Film Face-off: 'Kick-Ass' vs. 'Kick-Ass 2'

Film Face-off: 'Kick-Ass' vs. 'Kick-Ass 2'

Aug 19, 2013

When you're seeing a film with a rabid crowd at a film festival, the group euphoria can sometimes cloud your judgment. At SXSW in 2010, I saw Kick-Ass in a packed Paramount Theater and enjoyed the bloody fun along with everyone else. I was giddy with the antisuperhero, yet very much a superhero, movie. Until last week, I hadn't revisited the film, but with the sequel coming I thought it was time to see if my first opinion was my correct opinion. Thankfully, Kick-Ass holds up. I still really like it.

Now, to find out how the sequel stacks up with this week's Film Face-off of Kick-Ass vs. Kick-Ass 2. More kick. More ass. Let's do this.


The Hero


No one has ever tried to be a superhero, it sure would be nice if someone did. Heck, maybe Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) should try. Those were the inner thinkings that created the local New York City hero Kick-Ass.

Kick-Ass 2

Dave was a superhero, but decided to hang up the green suit. Then, as a senior in high school he gets bored. So, he gets Hit-Girl to train him, then he joins up with other costumed vigilantes to make the world a better place.

Winner: Kick-Ass. The motivation to become a superhero because no one else would is noble. The fact that he immediately gets beaten up and almost killed in Kick-Ass puts us on his team, even if it feels like a misguided mission. Being a bored high school senior is not compelling. I was curious to see if they would bring back his love interest Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca). They did, but only briefly. Her role was my biggest problem with the first film. Let's not forget she was a seemingly normal high schooler, who asked Kick-Ass to beat up her much older, drug-dealing thug of a pseudo boyfriend.

Not many knew of Taylor-Johnson, unless they saw Nowhere Boy. They needed an unknown to sell this everyday teenager, and that’s exactly what Taylor-Johnson does in the first film. He was plain in a good way. In the sequel, he's still pretty plain. You'd think flying around in a jet pack loaded with machine guns would change a guy. Also, I get that having damaged nerve endings helps you continue to fight, when others would feel beaten down. The sequel just briefly brings this up, but doesn't do anything with it. The purpose of a sequel should be to realize opportunities missed with the first film. Why not have him test his sensitivity to pain? Why not have him get stabbed or shot, but not realize it because he couldn't feel it? Either one of those moments would have been more interesting than anything he went through in Kick-Ass 2.


The Real Hero


Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) is an 11 year old who has been combat trained by her father for the last six years. She is deadly, loves hurting bad guys, and trying out sarcastic catchphrases.

Kick-Ass 2

Hit-Girl is a freshmen in high school. While she still trains, her guardian, Detective Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut), makes her promise not to play superhero anymore. Instead, she tries to fit in with the popular kids at high school.

Winner: Kick-Ass. With both films, Hit-Girl is the best character, involved in the best scenes, and has the best fights. She's the best. Have I made this point clear? The first time around it felt completely fresh and a little jarring to see an 11-year-old character (she was 13 when the film was released) do the violent things she does. With the sequel, she's involved in the only truly interesting story line, which is, "What would a highly trained killer do in high school?" I'm sure there are many kids who feel bullied that would love to get their hands on the sick stick. That stick doesn't beat her best weapon in the first film, which was the knife at the end of the rope.


The Adult Hero


Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) is a police officer who was set up and sent to prison. When he's released, he sets out on a path of revenge and justice that involves his daughter.

Kick-Ass 2

Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) used to work for the mob, but now hates it when people swear and is a red-blooded American. He and his dog, Justice, lead a group of costumed vigilantes.

Winner: Kick-Ass. This is the biggest win on the board, and I can't really blame Carrey. Cage is given a good role and knocks it out of the park. Carrey is given nothing on the page, and doesn't do anything brilliant with it. Carrey's main purpose is to be a figurehead for the makeshift Justice League/Avengers group, and have a dog that bites testicles. I can listen to Cage talk like Adam West forever, which he only does when in costume. He's also great as the goofy dad who can't understand when his daughter is messing with him about birthday presents. Historically, I am a much bigger Carrey fan than Cage, but with the case of Kick-Ass 2, the moments showcasing Big Daddy's suit, or framed picture of Damon Macready are more impactful than anything Carrey does.


The Villains


Local mob boss Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong) has his plans getting messed up by Big Daddy, but blames Kick-Ass. His son Chris (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) becomes Red Mist because he wants to impress his dad, but also gets tangled up in the villainy.

Kick-Ass 2

Chris is done with being Red Mist. Now he becomes the Motherf*****r, the attempted first real supervillain. His right-hand man, Javier (John Leguizamo), helps him get others to join his evil team, including Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina).

Winner: Kick-Ass. This is more of a loss for Kick-Ass 2 than it is a win for Kick-Ass. Strong has been serviceable as a villain in many films, and that's what he does in the first. It didn't feel like Mintz-Plasse's Chris was fully formed in the first, but maybe it would happen in the second. His desire to be a supervillain lacks creative interest. He compiles henchmen who lack any flavor. It feels like Mintz-Plasse's role in the sequel is bigger than Taylor-Johnson's, but there isn't much entertainment value. The prime example would be a rape joke that misses. Sure, most rape jokes miss (and should miss, because it's a difficult subject to find humor in), but this one seems to showcase the ugly, misguided side of Kick-Ass 2. It's just not possible to fear the Motherf*****r, and also laugh at him. Instead, it's just bothersome that he eats up so much screen time.


The Action


While there are moments of Kick-Ass getting beat up, the best action involves Hit-Girl and occasionally Big Daddy. The two have a treasure trove of weapons at their disposal. Kick-Ass uses two fighting sticks.

Kick-Ass 2

Kick-Ass still has the sticks. I've mentioned Justice biting balls, there's also a violent sequence involving Mother Russia killing cops. The finale is villains versus heroes.

Winner: Kick-Ass. When Mother Russia and Hit-Girl have a showdown, it brings to mind the elaborate camera angles and creative visual fight sequences of the first film. Same with when Hit-Girl tries out for the dance squad. That's it. The tone is off with Kick-Ass 2 and the final fight is a perfect example why. It attempts to be too clever and cute, especially when they keep saying this is the "real world." A mom superhero vigilante (Monica Dolan), complete with the weapon of a brick in her purse, is fighting next to people who are getting killed in gruesome ways. It just doesn't fit. With the first film, I was curious how Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass were going to get out of certain situations, any sort of hope or nervousness is zapped in the sequel.


OVERALL WINNER: Kick-Ass beats Kick-Ass 2, 5-0.

They had a chance with Kick-Ass 2. After all, Hit-Girl is involved. Unfortunately this isn't the story about how Detective Williams moves Hit-Girl to the suburbs, where she has to deal with a Mean Girls scenario while trying to keep her killing skills in check. Plus, she could have come to terms that her father may have just been crazy, which is only a throw-away line in the sequel. That would have been enough, and eliminated the issues with giving Taylor-Johnson almost nothing to do as the "lead," and the unfortunate beefing up of Mintz-Plasse's role. What the film does with Dave's friend Todd (Augustus Prew) and Dave's dad (Garrett M. Brown) is not funny, not emotional, and just seems to fill up the one-hour-and-40-minute film. It's just not good. Thankfully, this doesn't diminish the enjoyment I had watching Kick-Ass, though it does give me serious doubts about the potential continuation of this film series.

Categories: Features, In Theaters
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