Friday, April 23, 2010

A Movie Better Than the Book? Kick Ass!

There are two types of people in the world; those who buy comic books, and those who don't. It's common for people who don't read comics to look down on comics and assume that they're all silly "funny pages" for kids. The thing is the comic book industry has a pretty diverse offering, with something for everybody. It's like the movie industry in a lot of ways. There are big companies, and small independent companies. There are summer blockbusters and surprise hits. Certain creators and artists are more famous than others and have a fan following.

For example, John Romita Jr. is a very well known artist, like his father. I think his art is always fantastic. These days, having his name on a book is pretty much guaranteed success. If you're the type of person who really only buys comics for the art, then the Kick Ass book is worth you're time. However, if you're into good writing, you might want to give this book a pass. Mark Millar is the writer and, if we're sticking to the movie analogy, I think he fancies himself a Quentin Tarantino. They do share a fondness for violence and cuss words but Tarantino is much better at creating characters you care about and root for. You can't tell me you weren't psyched for Kiddo to finally kill Bill, or for the girl in Inglourious Basterds to finally get her revenge. No, I think Millar is more like Michael Bay. Both are big on "witty" one-liners and huge explosions (splash pages) to distract us from the fact that we really don't care what happens to these people. That's how I felt about the characters in the Kick Ass book, particularly the main character.
I don't want to talk about the book, I want to talk about the movie. To be honest, I didn't hate the book, but there were a few moments and details that ruined it for me. It seems like the creators of the movie read my mind because those moments and details were the things that were changed for the movie, and it made it a much more enjoyable experience for me. My wife really liked this movie as well, which was surprising as she pretty much only came with me cause I promised to see Sex and the City 2 with her. When asked what her favorite part of the movie was, she said Hit Girl (played by Chloe Moretz). I think this is interesting because most of the negative reviews I've read about this movie could not get past the fact that there's an 11 year old girl cussing and killing people by the bus load. Something about the disintegrating moral fabric of America or some stuff. Little kids doing bad stuff in movies is nothing new. Have these critics seen Kids, or The Good Son or Pet Cemetery?

Fucking kids!
I also liked the Hit Girl character, which, again, I find interesting because I hated Chloe Moretz's character in (500) Days of Summer. Seriously, she almost ruined that movie for me. She was this know-it-all little tough girl who acted far too mature for her age to be believable. The same could be said for Hit Girl, but once you learn the tragic back story of her and her Daddy, you will believe that this girl was raised to be a remorseless, foul mouthed little killing machine. Nicholas Cage plays Big Daddy in a role that restores a lot of my faith in the unpredictable actor. I subscribe to the theory that the quality of Nick Cage's movies is inversely proportional to the length of his hair. The longer his hair, the crappier the movie. Well, his hair was mighty short in this movie. You could really see why this man turned the mass murder of mobsters into a game for his daughter. There is a flashback that consists of beautifully rendered 3D art by John Romita Jr. himself that tells Big Daddy's backstory. It was a great scene which really made you root for this pair of avengers (a back story and character development which was not part of the book at all).
My favorite character in this movie was McLovin' as Red Mist. It's hard to take him seriously, but he did manage to portray himself as a threat. He showed surprising range as the villain of this story. In fact, there were a lot of good performances in this movie. Aaron Johnson was solid as the lead. I liked his Dave Lizewski a lot, whereas I hated to book's Dave. He decides to try to be a superhero because he couldn't figure out why no one has before. He sucks at it, but he does manage to grow throughout the story and does the right think at the end.
Purists might say that I obviously didn't get what Millar was going for if I didn't like the book. Well I think I get what he was going for, I just don't think he got there. The same purists would say that the "improvements" added to the movie ruined the story and turned it into a happier Hollywood version that ignored the "realistic" vision Millar was going for. Well I think a lot of people confuse dark and depressing with realistic. Yes, the real world can be dark and depressing. Unfortunately, for some people, that's all it is. But I don't think that it's a prerequisite for a realistic story. The world can be happy and fun as well, and I think this movie has a good mix of both.
My favorite part of the movie was the (one sided) fight scene between Big Daddy and a bunch of goons in the warehouse. That scene was just awesome. A large part of that is because of the music playing; A haunting score which also showed up in 28 Days Later. This scene just pumped me up. In fact, all the action scenes were well done and a lot of fun. My favorite line was at the end when Red Mist says "Under control? You're grabbing a fucking bazooka, you dumbass."
So I thought this movie was a lot of fun. It's not perfect, and it's definitely not for everybody. There were some changes from the book that I thought were dumb, like the weapon Kick Ass wields at the end of the film. But as far as an adaptation goes I thought it was very well done. I thought it stayed true to the story enough but changed some details just enough to make it more accessible to viewers. It's too bad it didn't do well in the box office, but I didn't really expect it to. I think it will do pretty well on DVD, but who knows.
Anyway, I give the movie an A-


Luke said...

I look forward to seeing this movie.

I also have an iPad now... and you'd shit your pants over the comic book apps and potential ;)

In fact, you love comic books and movies more than anyone I know. You NEED an iPad. It would be a completely justifiable cost for you, and would make you a very happy person. Plus I think you deserve a little something for all that moving you've been doing.

Justin said...

I just saw this movie last week. A friend brought it over and told me that I had to watch it. My friend didn't say I had to watch it for any particular reason except that the humor and action was not typical and my reaction would be more along the line of "Oh my god. I can't believe they just did that?!" I remember seeing a preview for it back when it made it short run in theaters. I thought it was being sold as a high school comedy along the lines of Superbad or any of those other similar movies. The movie was definitely mis marketed. Imagine parents reactions when they bring their kids to see this movie? Do ratings even mean anything? I'm off topic, but anyway. I liked the movie but probably for all the wrong reasons. I liked it for shock value. The beginning was setting up the movie as a less "serious" (or more serious, true to life, depending on how you look at it) comedy with real people, and then out of nowhere I get crazy violence and superhero acrobatics come true from an 11 year old! Where else do you go to see that? Battle Royale?