By Noel Oxford
Up front, I’m getting my cards, and other things, out on the table. I think Mark Millar is a fucking hack, and I’ve never liked a single thing of his. Wanted is one of the most offensively terrible comics I’ve ever been disappointed by; Civil War pretty much fucked the Marvel universe beyond recognition; The best bit of Superman: Red Son was the ending, and Grant Morrison reportedly came up with that; and The Unfunnies is an incredibly well-named comic. All of these are dreadful items that are literally retarding our cultural growth and delaying our evolution as a species. The man should be clapped in irons before he does any more damage.
Having never read Kick-Ass (because it is by Mark Millar), and having had my expectations pile-driven completely underground by trailers that are best described as hideous, I wanted – nay, NEEDED to hate this film. Yet, to my astonishment, I didn’t. Also, comics are for children, but this film is not. It is for manchildren, such as I.
Kick-Ass is as cookie-cutter a superhero story as you are likely to find. After being mugged, regular comic-book loving dweeb Dave Lizewski laments that nobody is out there vigilanteing the place up, and, for no real reason, decides off the cuff that such a someone ought to be him. Costumes are assembled, moves are practised, ignoble deaths are narrowly avoided. It’s all very irreverent and edgy, but it’s more or less a note-for-note cover of Spider-Man so far. The only actual difference is that Dave gets his so-called superpowers AFTER he decides to fight crime, rather than before. If you invert things, it is clever, you see.
He soon runs into a couple of bona fide costumed freaks, a family team named Hit Girl and Big Daddy. The child is like a Duracell-bunny of violence, mild sarcasm and foul language, while her father, played excellently by Nicolas Cage, is a more considered and sensible – yet no less violent – professional. Cage is a perfect blend of Christian Bale and Adam West, and consequently, makes for a better Batman than either of them (besides the vicious murders and child abuse, that is). He is the best thing in the film by at least a furlong, and I haven’t liked him this much since Adaptation.
Plot happens, things blow up, fights go down and the story treads a very, very predictable path. There’s the sense that this film thinks it is subverting all the hoary old superhero tropes by being dark and using grown-up words in its outdoor voice, but the truth of the matter is that it relies just as strongly on those tropes as Spider-Man or Superman. The film literally could not exist without them, so any parodic value is immediately undermined. The bigger problem, though, is that they are also clichés, and they are just not that interesting. We’ve been reading about Spider-Man’s humdrum work/life balance for nigh on fifty sodding years now, and it doesn’t get any more compelling does it?
It’s all an age-old sleight of hand, intended to make us think we are watching actual characters do stuff in a plot that matters, but we’re not. We’re watching an 11-year-old girl say ‘cunt’ while reloading her dual pistols by bouncing fresh mags off her leather-clad breast buds. It’s actually pretty sinister and creepy the way this girl’s character is manipulated and manoeuvred by the writers, but there’s no call to be jerking one’s knee all over the shop, Christopher Tookey. She’s not nearly as sexualised as the trailers, or the Daily Mail, would lead you to believe, although the hyper-havoc she wreaks upon her enemies is fetishised to the fucking eye sockets.
So it’s a film with cardboard characters, a daft plot, obvious, leaden and terrible jokes, and the only remotely fresh idea in its corner is the offensiveness and darkness it slathers over the typically schmaltzy superhero schtick. It has some truly decent action scenes, mixed in with a few that seriously misfire. On paper, it sounds bad, and I guess it is.
But Christ knows why, I was still pretty entertained, so fuck it. Go see it.