I want to start this review by saying that I legitimately like the first Kick-Ass film. It’s not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination and I definitely ended up liking The Losers and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World more by the end of 2010, but it was a lot of fun, legitimately funny, and even emotional at some parts.
I cannot say the same for Kick-Ass 2.
Maybe it’s the weak writing that basically undoes the first film. Maybe it’s the three years worth of perspective changes for me, but the more I think about Kick-Ass 2, the more frustrated I get.
The film starts two years after the first one, where Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a high school senior and Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz) is now 15. Which is my first real hang up because Mindy was 11 in the previous film. Maybe that’s a nitpicky thing to notice, but I feel like they could have easily adjusted years to put some consistency between the two films.
Anyway, despite the fact that Dave has said he’s retired and fine with others taking up super hero mantles in the first film, he’s feeling bored of being Dave and is ready to take up being Kick-Ass again, which is what brings him to Mindy. The beginning training montage between them is really cute in a somewhat violent way that reminds me of how Mindy interacted with her father in the first film (by the way, the picture of Nicolas Cage they use in the film is hilarious), but then everything goes downhill real quick.
I’m going to state outright that the fight scenes in Kick-Ass 2 are amazing. If you’re looking for well coordinated violence, the film has it in spades. In particular, the scenes of Mindy visualizing herself as Hit-Girl taking on four attackers when auditioning for the dance team and Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) taking out a fleet of cops in a series of creative and brutal ways were a joy to watch from a pure action movie perspective. It’s easy to see why Jim Carrey disassociated himself from the movie, but in terms of over-the-top stylized violence, it’s pretty fun.
The cast is also really good, despite being given a less than stellar script to work with. It was hard not to be charmed by most of Justice Forever, especially the enthusiastic Doctor Gravity (played by the forever adorable Donald Faison), the sweet couple known as Remembering Tommy (Steven Mackintosh and Monica Dolan), and the legitimately good leader Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey) and his faithful German Shepherd Eisenhower. John Leguizamo pulls in a wonderful and strangely sweet performance as Chris D’Amico’s (Christopher Mintz-Plasse) bodyguard Javier, but he gets fridged halfway through the film, stripping the villains of any interesting moral voice.
In fact, that’s one of my complaints about this film: several of the more interesting characters exist only to be fridged later. It’s even explicitly stated in the film that most of those characters killed or injured are only being hurt to cause damage to Dave’s life. I guess that’s what happens when you have characters that decide to be real life superheroes and supervillains is that they start playing out the tropes of the comic books they’re imitating, but in a film that is already weakly rehashing its predecessor, it’s disappointing that the new characters being introduced are mostly there to be plot devices for the main characters that aren’t really advancing forward.
Dave is still a bored, self-obsessed teenager who can’t make up his mind on whether to keep the mantle of Kick-Ass or leave it, and Chris is still a whiny rich boy with daddy issues that are made more obnoxious when he puts on BDSM gear, starts calling himself The Mother Fucker, and goes on the supervillian kick. In fact, the only character who really gets any development is Mindy, who is struggling to adapt to a more normal life after her guardian Marcus Williams (Morris Chestnut) puts his foot down on her being Hit-Girl.
That’s where my second major problem with this film comes in: Most of that storyline ends up being one of the most insulting things a comic book film has done to me as a woman. And so does part of Dave’s.
I don’t know why I was surprised. Mark Millar, the creator of Kick-Ass, has put his old fashioned comic book sexism on record. Why would I even think that wouldn’t carry over to a film based on his work? Still, it’s somehow more insulting when it involves female characters that are already written poorly: teenage girls.
I never expected Mindy to act like a “normal” teenage girl. She’s gone through some traumatic things since her birth and wasn’t really allowed to be a kid. Navigating teenage years are hard enough when you’re growing up. I can’t imagine what it would be like when you had to be a grown up by age 11 and you can kill a man with his own finger. However, her storyline about trying to integrate into being a teenage girl felt like a cheap, super toxic knock-off of Mean Girls.
The popular girl Brooke (Claudia Lee) and her clique decide to take on Mindy as their pet project, insisting that she’s just like them. Even getting her to audition for the dance team. Yes, this film passes the Bechdel test for having teenage girls talk about their biology, potential, and insecurity about making it on the dance team.
It also passes for having Brooke’s crew abandon Mindy in the woods instead of inviting her to a party after Mindy does better at the tryouts, Brooke telling Mindy to “go ahead and kill [herself]” because she’ll never be on Brooke’s level, and Mindy exacting her revenge by calmly telling Brooke that she’s a superhero and then hitting her crew with what is known as “the Sick Stick.” I don’t even want to talk about what that means.
It’s bad enough that the film resorts to using the preppy and popular girl stereotypes to prove that Mindy is somehow more superior than them, but that it tries to disguise itself as some sort of power message. As Film School Rejects pointed out, passing the Bechdel test does not necessarily make your film not sexist. It just means that your terribly written teenage girls didn’t always talk about boys.
There is one non-terrible Bechdel test passing moment in the film where Night Bitch (Lindy Booth) helps women who were forced into prostitution escape to a battered women’s shelter and gives them a huge bag of money taken from their pimp to start their life over. It’s an awesome moment considering that Night Bitch to avenge her sister who was killed and found in a dumpster.
But remember what I said about fridged characters earlier? Yeah, forget Night Bitch being a fully developed character with an arc. She’s just there to be rebound for Kick-Ass after his girlfriend breaks up with him after being in the film for two minutes, is threatened with rape when The Mother Fucker goes on his revenge spree, and is severely beaten when he can’t get it up. Then, when she breaks up with Kick-Ass, she gets dropped from the film minus her appearance in the final battle. Hooray.
So if Dave’s girlfriend from the first movie breaks up with him in the first act and his new girlfriend breaks up with him in the second, who does that leave him to kiss in the big finale?
Well, remember how Mako and Raleigh developed an awesome friendship in Pacific Rim, didn’t make out in the end, and everything was great?
Yeah. Same thing happens with Dave and Mindy in this film. Except they do kiss at the end and everything is terrible because there’s no real tension leading up to it except for one moment where Mindy stammers at Dave’s shirtless body. Which is easy to do. Dave’s got abs for days, but I don’t see why Mindy suddenly has to be attracted to Dave. Is it really impossible for them to be just friends and teammates?
I really had hopes for this film, but it’s disappointing when all it gave me was a half-assed story, terrible character development, and enraging tropes and expected me to not notice behind the fast paced fight scenes.
I’m just glad I didn’t pay to see this. Save your money for The World’s End next week. Go buy a comic that gives positive light to women. Rent Mean Girls. Hell, go see Pacific Rim again if you can find it. Just support something that is actually kick ass and doesn’t make you feel like you’ve had your own ass kicked by Hollywood again.