Settling into our seats, one of the people sitting with me pointed to an elderly couple a few rows ahead and speculated, “I wonder if they’re in the wrong theatre.” Assuming that it was legitimate interest, and not dementia, that brought our geriatric compatriots into the theatre, the joke raised an incredibly valid and insightful point. There are people in this world who were never intended to see Kick-Ass. There are even more people who probably shouldn’t see Kick-Ass. And, there are tons of people who did see Kick-Ass and wished it didn’t exist. So why did I love it so much?
In light of the incredibly divisive response to this movie, I won’t try to sway you over to my side. I acknowledge that Kick-Ass is not for everybody. In fact, I was angry with some of the parents in the theatre who brought their kids to see it. After the show, one such parent, was raving to his no-more-than-10-year-old son about how glad he was that the movie toned down the violence of the comic series, celebrating how good the comic is, and how absolutely forbidden his kid was from ever reading it. As a viewer, however, I am essentially the person that this movie was constructed to entertain.
I am a twenty-something North American male.
I have spent my life being bombarded with images of violence. When it comes to movies, it takes a special kind of brutality to unnerve or impress me. Special, in this case, comes in the form of bloody, gorgeously choreographed fight sequences that offer enough bone-snapping variety to keep up with even the most Ritalin-deprived child of my generation. Most importantly, all of this violence is grounded in an insistence upon its own potential reality. Since the story is about a teenage boy who turns a hypothetical question into reality when he asks why, with all of the movies, comics, and series about costumed vigilantes, no one has ever bothered to do it for real. Most importantly to the movie’s grounding is Kick-Ass (the persona he assumes)’s first attempt at fighting crime. Within seconds of his intervention of a car-jacking, he falls to concrete, his hand clutching a knife wound to his gut. Once that happens, we are willing to accept, and cheer along with, the escalating, ridiculous bloodshed that follows.
I have a conscience, but it is easily appeased when it compromises my ability to be entertained. Most of the talk about this movie has centered on Hit-Girl, a foul-mouthed assassin whose one-liners and fast-paced destruction of her enemies provide a huge part of the potential for entertainment. The problem? She’s 11. At first, it doesn’t feel like an issue because of how immediately shocking, ergo hilarious, the situation is. It’s obviously not normal, but, we’re willing to go along with it because of the sheer entertainment value. Then, the movie challenges itself, and calls into question why anyone would think it would be acceptable for someone so young to be involved in such a clearly inappropriate situation. When Hit-Girl’s father, Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage)’s backstory is revealed, we realize that this isn’t just some cartoon character. Somebody raised and trained this girl to become what she is, and that is what is so absolutely messed up. The incredible part is that, in acknowledging its own moral reprehensibility, we feel compelled to just keep calm and carry on. We don’t need to get upset, because even the film-makers know that something’s wrong, so we’ll leave it in their hands while we go on enjoying the movie. I am smart enough to know that acknowledgment of a problem isn’t the same as solving it, but I am also complacent enough in my outrage that I can be coerced into enjoying the messed up ride, convincing myself that, sooner or later, someone will make things okay.
I have seen enough comic book movies to understand how Kick-Ass fits (or doesn’t) into the canon. It’s like Superbad set in Sin City, but is refreshingly self-aware. The movie is narrated by someone who knows how superhero stories are supposed to go, and is able to tell us where it goes astray. He knows that he is supposed to have an origin story, but, in not having one, and simply being inspired by his and others’ apathy, the movie tells the most believable and convincing superhero origin story ever. Kick-Ass is essentially a guy who asks “What if” and follows through on his curiosity and passion.
Even growing up reading comics, I never really dreamed of being Spider-man or Batman, but I kind of want to be Kick-Ass. And that’s why I loved this movie, as well as why I probably shouldn’t.