MCN Columnists
Noah Forrest

By Noah Forrest

Kick-Ass or: Geeks Love Geeks

I remember reading about how Kick-Ass blew the roof off the Alamo Drafthouse when it played during Harry Knowles’ birthday party. I grew up reading AICN every day and I still do out of habit, but it’s been a while since I read anything on the site without taking a heavy dose of salt first.

And it’s cool, I still enjoy reading the site and there’s some really talented writers there. But it’s basically the same as getting your news from Fox News; you understand that there is a conservative bias coming with the reporting. In this case, with AICN, I understand that there is a bias towards comic-book films, anime adaptations, genre flicks, etc.

Basically, there is a geek bias with AICN or CHUD or any number of film websites. They do their jobs extremely well catering their film news towards that particular — and particularly vocal — sect. And I enjoy keeping myself informed about all things geeky, just as I watch Fox News from time to time to inform myself in regards to the conservative positions.

But there was something about the hysteria regarding Kick-Ass. It played during the same twenty-four hour period as a new Scorsese film, Avatar and a handful of others and it seemed to be the consensus favorite. I saw the previews, wasn’t extremely impressed, but I figured they must be hiding all the good stuff; after all, this was an R-rated film about superheroes, which is a pretty cool concept. I had read varying reports about how it was a send-up of superhero films and others saying that it was one of the best superhero movies and then recently there was a spate of critics and parent organizations up in arms over a character in the film named Hit-Girl.

With all that swirling about – in addition to my own blah attitude towards comic book films – I bought a ticket for Kick-Ass, sat down in my seat and was ready for whatever came at me. And what I feel is…

Really geeks? All the fuss over this?

Don’t get me wrong, Kick-Ass is a fine movie. I’d even go so far as to say it’s “good.” But, this isn’t exactly the re-invention of the wheel. In fact, it’s not really a re-invention of anything so much as a regurgitation of everything you’ve ever seen before in a superhero film. I understand that it’s hard to be original and that the “originality” of this film comes from the fact that it winks at you while you’re watching it, but it’s basically a repackaging of a lot of ideas taken from films that have come before. And there are a few curses and a more adult subject matter.

My biggest problem with Kick-Ass, though, is the fact that its tone is all over the place. It starts out, for the first twenty-five minutes, being a light-hearted take on what would happen if a geeky teen decided to wear a scuba suit and fight crime. There are a lot of jokes and it sets up the world of the film as something to be taken lightly. In other words, while I was watching the beginning of the movie, I thought to myself, “okay, this is going to be a satire.” The middle section of the film has no discernible rhythm or energy or tone, it’s all over the map. Then the ending quarter of the film is melodramatic, heavy-handed and sappy. But then Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” plays during a fight scene, ironically I think, and I suppose it’s trying to be a reminder that this film is quirky.

The odd tonal shifts in the movie aren’t deal breakers for me. I rolled with the film, for the most part, because I found the characters to be interesting enough. As with most people who’ve seen the film, I agree that Chloe Moretz as Hit-Girl is basically the whole show. Watching her fight people much larger than her, like she’s Yoda in the Star Wars prequels, is quite entertaining and there’s a germ of an original thought there. This idea of a pre-teen girl who is adept at fighting and shooting guns and stabbing people, raised by her father to be the greatest vigilante ever…there’s something to that. The idea of how this could warp her or that her father – Big Daddy, played eccentrically by Nicolas Cage, although I suppose that’s redundant – is brainwashing her is something that I would have liked to have seen explored more. As such, it’s only fleetingly referred to.

(Speaking of Hit-Girl, I’d like to address the controversy about her: what controversy? Do the critics actually believe that Chloe Moretz murdered people or that she will now murder people? Are we worried that little girls are going to watch this R-rated superhero movie and want to emulate her? I’m not really sure who is being psychologically harmed by this. Sure, one could say it’s “morally wrong” for one reason or another, but that’s completely subjective. The movie is too frivolous to really have me up in arms about this. And from what I can tell, it doesn’t seem like Moretz was doing a whole lot of her own stunts.

I just find it hard to believe that a kid is going to watch her cursing and killing people and then saying, “wow, I want to do that.” Just like I find it hard to believe that someone would watch any superhero film and try to emulate those characters. I don’t think just because, in this case, the character is eleven, that other kids will want to be like her. Usually, kids want to be more like adults they see doing cool things than kids their own age. Okay, can we stop talking about this “controversy” now?)

Director Matthew Vaughn was the producer of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch and previously directed Layer Cake. He is clearly very familiar and comfortable with the gangster genre. It really shows in this film, which is supposed to be about superheroes, but really spends a good portion of its running time dealing with Mark Strong as the head of an organized crime ring. I love seeing Strong on the screen, but every time it flashes to him, I just felt like, “okay, I get it, he’s a gangster, I’ve seen this movie before.” When it flashes to Hit-Girl, I think, “okay, this is something a little different, let’s get more of this.”

