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An R-rated teenage superhero film.
A Scene from "Kick-Ass."
OPENING WEEKEND: $16,000,000
DOMESTIC TOTAL: $40,000,000
  This Film is NOT a Future Release.
  The Following Preview has been Archived.

February 10th, 2010: Written by Mark Millar and drawn by John Romita Jr., the Marvel Comics' Icon imprint book centers on a high school dweeb named Dave Lizewski who decides to become a superhero even though he has no athletic ability or coordination. Things change when he eventually runs into real bad guys with real weapons.

Aaron Johnson plays title character, while Lyndsy Fonseca plays the object of the teen's infatuation who believes Dave is gay. Cage is a former cop who wants to bring down a druglord and has trained his daughter (Chloe Moretz) to be a lethal weapon.

What to Expect: Before I started researching this preview I had never heard of the comic "Kick-Ass" and had never read it, but now I really, really want to, and I'm super excited about this movie.

One of the reasons for my appreciation is that it is SO wonderful to talk about an adaptation of a comic book and not have to discuss the long-standing canon and the multiple storylines and the impossibility of adapting years and years of stories into one movie and all the fanboys who want things they're never going to get. I don't have to talk about any of that because the comic "Kick-Ass" only started its release in 2008, and as of this writing its first series is not yet complete. But they've got themselves a movie! With a very small amount of canon to cover! In fact, so little that they had to add some stuff so it would be longer than an hour.

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In fact, the development of "Kick-Ass" began before the comic was even published. The comic is the collaboration of "Wanted" creator Mark Millar (he created the comic, that is, not the movie) and longtime Marvel artist John Romita, Jr. (who gets to sign his artwork "JR JR" and I just think that's cool). It's an independent comic and Millar's brainchild. Millar knew director Matthew Vaughn, and they literally ran into each other at a party and decided to make a movie. Vaughn, who was considered to direct both "X-Men 3" and "Thor," was looking for a project since "Thor" had just fallen through, and he asked Millar if he had anything. Millar gave him a quick description of "Kick-Ass," which was still in the writing stages. He later sent Vaughn what he had, and Vaughn started writing a screenplay.

This resulted in the film and comic being in development at the same time, which is a bit unique. Comic readers were aware of the upcoming adaptation right as this brand-new comic was being published, which is a novel situation. Incidentally, something similar happened with "Wanted." The film was based on the first two sections of the story, all that had been published at the time, and then they sort of made up their own ending, which wound up being totally different from what happened in the comics. But that's neither here nor there.

Vaughn took the project to every major studio and they all said no, so he financed the film independently with the help of some Hollywood muscle in the form of Brad Pitt and a laundry list of other investors. Vaughn's star is on the rise. After producing some of Guy Ritchie's films, his directorial debut was the much-beloved Ritchie-esque gangster film "Layer Cake," and he followed it up with the commercial disappointment (but not poorly reviewed) Neil Gaiman adaptation "Stardust." After the aforementioned brush-offs with superhero films, this was Vaughn's response. You don't want me to make a major superhero franchise film? Fine, I'll make my own. Vaughn was also not shy about his criticism of Brett Ratner's direction of "X-Men 3" but then so was anyone who, you know, SAW it.

I'm puzzled by multiple sources I found that describe this film as "long in development." How long can it possibly have been in development when the comic didn't exist until 2008? And Vaughn seems to be the first director Millar talked to? Perhaps they're referring to the difficulties Vaughn had getting money, which were considerable, but they're making it sound like this movie had some kind of Watchmen-esque decade-long journey from source to screen which is really not true. What IS true is that Vaughn couldn't get squat from the studios - or, more accurately, he wouldn't accede to their wishes. He wanted an ultraviolent true-to-comic adaptation and it made them all squirmy, especially where it concerned Hit Girl, a character who is a gun-toting profanity-spewing schoolgirl-skirt-wearing badass and who is TWELVE. Now that the film is made and is getting a lot of good, excited buzz, they all want to distribute it. Lionsgate ended up being the belle of that particular ball, which isn't surprising considering their comfort level with, shall we say, more challenging material that merits red-band trailers.

"Kick-Ass" is a unique, modern superhero tale, in no small part because it features no actual superheroes. It's the tale of teenager Dave Lizewski who decides he's going to be a costumed hero, even without radioactive spiders or genetic manipulations. He dons a costume, gets himself seriously hurt, comes back and tries again. This time he manages to save someone from a mugging. It's caught on tape, goes on YouTube, and Dave is christened "Kick-Ass" by the Internet. He uses MySpace to connect with people who need his help, and inspires a slew of copycat costumed heroes (with no powers), but also encounters more experienced crimefighters, including Big Daddy, who's trained his twelve-year-old daughter to be an assassin called Hit Girl.

