whereas in the film, The Mother Fucker has trouble ‘getting it up’, so his buddies beat her up instead. This works particularly well, as it highlights The Mother Fucker’s incompetence and inability to be the real evil villain he aspires to be. It actually makes more sense for the character.
It is really sad that comic book creators like Millar seem to still be in the dark ages. Women can be interesting, badass characters that appeal to both male and female readers. Case in point: Hit-Girl. So why shy away from them? On the other hand, it should be noted that there are many one-dimensional male characters that are brutally used in a throwaway fashion too – but being male, the commentators all bent out of shape about the lack of feminist representation in the medium ignore them completely. I agree that rape scenes should not just be used a plot device to move along a character arc without facing the consequences/affect of rape on its victims. But I do think that people need to remember that lazy storytelling is commonplace – why not bitch-slap Millar for not writing a better story?!
Do you kiss your mother with that mouth?
Foul language in Kick-Ass 2 was to be expected after the first film. And it was often used to great effect. I loved it when Mindy is in a classic peer-pressure moment with a bunch of airhead cheerleader-types and says ‘Maybe I’ll jam my foot up your snatch.’ Or the sheer glee I felt when seeing such a pretty young girl relish using the word ‘cunt’ (a word I think should not have such a bad reputation, I rather like it). The problem with the film wasn’t so much the language it used, but the misused racial and homophobic slurs that Hit-Girl spouts as her post-ass kicking quips.
Think Buffy the Vampire Slayer – what made the fight scenes so fun was the witty one-liners Buffy would throw out after staking her vamps. Hit-Girl had massive potential for that too. Instead, she uses quips that joke about going ‘Saudi Arabia on your ass’ and commenting on how ‘gay’ The Mother Fucker seems. It doesn’t feel right for her character – a girl so concerned with bringing justice to the world wouldn’t be so cavalier about social issues such as these.
Verdict: This is a disappointing sequel. I did enjoy the film – after all, it’s better than a lot of the other shit out there at the moment – but there are a lot of problems with it. It isn’t as clever or interesting as the first installment, and it has lost the ‘fresh’ aspect. Chloë Grace Moretz is brilliant as usual, but the film fails to use her, or her badass character, in any interesting ways.