When one walks into the movie theatre to watch a sequel of a movie one had enjoyed, there are certain expectations. That much of the reasons why the first one clicked would remain, that the story would go on a logical run from the first to the second movie, and that there would be something grander added which would still give the sequel its own identity. Kick-Ass which released in 2010 based on the comic books of Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr., had clicked for many, because of the freshness it provided in the superhero genre (what ordinary people would have to go through if they decide to become masked heroes), the bloody fights and swearing which had its shock value, some wonderful acting performances by young teenagers and cool fight scenes. Kick-Ass 2 was supposed to build on that… well, it doesn’t. And what one is left with when this movie is over is just a fleeting remembrance of why you loved the original and disappointment over the lack of the sequel’s ability to raise the bar further.
Kick-Ass 2 starts with a retired Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) aka Kick-Ass who has stopped his crime fighting heroics but has inspired many ordinary citizens to don on the uniform to protect the city. Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) aka Hit-Girl is still living a dual life, using the skills her father had taught her to fight crime, and at the same time eluding her guardian, Sergeant Marcus Williams, so that he remains unaware of her continuing second identity. The story kicks off when Dave decides to come back as Kick-Ass and starts training with Hit-Girl, but when Marcus catches hold of Mindy in the Hit-Girl costume and makes her promise that she would start leading a normal life, Kick-Ass is left alone. Enter Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) who is putting up a team together of such superheroes. On the other side, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) dons a new guise, proclaiming himself as the biggest super-villain, The Motherfucker. As he begins hiring more villains to hunt for Kick-Ass, we know that things are set to get a lot rough for our young hero.
So the story seems fine, workable if handled correctly. The problem is, that it wasn’t. The reason why this movie feels so much tamer than the first could be down to the fact that apart from the actors, much of the crew has changed. Jeff Wadlow has taken over the director’s role from Matthew Vaughn; he has also written the screenplay; even the editor and cinematographer have been shuffled. Jeff Wadlow doesn’t have much of a distinguished history in movie making and Kick-Ass 2 has to be his most high-profile movie directed till date. While he has tried to imbibe a sense of struggle that the superheroes face in the real world in this sequel and dramatise it with a sense of loneliness and loss, the idea comes across only in patches, as it gets muddled in a rather average screenplay and editing work. The original movie had its foundations in the display of superheroes in our world, a more realistic world, and Kick-Ass 2 was also supposed to do that. But showing a villainous teenager evading the cops with ease, walking into any neighbourhood to cause destruction, has no grounds in reality, of course. And what was the fight scene atop the car roof where bodies were flung onto incoming cars and everyone continued driving merrily? And let us not even get started on the diarrhoea inducing shock baton. Absurd!
The real thrill from the first movie was in seeing Hit-Girl literally kick ass with fluidity and style, and Chloë Grace Moretz would have had her fan following grow multifold after putting forth a splendid performance. So the one thing you really wanted to see in Kick-Ass 2 was more of Hit-Girl. Alas, Hit-Girl is forced to lead a more normal life, and that entire portion of the movie which seemed like a Mean Girls rip-off diluted much of Moretz’s hardwork in building Hit-Girl as one of the coolest superhero characters in films. Moretz seemed uncomfortable for most of those scenes, maybe partly because her character had to be and partly because she herself never seemed to be really into those scenes. When she does finally don the costume and proclaims “I’m Hit-Girl”, even this cliched line gets you pumped up for we know what it coming next, some amazing fights with style. Her lengthy battle with Mother Russia does stand out in the film for its choreography and, well, because there is Hit-Girl involved. If only there could have been more of these!
Aaron Taylor-Johnson is no longer an unknown movie actor and has been repeatedly associated with the role of Quicksilver in The Avengers: Age of Ultron. In Kick-Ass 2 he plays his role with ease, that of a confused teenager who wants to play his part in making the world better. And with less of Hit-Girl he has to shoulder more responsibility. But it is the performance of Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes that adds the real fun element to the film. Carrey has his laughs in this film too, but with a serious undertone to them all. He steals the show in those scenes that feature him, and just like he says in the movie “While you’re at it, try to have fun… otherwise what’s the point?” (which was improvised by him), he does seem to be enjoying playing this character, despite the concerns he had later regarding promoting it. This is one of the strongest Jim Carrey performances I have seen for a while; unfortunately he does not have a lot of screen time. If this movie had turned out to be better and more successful, Carrey’s performance would have been talked of for a long time, but now it is something that would be enjoyed by only a few.
Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the main bad guy leaves you with mixed emotions, for one can understand that his character is supposed to be a lost boy trying to become a man, but it ain’t endearing nor is it scary. Christopher Mintz-Plasse had a wonderful outing as Red Mist in the first movie, and for many he is still the lovable “McLovin” from Superbad. He doesn’t add much strength to his resume with Kick-Ass 2, that is the nicest way of putting it. There are a lot of side characters in this movie and mainly John Leguizamo as Mintz-Plasse’s bodyguard and Donald Faison as Doctor Gravity stand out. What this movie also missed was a fatherly figure, who was more central to the story so that we didn’t have this group of youngsters roaming around freely. Nicolas Cage did that to great effect in the previous movie as Big Daddy (in one of his finest roles at a time when he doesn’t really give those anymore); Jim Carrey could have filled that void but again, the screenplay should have weaved in more of his character in the story which it failed to do.
Kick-Ass 2 has come in for some criticism for its use of gory violence and swearing by youngsters. That really is not the problem, for if you are stepping into the movie theatre you should have a fair idea about what is being portrayed in the movie. The Kick-Ass movies are based on the comics of the same name, which in fact unfold much darker themes. The problem with the movie is that it failed to recognise what it was meant to be. It is not a Batman or Spider-Man flick, nor is it a slasher flick; it was supposed to be about the real world and its problems and how a few youngsters decide to set things right, and the conflicts and confusions that these create. A certain extent of absurdity was allowable, it is based on a comic book after all, but Kick-Ass 2 missed out on recognising the heart of the film. 2010’s Kick-Ass had gone through a tough phase to find a studio to raise funds, so much that Matthew Vaughn himself then decided to put in a bit of his own. If only someone had put in that much soul and belief in Kick-Ass 2, things might have turned out to differently.
Can also read: Mark Millar’s Comics and the Films