Friday, August 16, 2013

[IGH] At The Movies: Kick-Ass 2

By BatHobbit, our newest contributor!

The original Kick-Ass was the antithesis of the modern Super-Hero formula. The hero had no skills, no genius intellect, no fortune, no training and no special powers. He was an average geeky teenager who decided there was no reason for people not to be real super heroes. The movie poked fun at hero tropes, while never mocking heroes as a whole and, in fact, celebrating super heroes in a way most super-films don’t. If Kick-Ass was the irreverent response to Batman Begins, Kick-Ass 2 is a direct retort to The Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises– sharing their exploration of hero retirement, escalation, mourning and repercussions.

Just a heads up, minor spoilers after the break.

Picking up two years after the explosive (by way of a bazooka) finale of the first film, Kick-Ass 2 finds Dave Lizweski and Mindy McCready trying to form some semblance of a normal life after leaving behind their lives as Kick-Ass and Hit Girl. With our heroes out of action, new vigilantes have arisen to take their place (though I use the phrase “taking their place” pretty loosely as the new heroes don’t actually do much crime fighting)- enter Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes, Donald Faison as Doctor Gravity and Lindy Booth as Night Bitch. Meanwhile on Long Island, Chris D’Amico decides that his revenge against Kick-Ass has been delayed too long, and sets about to form his own team of super villains.

While the first film slowly moved from the real world into a heightened jet-pack wearing comic book world, the sequel plants its feet in that heightened world, opting to use real world touches more sparingly to give the film moments of real weight. Chloe Moretz shoulders most of the moments of both the former and the latter, and good god she is up to the task. Moretz sells the emotional moments as Mindy tries to fit into the world of a teenage girl and handles the comic moments, such as Hit Girl trying to deliver heroic one-liners and using technology purchased from “a disgruntled DARPA employee” that has some disgusting side effects, like a pro. Meanwhile, Aaron Taylor-Johnson once again acts as the films emotional center, always bringing the film back to the center as it teeters between zany and dark without ever making the transitions feel forced. Jim Carrey is fantastic as Colonel Stars and Stripes, disappearing into the role in a way that it’s still hard to believe that Carrey can do, and making you wish the story allowed him more screen time.

On the villain side of things Christopher Mintz-Plasse has clearly upped his game as The Mother Fucker.
Mother Russia played by Olga Kurkulina
Gone is the geeky mob wanna-be, replaced with a red-eyed, tweaky upstart, bondage-gear-wearing villain who can’t even properly rob a bodega until a visit with him uncle (Games of Thrones Iain Glen in a surprise cameo) sets him on a much darker path. The character is suitably over the top, and sets the tone for the entire film. The henchmen that surround the Mother Fucker, given monikers like The Tumor and Genghis Carnage, are great send-ups of villain stereotypes who, with one clear exception, don’t take their villainy too seriously. The exception is henchwoman Mother Russia, played by Olga Kurkulina. Where did they find this woman? She was born to play a super villain, and stomps through even the most ridiculous sequences of ultra violence without winking at the camera, which only serves to make the scenes that much more ridiculous. I would never have envisioned a lawnmower on the trunk of a police car as a weapon, but Kurkulina sells it all so well, you’re dying for the character to be defeated while at the same time reveling in how amazing she is as a villain.

It must also be said that the screenwriting of the film was surprising tight. The film builds its gags well enough that even when you see them coming, they’re still funny. The movie also uses some excellent foreshadowing, dropping small moments that pay off later in the film and planting some obvious seeds that it wisely used as misdirection. Moreover the movie does an excellent job of playing with several genre tropes such as super hero hook-ups and the notion that the hero is a hero even out of costume without dwelling on them or making you feel like the film is overcrowded. Even the abundance of new characters doesn't feel forced, and each new character gets a moment to shine while still maintaining a brisk pace.

Honestly, Kick-Ass 2 is better than it has any right to be. Matthew Vaughn, who co-wrote and directed the original, and went on to revive the X-Men franchise with First Class, has been supplanted in both roles by Jeff Wadlow, whose prior credits include often forgotten films like Cry Wolf and Never Back Down. While will no doubt create hesitance among most fans, there is absolutely no need for worry, as the film still feels like the original. Sure, perhaps there’s a bit more humor this time around, but it feels absolutely natural to the film and its world. There’s no point where an audience will say “Man, I wish the original team had come back”, because chances are, until the credits role, the audience won’t realize it’s a different team behind the camera.

Long story short, if you liked the original you will like, if not love, Kick-Ass 2. If you didn't like the original, there’s nothing here’s that’s going to make you a new fan of the series. The audience reaction was enthusiastic throughout the film and it got a sizable amount of applause at the end. Truthfully, it got more of an audience reaction than the original did when I saw it in the theater. Normally, that’s a very good sign. This movie is no exception.

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