But the biggest mistake Vaughn makes (although I guess the blame should be shared with co-scripter Jane Goldman and the creators of the comic, Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.) is focusing the film on the character of Kick-Ass. Aaron Johnson seems like a fine actor — although it bums me out when they cast great looking guys to play “nerds” — and I’m sure he’ll have a great career ahead of him and he makes the main character in Kick-Ass sympathetic and all that. But the character of Kick-Ass is without a doubt the least interesting in the entire film. We spend half the movie watching Dave Lizewski (Kick-Ass’s real name) trying to get the girl of his dreams, pretending he’s gay, hanging out with his friends, etc. It’s all so tedious when we know that there’s a better, more exciting movie going on wherever Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are.

Out of Vaughn’s three films as a director, this was my least favorite. I thought Layer Cake was good and Stardust was even better. I think he’s growing as a filmmaker, though, even if this isn’t perfect. I think he’s got an excellent eye and a flair for flair, but he’s a bit more restrained than Guy Ritchie. I would like to see him do a smaller picture that’s more character-based because he really does seem to care about interpersonal relationships in his films. I just wish they were at the forefront.

Anyway, I enjoyed the movie overall. I didn’t look at my watch more than a few times and felt entertained mostly. But I still cannot understand why the geeks are wetting themselves over this one. Maybe I’m not viewing the film through my special geek spectacles, but I can’t discern what makes this film more appealing to geeks than any other comic book movie. There are cool action sequences, but nothing that blows away the scenes I’ve seen in other films. There are funny moments, but nothing that made me more than chuckle.

The only thing I can see is that perhaps it’s because the lead of the film is a geek who becomes a superhero and isn’t that just the ideal fantasy of every geek in the world? They become a superhero, kill bad guys and get to bang their dream girl. So I suppose there must be some wish fulfillment aspect that is appealing to the geeks. Or maybe they just like seeing themselves represented on screen. They can look at Aaron Johnson in this film and say, “wow, that’s just like me and my friends.” But if that’s all it is, then isn’t that kind of boring to just see yourself reflected back to you? I could see how it would be interesting to see that reflection if it was done in a real, gritty way. But seeing a perfect version of yourself doesn’t seem all that appealing to me. Then again, I was never the biggest sci-fi or comic book fan.

All in all, I think Kick-Ass is a film that is worth seeing. But ignore the hype that you hear from the IT guy at your office who tells you it’s the best thing in the history of the world. It’s a pretty good movie that’ll entertain you for two hours — and you’ll most likely forget about two hours later.

Noah Forrest
April 19, 2010

Noah Forrest is a 26-year-old aspiring writer/filmmaker in New York City.

The opinions expressed in these columns are the writer’s and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Movie City News or any of its editors or other contributors.

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It shows how out of it I was in trying to be in it, acknowledging that I was out of it to myself, and then thinking, “Okay, how do I stop being out of it? Well, I get some legitimate illogical narrative ideas” — some novel, you know?

So I decided on three writers that I might be able to option their material and get some producer, or myself as producer, and then get some writer to do a screenplay on it, and maybe make a movie.

And so the three projects were “Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep,” “Naked Lunch” and a collection of Bukowski. Which, in 1975, forget it — I mean, that was nuts. Hollywood would not touch any of that, but I was looking for something commercial, and I thought that all of these things were coming.

There would be no Blade Runner if there was no Ray Bradbury. I couldn’t find Philip K. Dick. His agent didn’t even know where he was. And so I gave up.

I was walking down the street and I ran into Bradbury — he directed a play that I was going to do as an actor, so we know each other, but he yelled “hi” — and I’d forgot who he was.

So at my girlfriend Barbara Hershey’s urging — I was with her at that moment — she said, “Talk to him! That guy really wants to talk to you,” and I said “No, fuck him,” and keep walking.

But then I did, and then I realized who it was, and I thought, “Wait, he’s in that realm, maybe he knows Philip K. Dick.” I said, “You know a guy named—” “Yeah, sure — you want his phone number?”

My friend paid my rent for a year while I wrote, because it turned out we couldn’t get a writer. My friends kept on me about, well, if you can’t get a writer, then you write.”
~ Hampton Fancher

“That was the most disappointing thing to me in how this thing was played. Is that I’m on the phone with you now, after all that’s been said, and the fundamental distinction between what James is dealing with in these other cases is not actually brought to the fore. The fundamental difference is that James Franco didn’t seek to use his position to have sex with anyone. There’s not a case of that. He wasn’t using his position or status to try to solicit a sexual favor from anyone. If he had — if that were what the accusation involved — the show would not have gone on. We would have folded up shop and we would have not completed the show. Because then it would have been the same as Harvey Weinstein, or Les Moonves, or any of these cases that are fundamental to this new paradigm. Did you not notice that? Why did you not notice that? Is that not something notable to say, journalistically? Because nobody could find the voice to say it. I’m not just being rhetorical. Why is it that you and the other critics, none of you could find the voice to say, “You know, it’s not this, it’s that”? Because — let me go on and speak further to this. If you go back to the L.A. Times piece, that’s what it lacked. That’s what they were not able to deliver. The one example in the five that involved an issue of a sexual act was between James and a woman he was dating, who he was not working with. There was no professional dynamic in any capacity.

~ David Simon