The comic book mini-series “Kick Ass” became a phenomena because of the way it managed to create a tale of anti-heroes, as to how fantasy and reality often do not coincide, and how loneliness and even depression could use an outlet in its expression. The second mini-series “Kick Ass 2” may have taken a more predictable turn when it comes to its plot, but it dealt with consequences of trying to live out a fantasy. Its climax was immersed in tragedy that paved the way for another sequel “Kick Ass 3” and a spin-off “Hit-Girl“.
Now while I enjoyed Matthew Vaughn’s first film “Kick Ass” I thought it misrepresented the message and the point to all what was presented in the source material. I even thought that the Indie film “Super” actually felt more like an adaptation of the famous comic series than Vaughn's adaptation. It is in this mindset that I wasn’t expecting much from its 2013 sequel “Kick Ass 2”. With director/writer Jeff Wadlow and Vaughn as co-producer, the film intends to use some plot points from its source material, use it to tie up with the original movie and give it a more mainstream appeal. Nothing wrong with that, since the comic series “Kick Ass” did leave a lot of room for improvement. But I guess I really could not blame the filmmakers for creating a pedestrian film to follow what had been established in the first movie.
The film takes place shortly after the first film, and it does deviate from the source material for storytelling purposes. Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) returns to his super-hero identity and with Mindy aka. Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) training him, the two figured to become partners in the war against crime. But Mindy’s adoptive father (Morris Chestnut) gets in the way, and Mindy is forced to agree to retire the mantle of Hit-Girl. Dave meanwhile continues to do his part as a ‘super-hero’ and joins a group of individuals led by “Col. Stars and Stripes” (Jim Carrey) who call themselves “Justice Forever”. The group appears to be holding their own doing their part in the community, that is until Night Mist re-surfaces as the villain who calls himself “the Motherfucker”. Motherfucker is bent on creating mayhem to take vengeance on Kick Ass, and he has the cash to back him up as he recruits criminals to join him in his chaotic ways. Dave will pay the ultimate price, and Mindy must once again become Hit Girl to stop this fucker.
Readers of “Kick Ass 2” could easily tell that while the core premise of the source material is present, the soul and the themes of the original comic series becomes even more distant with this sequel. The differences were just so obvious and it hurts its essence; Dave becomes a hunky young man, Mindy has no mom (opens up a huge plot hole) who is married to Marcus, Red Mist does not go through the stages of madness, no legitimate morality and heroism stances, and the film becomes just a glorified form of ‘geek fantasy” rather than a tragedy about right and wrong and the consequences that follow as creators Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. were trying to express. I understand the need to follow the upbeat tone established in the first movie, but it all becomes rather empty in so many ways. The source material was all about the loneliness and depression that drove these characters into doing what they take from comic books, director/writer Jeff Wadlow (responsible for the MMA teenage mess “NeverBack Down”) takes all these fresh concepts and turns it into a film that becomes a movie about idiots playing ‘dress up’.
I mean, the movie was merely inspired, as the depth of the story becomes even worst than what you call ‘watered-down’. Perhaps I am just speaking since as someone accused me of being "a comic book purist” which I am not since I liked the comic adaptation “RED” and it was so different from its source material. But really, its pedestrian and amateurish writing went to the cheap side of the story. The characters have become mere clichés, and so the story becomes very predictable. I understood that the film’s intentions were probably to wrap things up after the original movie, but they could have easily gone a route to something smarter and yet they didn’t. I know each of the characters had their own reasons for being who they are, but the script just loses itself on the expression of comedy. There is barely any black humor here, but rather the flavor becomes dry, raunchy (fap jokes and gross out humor) and slapstick comedy. Oh, there is also a romantic subplot between Mindy and Dave here to satisfy the girls, and Dave has a lot of sex with Night Bitch; these were all deviations made to make its tempo upbeat and fun, and I suppose they did succeed if one did not read the source material. I did, so these things made me roll my eyes....
To try to connect the film to the source material, it borrows key scenes from the comics to make them into iconic movie shots. Some scenes and parts of the dialogue were borrowed from the comic. The action did feel inspired by the comic books, and I do have to admit that the action scenes were polished in a way that made them very cosmetic. The film is violent, and had its own share of blood, but really the action were just ‘action sequences’ but not an expression of desperate violence. There is very little darkness here, and it does not serve up the right emotions as the film sure took a very cartoonish turn. I did have some issues with the way Wadlow edited and framed his shots in the action scenes; some were admittedly decent, but some lacked pizzazz. Sure there were some creative touches that made it more fun. Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) was arguably more charismatic here but she wasn’t scary as in the comic. I did have some laughs with the addition of supporting characters such as “Black Death”, “The Tumor” and “Genghis Carnage” making appearances as opposites to “Justice Forever”.
Mindy was an eleven year old girl in the comics, here Mindy is played by Moretz who plays an older 15-year old “Hit Girl”. Dave was a skinny little man in the comics, here Kick Ass slowly becomes a hunk rather than a lonely young man. I am not sure, but something here feels very stereotypical, and these changes were obviously made to appeal to commercial viewers. Much as I had issues with Mindy’s characterization, Moretz did steal the show, even if Taylor-Johnson was the title character, Moretz’s Mindy became the center of attention as she was the better written of the two. I did like the fun, gross way she dealt with her ’bullies’ in school, and whenever she was on-screen, the film became a lot more bearable. Taylor-Johnson was….well, what you could probably call a staple. Even with the tragedy that befell Dave, I found it hard to really relate to his loss since the dimensions of his character were pretty shallow. Col. Stars and Stripes was played by Jim Carrey and I do give him credit for not trying to hog the show, his character stayed true to what had been established in the comics, and that was pretty well done. Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) was hotter than her comic book counterpart, but well, she was made to cater to the needs of the film. Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Role Models) as the Mother Fucker also became the film’s second best character, and he made me laugh as he struggled with his ‘identity crisis’ and limpness (you know what I mean).
I suppose if one did not read the comic book, one could say that “Kick Ass 2” is an entertaining experience. It was made to generate fun and comedy and it does succeed in this area in some ways. If one could get over the fact that the film is only about 60-70 % faithful to its source material, one could get a snicker or two here, but don’t expect a movie worth writing about. Yeah, I had a few laughs with the film, but they weren’t the kind of laughs I wanted to have. Much as the film was fun, there were so many things that it did not do right, and it hurt its experience. I don't mind changes for storytelling purposes, but stooping to clichéd elements to avoid taking a risk just did not work for me. Mark Millar intended a 'reality and consequences' theme, while this movie channels pure 'geek fantasy'. Still, “Kick Ass 2” is worthy of a RENTAL, but if you didn’t care for the first movie, you are better off skipping this one. [2 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
Kick Ass 2 will probably disappoint a lot of people who, like me, loved the original to one degree or another. There are just too many flaws in this film to not, at some point, feel a little jilted. There are many times when it matches the greatness of the original film but as a whole this film comes nowhere near the level of ass kicking awesomeness we all fell in love with just a few years ago. It’s just not as well made, and doesn't have the same love and attention it seems to me as … more