Anthony Stokes on what Kick-Ass 2 got wrong….
Kick-Ass is a great movie. It’s the essential black comedy, with immoral characters, morbid humor, and gleeful violence. It’s one of my favorite movies and I prefer watching it over The Dark Knight. That’s how much I unconditionally love this movie. So how do I feel about Kick-Ass 2? Well, Kick-Ass 2 was several steps down from it’s predecessor in almost every way. Now it’s not a bad movie by any stretch – it’s just what you expect when you hear the premise. I want to list some things it did wrong in hopes that Matthew Vaughn will read this and fix his franchise…
It Wasted Its Cast
You have a lot of talented people in this movie. John Leguizamo, Jim Carrey, and Donald Faison to name a few. Now every single major character in Kick-Ass was interesting and left an impression. I’d even put Mark Strong’s performance as the villain in my Top 10 Comic Book Movie Villains. But here the actors could be replaced by anybody. Don’t get me wrong – they’re good, but they just don’t have the screen presence of Mark Strong and Nicolas Cage in the first movie. Even returning players Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Christopher Mintz-Plasse are trying hard to work with the material, but it’s not good enough for them to give the performances they’re capable of. Chloe Grace Moretz is the only performer who gives a consistently good performance throughout the entire movie. Just like original, she’s the one everybody is going to be talking about when they leave this movie, and for good reason.
It Sticks Too Closely to the Source Material
Sometimes sticking to the source material isn’t the best of ideas. Sorry fanboys, but all the best superhero movies take inspiration, before spinning the material in a whole new direction. And most of the times sticking to the source material means using it as a story board and being unable to find an interesting way to present it – Watchmen for example. Let’s be honest, Kick-Ass is not the best comic book. It’s a great idea, it has some funny moments, but mainly it’s just an okay little book with some really gratuitous violence. Mark Millar is a guy who I think is a great “Story By” guy, but his comics always feel like they’re trying way too hard, and none of them have ever blown me away. So anybody who’s read Kick-Ass 2 knows it’s kind of messy and self-indulgent, and it feels like a 10-year-old wrote it. Matthew Vaughn took Kick-Ass, removed certain elements, and more importantly added new scenes, characters, and elements to the movie’s success. Kick-Ass 2 feels like they had no way to spin the material to make it better. Sometimes when adapting material you have to look at it and say “Is this all golden material?”. It feels like Jeff Wadlow didn’t ask that question. And speaking of which…
It Has Weak Direction
Anybody remember Paul? It was this little movie written by Simon Pegg and Nick Frost which was essentially the same formula they used on Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz. Except this time there was no Edgar Wright. And with there being no Edgar Wright, the movie suffered from problems largely missing from their previous work together. It’s the same case here. Matthew Vaughn is a talent and made Kick-Ass the great movie that is was. Without him, there’s glaring flaws in the sequel which were absent from the original. Now Jeff Wadlow has several things working against him. He’s making a sequel to what many consider to be one of the greatest comic book movies of all time. He’s also adapting weaker source material then Vaughn did. But even so, I can’t help but feel like Wadlow has little to no directing talent next to Vaughn. He’s bland. He’s like a rice cake. Kick-Ass had a great visual style with lush saturated colors, and great transitions from scene to scene. Origin stories are a director’s time to shine and Vaughn stepped up to the plate to deliver a visual treat which made everything infinitely more interesting then just playing scenes out flatly and traditionally. Wadlow’s Kick-Ass 2 is just bland. Gone are the fun transitions and the comic book like aesthetics. This looks like any other movie that came out this year. There’s nothing he brought here that stands out, aside from a few lines of genuinely funny dialogue. Apart from that, there’s nothing salvageable from his direction or the screenplay, which was solely written by him. Wadlow already had some misses in his filmography and this was his chance to step up to the bat and he struck out big time. I fear for X-Force.
It Wastes Elements From the First Movie
What made Kick-Ass 2 feel almost like a straight-to-DVD movie for me was how a lot of elements from the movie were pushed aside. Dave’s girlfriend Katie is reduced to a cameo, when that could’ve been something to explore. And with all of the mentions of Big Daddy, there are no flashbacks of him in the movie. He’s mentioned so much why not have an original, charming, funny flashback scene that reiterates his relationship with Hit-Girl? The scene writes itself; Nicolas Cage turned in his best performance of the last decade as Big Daddy and was obviously enthusiastic, but they couldn’t get him back for one scene?
It Has No Presence
Kick-Ass 2 is that movie you see and then if someone asks what you did that day you might forget to mention it. While the first Kick-Ass was a smart, fun satire of superhero movies, Kick-Ass 2 is just a regular superhero movie. And as a traditional superhero movie without any superpowers on display, it’s extremely underwhelming. The first few fights in Kick-Ass and the warehouse scene with Big Daddy were amazing. They had tension and were expertly choreographed and directed. Here Wadlow has replaced that great choreography and genuine sense of tension and fun with shaky cam and standard action scenes. There was the potential to make these action scenes cool and fun or at least have some tension, but for me personally the action scenes just dragged. Overall, the film left little impression on me, and had you asked if I what movies I’ve seen recently I’d probably forget to mention it.
Overall Kick-Ass 2 was a massive disappointment for me. I can’t help but feel like Matthew Vaughn read Kick-Ass 2, realized how weak it was and handed the keys to someone else. Good move on Vaughn’s part, but I’m really worried for X-Men: Days Of Future Past right now. Personally I’d like to have seen more from Kick-Ass 2, so at least then I could tell there was some effort put in this movie. And once again it’s not a bad movie as such – it just plays it safe when the first took so many risks and was so dark and edgy. Mark Millar has already wrote Kick-Ass 3 and stated there’s a possibility for a movie adaptation; let’s hope Wadlow steps aside so Matthew Vaughn can return to give this franchise the conclusion that fans of the original deserve.
What are you thoughts on Kick-Ass 2? Let us know in the comments below…
Anthony Stokes is a blogger and independent filmmaker.