This isn't "a world like ours." It's our world. Dave and his friends read the same comics we read and they've seen "The Dark Knight." All them crazy kids do all that social networking stuff. It's a bit of a paradigm shift for us moviegoers who are used to being placed just slightly to the side of our own reality in superhero movies.

So who is populating this reality? Headlining is newcomer Aaron Johnson as the titular character, and the casting for this role was brutal. Vaughn saw hundreds of teenage boys and none of them were suitable. They were all giving him "acting" and he became frustrated with their lack of success finding their star, well aware that the entire movie would rest on this kid's shoulders. Johnson was the second-to-last audition, just before Vaughn was literally ready to scrap the entire enterprise. Cast as Hit Girl was Chloe Moretz, who is impressing the hell out of everyone in Hollywood these days. Her turn in last year's "(500) Days of Summer" as Joseph Gordon-Levitt's preternaturally mature younger sister drew a lot of praise, and she was cast in "Kick-Ass" before anyone had seen that film. She's also starring in the "please rip me shreds" hate-bait American adaptation of the much-beloved Swedish vampire film "Let the Right One In." People are saying eyebrow-raising things about this girl, things like watching her as Hit Girl is like watching Jodie Foster in "Taxi Driver." Okay, then. Clearly the filmmakers expect Hit Girl to be a breakout character and I don't think they're wrong. I would not be surprised if her schoolgirl skirt and purple wig became popular Halloween costumes. Hit Girl's father, Big Daddy, is being played by Nicolas Cage. Now, these days, it's starting to seem like the once-cool Cage is just about the last person you want in your movie if you want any cred at all. Mark Wahlberg and Daniel Craig were both considered, possibly approached, for the role first. I don't know if they refused or were just unavailable, but I suspect either of them would have been a better choice just for publicity reasons. Cage might be fantastic, sure, fine. But the time is past when you go "Oh, cool!" when you hear that he's in a movie. Rounding out the cast is Christopher Mintz-Plasse as the Red Mist, a compatriot of Kick-Ass. Mintz-Plasse, it hardly needs to be said, is most famous (infamous?) as McLovin from "Superbad," and I really wonder how long it's going to take that poor guy to shake that off, if he keeps acting.

A rough, unfinished cut of the film was shown at Comic-Con to wildly enthusiastic response. Now, take note. I am never impressed when people tell me that some film was a big hit at Comic-Con. It is not hard to get enthusiasm out of fanboys and fangirls who assembled solely for the purpose of seeing films like yours and self-selected as people who would like your movie. A lot of things that ended up being total crap got great reactions at Comic-Con (Van Helsing, anyone?). But I'll take that under advisement, thanks. A review of the script was a bit more detailed. The whole "normal people as superheroes" idea has been tried from a couple of angles and hasn't really worked (unless "Mystery Men" is your idea of classic cinema). Vaughn's script was described as funny and sharp, and replete with masturbation jokes, but the plot was somewhat lacking in narrative thrust. This can happen so easily when a screenwriter is focused on the characters and the tone...he forgets to give those characters something interesting to DO. We'll see how this plays on screen, because page and screen are two different things.

The thing that gives me the most pause is that an R-rated feature starring mostly teenagers and one PRE-teen is a bit tricky from a marketing perspective. R-rated comedy is having a rebirth, and "Watchmen" was rated R, but too many people hear "superhero film" and think "fun for the whole family." The family-values crowd is already denouncing the film and circling the wagons. Of course, sometimes that helps.

In Conclusion: I cannot wait to see this movie. Things will now depend on marketing, because so far it's been bupkus, although it's a bit early for a major push. If Vaughn's R-rated average-joe-hero film takes off, we could be looking at a franchise here, especially if more comics are in the offing. The comics have been plagued by erratic release schedules and delays, so it might be awhile before enough new material is available for a sequel, if one is merited. I'm optimistic.

Similar Titles: Wanted, Layer Cake, Mystery Men
April 16th, 2010 (wide)
August 3rd, 2010 (DVD)

Lions Gate Films

Matthew Vaughn

Nicolas Cage, Aaron Johnson, Lyndsy Fonseca, Mark Strong, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Chloe Moretz

Total: 87 vote(s).

Action & Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Click here to view site

Rated R for strong brutal violence throughout, pervasive language, sexual content, nudity and some drug use - some involving children.

117 min





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