I loved the movie Kick-Ass.
What, you didn’t? That’s fine. Hear me out.
I’ll be the first to admit that it sets up a scenario as its foundation that it ultimately blithely abandons, the whole “what would it be like if someone tried, in real life, to be a costumed superhero?” thing. As an exploration of that theme, it’s mostly a failure, though it does sort of tell us that if someone did that they’d get the shit beat out of them a lot and possibly die. Which may be all we need to know.
By giving us those answers early in the film, though, it does add to the vulnerability of its hero, Dave Lizewski aka Kick-Ass, and we never doubt that he is all too mortal. The old rule in writing is “Mistreat your protagonist,” and Dave really gets his share.
In a review at Comic Book Resources, comic writer Steven Grant made some interesting commentary on the movie’s thematic shift:
[Kick-Ass] cheats right and left on its premise. Once donning his goofy costume, a mish-mash of scuba gear and ski mask, Kick-Ass quickly demonstrates why people are generally disinclined to wear costumes and fight crime in the real world. Once that point is made, though, the intro premise is thrown away so quickly it’s like watching a stage magician make a prop vanish, and to the same effect: it draws the audience further into the show…
If the film cheats on practically every level, that’s why it works. That’s where much of the humor comes from…When characters try to anticipate how “real world” superheroes will or should act, they resort to their only frame of reference – comic books – despite no natural law requiring people to behave like comic book characters when they put on comic book costumes. But we say “but of course” because it’s also our only frame of reference and in the logic of the film it makes sense: if you’re trying to emulate comic book characters, you emulate comic book characters, and when the film finally makes the notion explicit we’re already so deep into the magician’s act that our instinct is to play along.
Kick-Ass is both one of the best and purest superhero films yet and mostly not a superhero movie at all. Continue reading