Click to Skip Ad
Closing in...
Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Steve Carell Redefined His Career By Surprising Everyone in 'Foxcatcher' Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Watch: Ellar Coltrane on the 'Brutal' Experience of Watching 'Boyhood' After Living It Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Mortem Tyldum Explains Why Alan Turing Was the Right Subject For His First English-Language Film Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Why Richard Linklater’s ‘Boyhood’ is a Great, Unexpected Awards Season Frontrunner Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 
Watch: Patricia Arquette on Stripping Away Ego to Get to the Heart of 'Boyhood' 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived 'Whiplash' Breakout Miles Teller Has Officially Arrived Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Michael Keaton Dug Deep to Deliver the Best Performance of His Career in 'Birdman' Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Mark Ruffalo Explains Why Dave Schultz Was One of the Most Complex Characters He's Ever Played Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Keira Knightley on 'The Imitation Game' and Why Awards Matter Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Katherine Waterston On the Good and Bad of Working With Paul Thomas Anderson Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Emma Stone Proved She Can Do It All in 2014 Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Jon Stewart is Off to a Strong Start with Directorial Debut 'Rosewater' Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Awards Spotlight: Don't Be Surprised When J.K. Simmons Takes Home Oscar Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Jessica Chastain Proved She's a Total Chameleon in 2014 Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Laura Poitras on 'CITIZENFOUR,' The Most Dangerous Work She's Ever Done Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Jake Gyllenhaal On Doing Very Bad Things in 'Nightcrawler' Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Channing Tatum Explains Why It Took Him Eight Years to Have the ‘Balls’ for ‘Foxcatcher’ Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Ethan Hawke Didn't Know That Richard Linklater Would Bring 'Boyhood' Home So Well Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie Jack O'Connell Explains What It’s Like to Work For Angelina Jolie 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey 'Red Army' Director Gabe Polsky Reveals the Story of Soviet Hockey How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season How Felicity Jones is Getting Noticed This Awards Season Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' Edward Norton Goes Full-Blown For Alejandro González Iñárritu in 'Birdman' How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking How Eddie Redmayne Transformed His Body and Mind to Become Stephen Hawking Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Oscar Isaac Explains How 'A Most Violent Year' Fits With His Other Roles Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh Timothy Spall Almost Went Mad to Play 'Mr. Turner' For Mike Leigh 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film 'Gone Girl' Composer Atticus Ross: How to Write a Score Without Seeing the Film How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake How to Play James Brown, By Chadwick Boseman: Study the Man, Listen to Drake Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Chris Rock on Why Making 'Top Five' Was a No-Brainer Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Steve James and Chaz Ebert Tackled 'Life Itself' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' Bennett Miller Explains Why He Had to Make 'Foxcatcher' How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Do You Roll Six Movies Into One? 'Wild Tales' Director Damian Szifron Explains How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' How Rosario Dawson Stole the Show From Chris Rock in 'Top Five' Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alan Hicks: From Drummer-Surfer to Oscar-Shortlist Filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Alejandro González Iñárritu: 'Birdman' Could Have Been 'so wrong' Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable Amir Bar-Lev Likes to Make People a Little Uncomfortable

REVIEW | A Familiar Can of "Kick Ass"

Photo of Eric Kohn By Eric Kohn | Indiewire March 13, 2010 at 5:10AM

The prevalence of superhero movies at the multiplexes has made them ripe for self-reflection. On the surface, Matthew Vaughn's "Kick-Ass" fulfills that opportunity. Adapted from Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s 2008 comic book mini-series, which focuses on a nerdy high school student named Dave (U.K. star Aaron Johnson in the feature version) - whose fascination with superheroes leads to his comically inept attempt to become one - the movie's concept gets to the heart of the intangible fantasies that comprise the superhero appeal. Like "The Incredibles," "Unbreakable" and the little-seen Michael Rapaport drama "Special," the premise of "Kick-Ass" slyly comments on its own genre. The movie does something less than that, but it still provides a good ride.
1

The prevalence of superhero movies at the multiplexes has made them ripe for self-reflection. On the surface, Matthew Vaughn's "Kick-Ass" fulfills that opportunity. Adapted from Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr.'s 2008 comic book mini-series, which focuses on a nerdy high school student named Dave (U.K. star Aaron Johnson in the feature version) - whose fascination with superheroes leads to his comically inept attempt to become one - the movie's concept gets to the heart of the intangible fantasies that comprise the superhero appeal. Like "The Incredibles," "Unbreakable" and the little-seen Michael Rapaport drama "Special," the premise of "Kick-Ass" slyly comments on its own genre. The movie does something less than that, but it still provides a good ride.

In the source material, a certain ironic capacity was embedded in the medium itself: A comic book that knowingly parsed the impact of comic books on the modern American dream. By that logic, the big screen adaptation should take such concerns to the cinematic realm. Instead, "Kick-Ass" works as a solid entry in the oft-maligned superhero genre - unquestionably the breeziest flavor since "Iron Man" - but it eschews credibility in favor of sleek entertainment. One can't blame Vaughn or distributor Lionsgate (not to mention credited co-producers Millar and Romita, Jr.) for dropping many of the more realistic plot developments to make something more commercial. It remains thematically superior to the typical caped crusader yarn.

Parts of "Kick-Ass" unquestionably deliver an appealing subversiveness, particularly with the lethal avenger Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz), whose maniacal father (Nicholas Cage) raised her to fight crime with unrelenting brutality. Ultimately, however, the movie seems to pit insight against escapism and allow escapism to win out. "Kick-Ass" is fun but somewhat meandering; it offers only glimpses of its true satiric potential (at one point, the camera catches a marquee bearing the fictional title "The Spirit 3," suggesting that Hollywood's dedication to bad superhero movies has placed them in a rut). The movie's power comes less from cultural insight than pure adrenaline rush, which it derives from a colorful host of misdirected characters and first-rate action choreography.

The cast deserves credit for maintaining plausibility throughout the story. As Dave, Aaron Johnson plays a highly sympathetic teenage geek, burying himself in the character rather than playing up his eccentric tendencies. Christopher Mintz-Plasse does a solid job as the hilariously awkward quasi-villain, while Cage continues his track record of unhinged madness with a madcap Adam West impersonation. Moretz is in a category all to herself: Hit Girl makes for a historically mind-blowing inaugural performance, a glorious expression of political incorrectness in the form of explosive blockbuster tropes. In one scene, she engages in breathless gunplay set to "Bad Reputation," briefly instilling a never-before-seen punk rock sensibility into the superhero canon.

Vaughn shoots snazzy action set pieces that play catch-up with the human eye, although the final satisfying crescendo serves as a middle-finger to any lingering semblance of reality. "Kick-Ass" pretends to put the superhero on the couch; instead, it puts him on a pedestal. At one point, Dave concludes that the appeal of comic books stems from "a combination of optimism and naivete." The movie eventually embraces this notion rather than fully deconstructing it.

This article is related to: Reviews, Kick Ass






Check out Indiewire on LockerDome on LockerDome



Awards Season Spotlight

Contender Conversations

Indiewire celebrates the best and brightest from Independent film, Hollywood, and foreign cinema.

More