This week has seen the release of Iron Man 3 which, following in the steps of The Avengers, is drawing massive crowds. The reviews so far have been vastly positive, but even if they hadn’t been, Iron Man is essentially critic-proof as well as bulletproof, and will be a bigger smash than The Incredible Hulk in a china factory.
This is the norm for superhero films at the moment and, with the exception of the odd misfire like The Green Lantern, all tend to do well at the cinema and are the reason we currently have superhero saturation, with the likes of new Thor, Captain America, Superman, Spider-man, X-Men and The Avengers outings. However, there is another super-sequel on the way which is not likely to gain anywhere near as much attention as its invulnerable, larger cousins. Kick-Ass 2, due for release later this year is the follow on to a film about wannabe-superheroes that was not a massive hit, and divided critics like Wolverine’s claws.
According to Box Office Mojo, the original Kick-Ass made a worldwide total of $98m (on a budget of $30m) throughout its entire run at the cinema, not a profit margin to be sniffed at. However, compare that to The Avengers which made more than double that in its opening weekend and went on to gross $1.5bn (on a budget of £220m) and things become a little clearer. Kick-Ass also suffered a mauling by some critics due to its controversial sexualising of pre-teens and the infamous “c” word scene; both of which led one of America’s most respected film critics, Roger Ebert, to label it as “morally reprehensible”. So Iron Man, this is not. Still, does Kick-Ass deserve another round in the ring with its super-powered rivals? You bet your ass it does.
The screenplay, by Jane Goldman and director Matthew Vaughn (a collaboration in the same vein as Stardust and X-Men: First Class), is based on a not-so popular comic of the same name and charts the exploits of not-so super heroes. Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Nowhere Boy) plays high-schooler Dave who, bored with his humdrum everyday life, dresses in a wetsuit to deliver some vigilante justice to petty street crime; hence the alter ego Kick-Ass is born. The viral popularity of Kick-Ass quickly draws the attention of hero father-daughter duo Big Daddy and Hit-Girl (Nic Cage and Chloë Grace Moretz) as well as some non-petty organised crime.
The script by Goldman and Vaughn is packed full of wit and cleverly turns the clichés of most superhero back stories on their heads. Why can’t boredom create a hero instead of some radiation accident or the brutal slaying of a parent? Add in Dave’s continued teenage struggles to get a girlfriend and there is some real comedy gold. There is also real emotional punch in places, strong enough to floor Thor in one go.
Controversy is rife in this and mainly centred around Moretz’s character (she was 11 years old when this was filmed). Whether we have a child who swears like a Somali sailor, commits mass-murder or dresses in kinky school girl outfits, parent groups and the press showed considerable outrage. Some see these as reasons this film should be banned, while others see them as something that separates it from the virtually indistinguishable array of hero flicks out there.
The cast is great, with Taylor-Johnson as the embodiment of a vulnerable, bored, horny teenager but delivers his A-game when things take a turn for the more dramatic. Cage relishes the opportunity to play a character so absurdly over the top it would give Jack Nicholson’s Joker a run for his money. Mark Strong (Sherlock Holmes, Stardust) and Christopher “McLovin” Mintz-Plasse play, with delectable hamminess, a respective mob boss-father and naive son, and the former balances perfectly the tongue-in-cheek absurdity of fighting superheroes and the callousness of a drug lord. The real star turn however comes from Moretz (500 Days of Summer) who deals with themes and lines far beyond her young years. Swearing, killing: she does it all and never seems out of her depth. Similarly to Taylor-Johnson, when things go darker, she ups her game.
Like the script, the look and direction of the film is sharp, embodying a comic book feel without ramming your face in it. Vaughn went on to direct X-Men: First Class and brings to Kick-Ass the same passion for both a riveting story and aesthetically engaging film that reinvigorated the flagging mutant franchise.
What can we expect from Kick-Ass 2? Well, with Goldman not involved and Vaughn taking a backseat producing role, probably not much unfortunately. Still, nothing can take away the from the originality, charm and wit of the first. So while Iron Man is battling The Mandarin and storming multiplexes worldwide; spare a thought for the not-particularly super heroes and check out Kick-Ass. Besides, the cinema is going to rammed for a few weeks.