“Why has no one ever tried to be a superhero?” ponders Dave – ordinary teenage nerd. Fair point. Bruce Wayne didn’t have superpowers and he did just fine, but then that wasn’t our world was it? Dave decides to become masked vigilante and takes to the streets in a modified wetsuit in the guise of Kick-Ass. It just so happens that he is not the first to have the idea…
And so Kick-Ass kicks ass. And he does – after a lengthy spell in hospital and a few blunders. This is our world. With superheroes. The story of the film is not one that we are unfamiliar with – boy turned superhero – only this time, the boy has not been bitten by a radioactive spider or seen his parents killed in a dark lane, he is just a teenage boy who believes that justice needs to be done. Of course he soon has a few wake up calls that remind him, and the audience that this is the real world.
I have a problem with the movie. It is not the story, that’s great. Or the script, the one liners are funny and completely natural. I think Aaron Johnson does a great job as Dave/Kick-Ass (but we knew he was good. He was really good in Nowhere Boy), Christopher Mintz-Plasse shows us he has more than one note and Nicholas Cage’s Batman lampooning Big Daddy is just great. No, my problem is Hit Girl.
Before I saw the movie, I had heard that there was an outcry about Hit Girl, but just put it down to the same kind of people who complain about Tarantino. I love Tarantino, I love his stylised worlds and his comic book style, venegence fuelled violence. I love his use of music, and his strong female characters. This is not a Tarantino film. Hit Girl kind of resembles The Bride in a way, she is the last person you would expect to kill a room full of gangsters, but she does it anyway. This is the problem. Hit Girl is 11 years old. She has been trained by her father to be a gun nut and more than handy with a blade or two. Normally I would not have a problem with this, if the world can support it, then go for it, I say, but the world of Kick-Ass is not stylised or heightened enough to support a character like Hit Girl, and eventually it boils down to a grown man punching a pre-teen girl. This is supposed to be the world that we all live in, the world that we see when we walk out of the cinema after seeing Kick Ass, a world that we can identify with.
Yes, other characters in other films are younger and much more violent than Hit Girl, but these are either highly stylised and unnatural worlds, the bad guys or characters with deep emotional and psychological problems. Take for example, Gogo Yubari from Kill Bill Volume 1. She is a ruthless killer, but she is 17, slightly older than Hit Girl and she is a baddie, so of course she is messed up and of course, she is going to die. Also, in the world of Kill Bill it is possible to maim and murder with very few repercussions. Hit Girl was raised by her father, who was wrongly imprisoned. Her mother died of an overdose while still pregnant with her. Hit Girl’s father raised her to be vicious and ruthless – in their first scene he shoots her so she will know what it feels like. Once again, I will say, this is supposed to be our world. The everyday world. In our world, if an 11 year old girl was trained to be as deadly an assassin as Hit Girl we would all be crying child abuse, and the world of Kick-Ass is fictional, but not fictional enough to get away with it. It is funny at first to see a potty mouthed kid taking on the man, and we can all understand her wanting vengeance, but the fact that she is able to get it is not quite right.
The tone of the film is not right for such a messed up child as Hit Girl either. This is the film whose central character goes out to fight crime in a modified wetsuit. And gets his ass firmly handed back to him. A character who is in love with a girl who thinks he’s gay. These are all genius turns at distilling the difficulties and problems that teenagers have. This comedic tone cannot support the messed up darkness that sees Hit Girl’s mother committing suicide while pregnant and for the baby to survive. It’s just not right. It jars against the rest of the film.
I will be the first to admit that I have not read the graphic novels and had never heard of Kick-Ass before the movie (and maybe if I had more knowledge I would have accepted the film more readily) and I apologise to the die hard fans who I may upset. In fact, there is a little part of me that hates myself for ranting like this. I wish I loved the film. I wanted to love the film. I did not want to be one of those douches who sounds like a conservative Christian by coming down hard on Hit Girl. Believe me, I am neither conservative nor religious, but this character did not sit well with me.
I just want to say again: I love Tarantino. I love The Bride. I love Fight Club and all such heightened, stylised films. I am not being hard on Kick-Ass just because it is violent.
The film is left open for a sequel, but my advice if one does get made is, fictionalise it. Take the world far enough away from our own that I can enjoy a character like Hit Girl. I wanted to love her, but all I kept thinking was how emotionally damaged her character would be and of the children we hear of in war zones who are trained to be soldiers and their childhoods taken away from them. That’s not good for a superhero movie.
And another thing. What’s the deal with using Sparks’ (admittedly original) version of This Town Ain’t Big Enough For Both Of Us? What is wrong with the brilliantly silly British Whale version? For shame Kick-Ass, for shame.