There were many moments in the James Gunn directed, Shreveport shot flick Super that went beyond quirky and into intensely dramatic. Sometimes sweet, sometimes sick, but always powerful. For me, the best moment came at the climax when a character gets shot in the face, and the camera stays with the dead body for several seconds. In this scene, we are reminded that there are real consequences to real actions, and a naive, “fun” comic book-inspired quest for justice means nothing to someone with a gun.
Finding this reality check in Kick Ass 2 is like finding Waldo – but less family-friendly, of course.
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With the original movie, the main draw was (aside from being an adaptation of a popular graphic novel) that it depicted people taking the adventurous world of superheroes and applying it to their real lives, only to learn the hard way that real humans really get hurt. For real. When you get lit on fire, there is no super healing power or friend with cooling super breath to save you; only a painful stay at the hospital or death are coming your way. Now, the movie did get outrageous and over the top with its action, but only after firmly establishing their impact, adding a weight to the fantastical style fights.
The sequel might as well have taken place in space, as weightlessness is on display heavily. And that’s a shame, really. Our main characters deal with relatable issues like boredom, high school and being true to your parents. But they just can’t escape their comic book obsession. When Mindy (Hit Girl) goes to a slumber party, she makes a crack about Stan Lee fanboys that goes over the heads of the other girls. When David (Kick Ass) becomes a teammate in a new superhero group, he proudly shouts the name Justice Forever… to absolutely no one. He just wanted to have a moment he could picture in his mind – illustrated and within a square panel. In the end, both characters use their comic book mentality to justify what they ultimately end up doing (“this city needs me” stuff). This aspect would’ve been fascinating, had it been the focus of the story, and not glorified as something cute and wonderful.
Sure, Justice Forever save a brothel of young immigrant women from being sex slaves. Sure, they volunteer at homeless shelters and such. Advocating community action is not wrong. Doing everything else IS. A villain kills off police officers in a hulk-like manner while a hero dances away from bullets on the roof of a van. Multiple stabbings, multiple shootings, multiple beatings. Never do any of these events sink in fully. They happen only for that short term reaction of “WHOA!” from the audience. Attack, blood, cut to next scene. Who cares, but doesn’t it look “cool”?
Kick Ass 2 cares more about being balls to the wall violent and vulgar than it does in examining the actions of its characters or even audience. I’m not looking for finger wagging or pointing, but I do ask for something that starts a conversation. Instead, I was subjected to a video game without access to a controller. A story meant to be and billed as being satirical of everything surrounding superhero tales becomes nothing more than the very product it’s trying to comment on.
A character named Dr. Gravity sports a bat that he, at first, claims defies the laws of physics.
“Really?” “No, of course not. It’s just a bat,” he says. At least someone’s head is on straight.