One prominent critic called Kick-Ass “morally reprehensible.” Puh-leeze. Morally reprehensible? I’ll tell you what’s morally reprehensible. Romantic comedies are morally reprehensible. Paying upwards of $9 for a movie ticket is morally reprehensible. The meal I choked down at Waffle House after the movie was morally reprehensible. But Kick-Ass? Kick-Ass is not morally reprehensible.
In all seriousness – anyone who believes Kick-Ass is morally reprehensible is: A. Totally missing the point; and B. Possessing of a sophomoric understanding of morality.
First off, the point of any movie is to entertain. Kick-Ass certainly succeeds there. But at its heart, Kick-Ass is alternately a satire and parody of pretty much all the superhero themes that are played straight in any given comic book one might read on any given day; or in just about all the comic book based movies and TV shows that have preceded it. Nothing is sacred. Teen superheroes, teen sidekicks mentored by adults, comic book dialogue, incredible gymnastic feats, villainy, the violence itself – all are pierced directly through the heart with rapier-like precision. Nick Cage evens succeeds wonderfully in his parody of Adam West’s interpretation of Batman! Don’t get me wrong – when I say Kick-Ass parodies superhero themes I don’t mean to imply that this movie is a comedy. It certainly has some humorous elements and a smirky attitude – but it is not a comedy by any means and it’s not for the faint of heart. The film’s major target for satire is comic book violence. We read comics every week where super-powered and non-super-powered beings beat on each other; then get up and walk away after the fight with no sign of blood, broken bones, abrasions, contusions – or for that matter injury of any kind. In other words, the consequences of the violence are sanitized for popular consumption. Why? Because people become upset when the real consequences of violence are portrayed. It’s unsettling to look at blood, broken bones, disemboweling, and gunshot wounds. We like the excitement of the violence – but we prefer not to have to consider the consequences. Kick-Ass unflinchingly and purposefully avoids sanitized violence. If people really began beating on each other such as is portrayed in the comics/movies/TV shows; the results would look something like what is portrayed in this film.
As to the “morality” argument – see the above paragraph. Kick-Ass is not advocating for vigilante justice and its accompanying “morality” of “might makes right.” Quite the opposite – it’s satirizing that particular morality. Of course, we know what the real issue is here. Hit-Girl. It’s disturbing to see a 12 year old, sweet looking little girl curse like a drunken sailor, skillfully wield any number of lethal weapons, and commit mass murder with said lethal weapons. Sure, it’s entertaining and even a humorous parody at points – yet it’s still disturbing. Even more disturbing – her father has mentored her and encourages such behavior – essentially using her as a means to the end of fulfilling his desire for revenge against the gangsters who wronged him. If it happened in real life – most people would rightfully take issue with it – and it would be a true moral issue. But, again, this movie is not advocating such a thing – it’s satirizing the adult mentor to teen superhero relationship. The movie would only be morally reprehensible if it was encouraging this behavior and it isn’t. In fact, it’s discouraging such behavior by – if nothing else – showing the realistic consequences.
I enjoyed the movie. It didn’t meet all my expectations from having been a fan of the comic book series – but I did enjoy this cinematic interpretation of the source material. I know the question on everyone’s mind is: How true is it to the source material? The answer is: partially. It’s nowhere near as true to the source material as was Watchmen; and like Watchmen, the ending was changed in several significant ways. Certainly the overall storyline and major themes of the comic were retained; as were most of the major scenes. The part I found most disappointing was the “hero-ing up” of the titular character, Kick-Ass. The comic avoided that pitfall – but I guess the movie makers were afraid that the titular character played as a near total loser wouldn’t sell. So, the titular character of Kick-Ass is more of a hero when in costume and less of a “loser” in his personal life than he was portrayed in the comic. He’s still vastly eclipsed by Hit-Girl as he was in the comic – just not as badly eclipsed as he was in the comic. Hit-Girl is the real star of this show – stealing every scene where she appears. As previously mentioned, Nick Cage channels Adam West in his stilted interpretation of Big Daddy – all to good effect. Even though this was a low budget independent film – you’d never know it. The production values were good and the acting was overall very good. I predict that the actress portraying Hit-Girl, Chloe Moretz, has a bright acting career ahead of her. Like the comic, the movie leaves the door open for a sequel.
So, all-in-all, I’d give this movie an enthusiastic endorsement for comics fans overall and for fans of the source material. You’ll have to be tolerant of having the cherished themes of our comics entertainment skewered; but this movie at least accomplishes that without giving in to the temptation of portraying comics fans in a negative light. That’s a nice and appreciated change on the part of the entertainment industry. Rating: