Friday, August 16, 2013

Book and Movie – Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

First things first: Kick-Ass 2 is definitely a step down from the first film, but at the same time it is nowhere near being the crime against humanity that some film critics are trying to make it out to be.  Most of them hated the first one, too.  Roger Ebert, for instance, gave the original 1 out of 4 stars and referred to it as “reprehensible”.  He’s not around to review the sequel, of course, but I’m betting he’d dislike it just as much.  Personally, Kick-Ass was one of my Top 10 films of 2010. (You can read my review of it here.)  The thing to take from all of this is if you want to see Kick-Ass 2 then see it.  If you loved the first one like I did just don’t go into this one expecting it to have the same impact.

When the first film became a huge hit with fans people immediately started asking when the sequel was coming.  The problem was that Mark Millar, the writer of the original Kick-Ass comic, hadn’t written anything else.  I believe he intended the story to stand on its own, but when the movie proved to be so popular he decided to continue the adventures.  Millar’s Kick-Ass 2 picks up just a few months after the first book finished.  It took time to write and publish, though, so the filmmakers had to address something the comic did not – the passage of time. 

Chloe Grace Moretz (Mindy Macready/Hit-Girl) was 11 when she filmed the first one – the same age as the character in the comic, but 15 when she filmed the second one.  Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Dave Lizewsky/Kick-Ass) was already an adult of 19 when he did the first one and was 23 when he filmed the second.  It wasn’t apparent on the first watch of the original movie, but Dave Lizewsky was supposed to only be around 14 – the same age as in the comic.  He does make a reference at one point about not having been able to get a drivers license yet, but that’s about it.  This creates an apparent goof because in Kick-Ass 2 they mention years have passed and Mindy is now a Freshman in high school – the same high school that Dave is still attending. 

It’s not like the filmmakers had much of an option, though.  They certainly couldn’t recast Hit-Girl and there’s no way that Moretz could still play an 11 year old.  Because of this the film also adds a subplot with Mindy’s guardian trying to get her to make friends with other high school girls.  She enters the scary world of boy band worship, bubblegum music, and popular girls, as well as showing us how the skills she has to defeat and kill simultaneous attackers translate really well to tryouts for her school’s dance team.  I could have done without an added scene involving lots of vomit, though.

Matthew Vaughn, who did a fantastic job adapting and directing the original film, passed on the sequel.  He’s just a producer this time around.  Instead Jeff Wadlow was hired to adapt and direct the sequel.  I’ve honestly never heard of him.  The IMDB trivia says this is the first R rated film he’s ever done.  It shows.  Kick-Ass 2 definitely tones down the things that the first one caught flack on.  It doesn’t mean there is no violence or cursing in this one, but it does mean that if you cut maybe just a couple minutes of this film it would have easily gotten a PG-13.  This sequel doesn’t have the edgy, twisted humor and action that the first one did.  It's all just a little safer.

Or maybe it does have the same kind of action.  I couldn’t tell.  Wadlow apparently wants to be like the cool kids so he violently shook the camera every time there was an action sequence.  Thankfully he at least left it steady for the other parts of the film.  You couldn’t appreciate any of the fight moves, though, and that left all the action scenes feeling a little flat.  Remember the hallway scene with Hit-Girl in the first film?  The moment that everyone reacts to is when she reloads her guns by tossing the clips in the air and bringing the guns down on them all in one move.  There’s no way that anyone would have been able to see that if it had been shot in shakycam.  Maybe there was a similarly cool moment in Kick-Ass 2’s action scenes, but if so, it was obscured by the crappy cinematography.

For the story itself, the movie hews pretty closely to the book, other than having to address the time passage issue.  Hit-Girl and Kick‑Ass have been training to keep fighting bad guys.  Mindy’s guardian discovers she has still been going out as Hit-Girl and makes her promise that she will stop – a promise she intends to keep no matter how much Dave begs her to help him.  He instead finds that a group of heroes have decided to form a team under the direction of Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey).  Note: in the book there was a Colonel Stars and a Lieutenant Stripes; the movie just combined them.  Jim Carrey famously did this movie, happily cashed his check, and then several months after a school shooting came out and disavowed his part in the violence in this film.  He didn’t give back the money, though, or even donate it to victims of school violence – you know, the things a non-hypocrite would do.  The funny thing is, he’s really not that important to this movie.  It’s not a “Jim Carrey” role – all zany – so they actually could have hired anybody for it.

While this team of heroes is forming, Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) wants to get his revenge on Kick-Ass for the death of his father.  He decides to form a team of villains to cause havoc.  He also changes his moniker to Motherfucker.  The movie tones him down quite a bit.  In the book he is truly evil, killing dozens of people including children, gang raping a woman with his subordinates, setting off bombs in the city, etc.  In the movie he is more of a wuss who won’t let a henchwoman kill a dog, can’t get it up when he wants to assault a woman, and who relies on a lieutenant (John Leguizamo) for many decisions.  It takes a lesson from his uncle (Game of Thrones' Iain Glen) who’s in prison to make him a real villain.

This film brings back some of the same people from the first film: Clark Duke is still Dave’s friend Marty, but the other friend Todd was recast with Augustus Prew.  I’ve read that Evan Peters, who originated the role, had conflicts with a TV show he was on.  Garrett M. Brown returns as Dave’s father, but Mindy’s guardian was recast with Morris Chestnut.  I could not find any reasons why Omari Hardwick, who originated the role, did not return.  Both Yancy Butler, as Red Mist’s mother, and Lyndsy Fonseca, as Dave’s girlfriend Katie, briefly reprise their roles.  Apparently Fonseca also had a conflict with a TV show she was on so her character’s subplot from the book was transferred to a female hero in the new team that was formed.  In fact, this sequel pretty much puts Katie where she was at the end of the first book (but not the first movie, which changed her character.)  Sophie Wu, as Katie’s friend, also briefly returns.

Among the new characters, the role of Mother Russia was perfectly filled by female body builder Olga Kurkulina.  For anyone who’s read the book, the character is even more badass in the movie.  And from the moment you see her take down ten cops on her own you know that she and Hit-Girl have a date with destiny somewhere down the line.  The eventual fight between them is more extensive than in the book.

Since finishing Kick-Ass 2 Mark Millar was written a Hit-Girl book that fits between the first and second Kick-Ass books.  He is now at work on a Kick-Ass 3 book.  I don’t know if there will be a third movie or not.  While the second one thankfully doesn’t leave us hanging, it definitely leaves some things open.  It accomplishes this by having a completely different ending than the book.  Those who have read it know that it ends in a cliffhanger.  And speaking of endings, sit through the end credits of Kick-Ass 2 for a final scene that will be important if there does end up being a third film.

I think if you like superhero and/or action movies then you will be satisfied with Kick-Ass 2.  If you didn’t like the first one, don’t bother seeing the sequel.  If you loved the first one, just don’t expect this one to have the extra spark of the original.  And if you like the characters and just want to see what happens to them next, then I recommend you give this film a try.

Chip’s Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

3 comments:

  1. Not as good or as thoughtful as the first, but still fine for what it is. Odd tone though. Good review Chip.

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    Replies
    1. Thanks. I agree on all the things you mentioned.

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