Thursday, April 22, 2010

Getting Your Ass Kicked.

Yeah, my apologies as usual for not updating very often.

So I DID see Kick-Ass. Last weekend. When it came out. And yes, I quite liked it. The more I thought about it, though, the more depressing it got for me. It's not depressing like The Dark Knight, where you go in expecting a down movie and get it, but Kick-Ass is advertised as a comedy and the thing is, it is funny... but incredibly sad.

Watch out for potential spoilers, folks. I'll try to be gentle though.

As we all know, Kick-Ass is an average guy. And his first foray into crime-fighting goes very poorly. In fact, he gets stabbed. Then hit by a car. Sure, the getting hit by a car is much worse, but watching him get stabbed was just so painful to me. Once he gets out of the hospital, he's still not very super; just a super punching bag. His "super power" is total defense, which means that to be of any use, he has to get his ass kicked. I took no joy in watching him endure all the pain he does and it is was a sad fanaticism that Kick-Ass pursues his career as a crime-fighter. He's bad at it, he almost gets killed a lot, and his ass is saved by the real super hero, Hit Girl, multiple times. Watching Hit Girl is a delight. Watching Kick-Ass is just so sad.

The movie opens with the question, as we have seen in the trailers, asking why no one else tried being a superhero before Kick-Ass. And after watching this movie, I understand and myself have no desire to pursue a career of crime-fighting. There is no glorious montage where Kick-Ass learns how to fight or actually does any ass-kicking at all. Even his fight with Red Mist toward the end is just a show of his incompetent they both are. With no power, comes no responsibility, sure, but is also means having no power, including all the advantageous parts of being a superhero. While the best superhero stories involve the question of how painful and lonely it can be to be such a powerful figure (see: superhero deconstruction, aka, why I love superheroes), Kick-Ass is so ordinary it is painful to watch him get his ass kicked. When Batman is getting his ass kicked, we know he can handle it, because he is Batman. But Kick-Ass is really just Dave with a scuba suit; his mask is the only thing that makes him different than everyone else. At least Nite Owl and Silk Spectre had some training.

Dave, in the end, is just an average guy in way over his head. He can handle the pain, physically, so he survives because that's his ability: to survive. But that's it. He's just like the faceless human beings that survive with the help of the real, trained, able superheroes, or simply heroes. The tough ones who can endure the pain, but also can't do anything to stop it.

Kick-Ass is not a superhero movie; if it really was, it would be called Hit Girl, because she is the superhero. She's got the training, the bloody fight sequences, and the strong origin story. Kick-Ass is, instead, the story of everyone who is not a superhero, but people like Dave, like me, like every fan on the planet, that dreams even for a second what that life would be like. Kick-Ass shows us that that life sucks. It would be hard and unrewarding. So unless we go to ninja school or have a mother train us for a life of crime-fighting or build a super suit or get bitten by a radioactive spider, we are screwed. Because being a superhero takes more than wanting to be a superhero; it takes dedicating yourself to the role. Dave doesn't do that, so he just manages to scrape through and make a few heroic moves outside of all the non-heroic moments he has in the movie. He's the Bond girl to Hit Girl's Bond; he might lend a hand, but really, he's just normal.

So when I first left the theater, I was a bit disappointed that Dave wasn't more badass, that he wasn't more heroic. But as I thought more about it, I just realized that I wanted him to be tougher because it was hard to see him be so normal. It reminded me just how normal I am and that if I were to try what he tried, to just put on a scuba suit and fight crime, I'd probably get stabbed in the gut too. Superheroes aren't normal. And that's just fine; they shouldn't be. Being good at anything takes real dedication, not just posturing in front of a mirror and doing a few sit-ups.

I'd like to see it again, of course, to further assess it and to understand what it is going to give me rather than what I want out of it. If I want a story of a heroic super-human, I'll watch my Dark Knight or Iron Man DVDs. If I want to be brought back to Earth, well, that's what Kick-Ass is for.

Iron Man 2 hits theaters in 2 weeks. That's good, because I need some badassery to keep me sane.


  1. Nice post.

    Saw Kick Ass and thought it was great. Yeah, Kick Ass was a terrible hero, which is unsurprising...and somewhat of an interesting change from someone being a complete bad-ass (insert Batman or Iron Man).

    But, the part of the point is he did something; where most people would just avoid conflict or trouble as much as possible, he at least tried.

    So, while he was a terrible hero--and Hit Girl was amazing--there was a point to his actions--aside from wanting to be an awesome superhero.

  2. Such a great review. Much better than Ebert's senseless rant on morality.
    I guess the difference between kick-ass and other people is he has guts to stand out to at least try regardless of the result.

  3. I love reading your reviews of movies, and the more I think about this, the more I agree with you. What I find so interesting is that he still keeps going, because it means something to him not to give up, and to some extent that makes him a hero. Not a superhero, perhaps, because he does get the shit kicked out of him constantly, but a hero none the less. Whereas Red Mist has the tech and the gear and none of the real drive. He's just trying to prove to his dad that he's worth something, and that makes him just pathetic in a sad, I want to hug you sort of way.

    What I walked away from the movie most disappointed with though was not Dave not being super. What disappointed me was that two people, Chris and Dave, who could have been really good friends, have so much in common despite coming from different backgrounds, are now in no position to ever get that chance.

    On a completely unrelated note, Gotta love canon.

    - Miriam

  4. Miriam - Hahaha

    Thanks for the comments, guys.

    And Josh, that's certainly true. I'm not saying there was no point to Kick-Ass's heroics, only that his attempts, in the end, were fairly futile, especially compared to the usual heroics we see from superheroes. The thing driving him to stay in the fight is his intense idealism which, truly, not everyone has and is something special about him. But it definitely doesn't make him a superhero. Just a guy who is willing to try really freakin' hard anyway.