‘Kick Ass 2,’ Review by Áine Llang Young, PhD, Queen’s University Belfast

[Universal Pictures, 2013. Director/ Writer: Jeff Wadlow. Starring Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Iain Glen, and Jim Carrey]

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Jeff Wadlow’s Kick-Ass 2 (2013) is the follow up to Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass (2010) the adaptation of the comic written by Mark Millar and illustrated by John Romita Jr. The latest film opens with familiar angst-driven issues that first prompted Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to construct himself a costume and take to the streets under the guise of ‘Kick-Ass’. Where the first film dealt with ideas centring on identity and affecting positive change, the sequels themes are less distinct in its message, making it a garbled regression.

Kick-Ass 2 opens with Dave considering his present situation (a dull high school life and seemingly pointless relationship with Katie portrayed by Lyndsy Fonseca) and weighs them against the effects his alter-ego have had on the city.

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He watches other self-proclaimed local ‘superheroes’ on television citing Kick Ass as their inspiration and says `Me? I gave up being a superhero because it was way too dangerous, but I was dying of boredom, like most high school seniors I didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life`. . . ‘I inspired all those people to get off theirs asses, but now I was stuck on mine, so that night after dinner I decided to get my old costume out’.

Following Hit Girl’s (Chloe Grace Moretz) lead and instruction Dave is re-immersed back into his previous life.

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Concurrently in New Jersey, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) is also hoping to resuscitate his costumed past, primarily to wreak revenge on Kick Ass. The accidental killing of his mother and the discovery of her S&M paraphernalia allows for a new self-styled ‘super-villain’ persona, troublingly named ‘The Motherfucker’.

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The film then follows a fairly straight forward trajectory, the three main characters, Kick Ass, Hit Girl and The Motherfucker, are violently bound to one another, due to each being directly responsible for the killing of each other’s father. The inclusion of side players, (most notably Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes) has little bearing on the story and are given minimal opportunity to develop character complexity.

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Instead there is much musing on what it means to be a superhero, a super villain, have a lair, to be a sidekick or to have a secret identity. The focus tends to aim at the mythology of hero as a formula or a set of criteria. When the additional characters- including Dave’s own father (Garrett M. Brown) die terrible, violent deaths, there is an absence of emotional impact. Incidents that could have been shown as pivotal, life-defining moments for the characters are presented in brief scenes with little to none consideration of what the events mean. Instead the experiences simply fuel the feud, and presumably justify the events that have led up to the present.

The most problematic difference between the first film and the second is the shift in tone. The original film is funnier, able to laugh at itself and is more self-aware. The second film lacks the wit and reflexivity of the first. The scenes involving highly stylized choreographed hyper violence in the sequel now read more grotesque than the first film’s ability to heighten the absurdity and spectacle of given situations. The novelty of the youth of the characters who are thrust into these dangerous lives is wearing off as the actors who portray them have aged, and the ‘cuteness’ of their baby voiced one liners is diminished.

The film ends with Dave and Mindy parting ways. His voiceover explains that ‘Superheroes can’t exist in the real world for a reason, because the real world needs real heroes and not some punk in a wet suit playing dress up, but a genuine bad ass that can really kick ass’. This observation takes place as Mindy races away from New York on a motorcycle, her face obscured by the purple tinted visor of her helmet, suggesting a new guise in her future.

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Meanwhile Dave is back training in Big Daddy’s hide-out, in the foreground: a visored helmet in the familiar Kick Ass costume colours. The Motherfucker is presumed dead, eaten by his shark, until the last of the credits roll and he is revealed to be in hospital without legs, hands and his ‘dick’. The implications are clear, their story is not over yet. These three will meet again, presumably dressed in new get-ups with new signatures, prepared to take each other down regardless of cost or consequence. This flies in the face of Dave’s final message – it directly contradicts it. There is no evidence of any of the characters learning or evolving; the constant interrogation of the notion of heroism bears no revelation for themselves or the viewer. A new helmet does not a new identity or hero make.

Written by Áine Llang Young, September 25, 2013

ABOUT

Áine Llang Young is a recent doctoral graduate of Film Studies at Queen`s University Belfast. She lives in Vancouver, researching and publishing on subjects that examine the practice of comic-to-film adaptation.