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A new kind of superhero

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Posted: Monday, April 19, 2010 11:00 pm

Ever since manufacturers had to begin putting warning labels on Superman capes - “This cape does not give the wearer the ability to fly” - it’s evident that kids everywhere wanted to trade in their mild-mannered alter egos for a pair of tights and fight the bad guys.

Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson, Nowhere Boy) is just the first kid to go mainstream with the idea in Kick-Ass.

Lizewski describes himself as a high school kid with nothing special about him. Until he creates a superhero outfit and actually begins confronting criminals. Bystanders with videophones turn him into an Internet sensation, and he inspires some better-trained, better-equipped and deadlier heroes, such as Damon Macready/Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage, National Treasure) and daughter Mindy/Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz, Diary of a Wimpy Kid) to join his real-life Justice League.

When they get on the bad side of dangerous crime lord Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong, Sherlock Holmes), Lizewski’s superhero dream quickly turns into a nightmare.

But parents be warned, this is a superhero satire for grown-ups. And it’s rated R for a reason.

 

Things we liked about the movie:

1. The movie is immensely entertaining from start to finish. Lizewski's narration is sarcastic, interactive and self-aware, the fight scenes are dizzyingly well-choreographed and unexpectedly violent (parents beware), and the acting, particularly by Cage and Moretz, is solid. Matthew Vaughn (Layer Cake) directs with a propulsive energy, stuffed to the rafters with pop culture riffs and references that makes Quentin Tarantino look like a sad old geezer.

2. We love the concept of this new boy wonder, which may be more of a compliment to the comic than to the movie, but Johnson ably fills the green scuba suit. We love that, not only is he not particularly super, he's not even particularly helpful in many of the action sequences. This gives him the one thing that other superheroes lack: the ability for the audience to identify with him.

 

Things we're torn about:

We don't really know how we feel about how they handled Big Daddy's back story, which is one of the major departures from the graphic novel. Both media paint him as an ex-cop who was framed and sent to jail, which leads to the death of his wife and his serious revenge complex against the man behind it all.

The thing they changed is that only in the movie is it true.

In the comic he's just a superhero-obsessed sociopath whose wife divorced him and he creates this honorable alter ego for himself, training his daughter as his protégé.

We like the movie version because it makes the characters much more sympathetic and their murderous actions much more palatable. But we like the comic's version because it makes for a less clichéd character. We're not sure how this works, but we found Cage's portrayal simultaneously eccentric and uninteresting.

 

Things we disliked about the movie:

1. The music is pieced together from pop music and other film scores. By and large it works well, but it's occasionally jarring as some of the music is very recognizable, like a theme from 28 Days Later and Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western scores. It's the rare moment where we're taken out of the movie, trying to think where we've heard that before. We would always prefer a cohesive score, particularly for a superhero film.

2. There was enough product placement in the movie to be noticeably annoying, giving free ads to Pepsi, MySpace and Apple, but only one that made us wish a service actually existed: Why don't any of the Atomic Comics we've been in serve coffee? Let's get on that.

 

All in all, the film is a satire on society about the ethics of vigilante violence. The masked crime fighters we grew up reading about (Batman, et al.) never set out with the intention to murder their enemies. So are Big Daddy and Hit Girl’s actions right?

But it also begs the question, when the system is broken and the police are in the back pocket of the bad guys, what choice do they really have?

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