Kick-Ass 2

2013-09-06 15:49
Kick-Ass 2
What it's about:

After the events of the first film, inspired by Kick Ass and Hit Girl, dozens of ordinary citizens have taken up costumed identities in the fight against crime. For Kick Ass himself though, his previous ineffectiveness has caused him to turn to Hit Girl to train him, while Hit Girl herself is struggling with whether to continue the great fight or to try and live as a regular teenage girl. The heroes have their work cut out for them though, as the former hero known as Red Mist declares a bloody vendetta against Kick Ass and anyone associated with him for the death of his father. 

What we thought:

2010 was arguably the quietest year for major comic book movies since the craze began at the turn of the century with only the disappointing Iron Man 2 moving the Marvel Cinematic Universe along and duds like The Losers and Jonah Hex making next to no impact whatsoever. Aside for the surprisingly enjoyable, if very loosely comics-based Red, the best comic book films to come out that year were, by far, a couple of quirky indie properties.

The first, Scott Pilgrim vs The Universe, was a hyper-active, hyper-colourful, hyper-poppy and hyper-brilliant mix of video games, martial arts, rock 'n roll, comedy and romance. The second, of course, was the similarly terrific Kick Ass – a hilariously fresh and violent take on the superhero genre that presented a tremendously stripped down take on the superhero in the most over the top manner imaginable. Like Scott Pilgrim, it was one of the best and most surprising films of that year but, unlike Scott Pilgrim, it was actually only the first part of what is supposed to be a trilogy.     

Now, some three years later, we finally have the film's first sequel, again based off of the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. comic books – only this time it combines the series of the same name with its spin-off Hit Girl series and, even more crucially, is written and directed by Jeff Wadlow, rather than the first film's killer team of Jane Goodman and Matthew Vaughn (who stay on as producers). And, unfortunately, you really can tell.

The film, simply, is a tremendously enjoyable and funny romp but it has a number of major problems that stop it from being anywhere near as good as its predecessor. Admittedly, I haven't read either sequel series, partly because I have something of a love/ hate relationship with Millar's work – his love for cheap shocks often smother his real knack for storytelling and his ability to come up with some pretty great concepts- and partly because I so preferred the film to the comics the first time around. As such, I can't say whether or not the weaknesses of the film are a product of the comics themselves or of Wadlow not having the same handle on this world as Goodman and Vaughn had, but something is definitely missing here.

It may perhaps be the result of mixing two different storylines into one movie but Kick Ass 2 is a bit of a mess that sorely lacks the focus of the first film. What's really strange though, is that for something that is supposed to be the second part of a planned series, it feels much more like a traditional sequel than the kind of continuation of the story that has become the norm for most franchise films today. Like many sequels, Kick Ass 2 seems oddly directionless, especially as it tries to balance so many different storylines and characters.

Perhaps most problematic of all though, is how tonally inconsistent the film is. It works best as a rude, satirical black-comedy but the film takes a number of turns towards something far more serious, far more tragic even and the shift between the two wildly divergent tones feels jarring at every turn. Comedy and drama can work brilliantly together – some of the most affecting drama I've ever come across comes out of comedy – but Kick Ass 2 never gets that balance right.

All this said though, while Kick Ass 2 is undoubtedly a disappointment, it's a very entertaining one that gets plenty right. The action scenes are as brutal and inventive as fans have come to expect and the film does have more than enough solid, often shocking laughs to succeed as a comedy. Best of all though, it has Hit Girl. While most of the characters in the film, including Jim Carrey's tough-as-nails Colonel Stars and Stripes and Kick Ass himself (again, perfectly played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson), are very memorable, Chloe Grace Moretz's Hit Girl is once again both the heart and soul of the film and the character that is simply the most fun to watch.

Forget Kick Ass 3, can we not just get a Hit Girl film already?

It fails to live up to its predecessor and its own title but Kick Ass 2 is a fun, funny romp for anyone tired of the usual superhero formula.

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