Have you ever wanted to be a superhero? I sure have, and “Kick-Ass” knows just want I want, though the path to glory is definitely paved with a whole lot of decapitation, campy costumes, and bleak statements about the role of a vigilante in the real world. The latest superhero film ushers in a new age for the genre, succeeding where “Watchmen” failed as caped crusaders wear ridiculous attire with pride and still provide a critical look at what’s going on behind the mask.
Unlike other superhero films, “K.A.” was officially announced to become a film only one month after the first issue hit comic stands in 2008. This is an original work created by Mark Millar, the man behind the original comic book for “Wanted” and a major player at Marvel Comics, most notably for his 2005 crossover event, “Civil War”, which pitted superheroes like Captain America and Iron Man against each other because of a government law to regulate masked heroes. “Civil War” and “Wanted” prove that Millar challenges superhero conventions, questioning the role of the hero in a very disturbed contemporary context, and “K.A.” becomes a fresh face that does more of the same.
Dave Lizewsk (Aaron Johnson) is a normal high schooler whose love for comics causes him to wonder why nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero. Taking up the call of his own curiosity, he buys a suit and walks around town looking for criminals. But as superhero origin stories go, it takes more than a green skin-tight scuba suit to make a hero super, as he’s both knifed in the stomach and hit by a car after his first villainous encounter. But out of the ashes rises two beneficial side effects: a large amount of metal reinforcing his skeleton and damaged nerve endings that make him almost numb to pain. With a new body, he tries it again, this time succeeding and becoming a YouTube celebrity in the process, as millions become fascinated by a video of a regular dude in costume saving a victim’s life.
Meanwhile, others have been wearing costumes behind the scenes, trying to take down crime boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong). Ever seen a pre-teen girl kill and curse with the best of ‘em? Meet Hit-Girl/Mindy Macready (Chloe Moretz). And behind the girl is her rather disgruntled father, Damon (Nicholas Cage), superhero alias Big Daddy, who dresses like Batman and even mimics Adam West’s verbal take on the dark knight. Together, Hit-Girl, Big Daddy, Kick-Ass and the mysterious Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) join forces to take on the underworld of New York City.
“Kick-Ass” is easily one of the best superhero films out there. It takes its rather low budget and does visual wonders, while still focusing on character development. Brutally violent, wildly hysterical, and emotionally sincere, this one’s its own breed, bringing to life the true spirit of superheroes that keeps bringing fans back to comic shops each week. But more than great action scenes, decent score, and good laughs, “K.A.” supplies us with an unexpected flair for the artistic, uniting multiple seemingly conflicting ideas.
Finally, we have a female superhero worth viewing. Sure, Storm’s a great character but Halle Berry made her boring (and let’s not dwell on “Catwoman”). Jennifer Gardner’s Elektra and Jessica Alba’s the Invisible Woman – who cares? And Malin Akerman’s Silk Spectre was far too damsel-in-distress as far as superheroins go. Hit-Girl is just fantastic, moving between shocking and comedic. As a superhero and a child, Chloe Moretz provides a dynamic performance that reveals both a harsh heroine who shows no mercy and also a child who loves her father and maintains all the mannerisms of a child.
Brit actor Aaron Johnson does wonders as our leading man, narrating his way through both high school sexual frustration and the personal battle with monotony that leads to his viral fame. This is gory material but no more so than other action films. The young girl doing most of the violence raises some eyebrows, but really, what’s the point of film if it doesn’t make you question taboos and norms. “Kick-Ass” is the most interesting film of the year and one of the top superhero films of all time. Prepare for your morals and your senses to be very, very confused…probably in a good way.
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