The old bromide stating that lightening never strikes the same location may be provably erroneous but there is a group of people whose profession is built on strikes; movie producers. The entire concept of the sequel is to force that powerful box office electricity to repeat itself, the catch is although the studio is intent on reprising the same characters, ideally with the same cast and nearly identical circumstances but reassemble them in such a fashion that the sequel simultaneously comes across as the same as the original but fresh and novel. This might appear to be the definition of contradiction and the oxymoron but time and time again the studios spend literally billions in making the attempt. Although there are cases where the sequel meets or exceeds the original, ‘Godfather 2’ or ‘Aliens’ are the most stellar examples but all too many fail to come close to the expectations of fans, critics and studio executives. This is an examination of a recent of such a lackluster movie, ‘Kick-Ass 2’.
The first was a sleeper hit primarily appealing to the currently empowered generation. Their infatuation with graphic novels defiantly contain many similarities to our involvement with the comic books of our youth but it are the differences that made for the popularity of the initial ‘Kick-Ass’ film and ultimately led to the shortcomings of this sequel. There was always a certain amount of violence inherent in comics but for 12¢ targeting preteens and up. With graphic novels and the new generation of comic books the price is up around $25 and the themes decidedly more mature. The first ‘Kick-Ass’ movie depended on shock value to draw the attention of the public and their ever important entertainment dollars. The premise targeted a form of role playing most of us engaged in as kids; creating a make shift costume and pretend to be your favorite super hero. ‘Kick-Ass’ was the nom de guerre of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). He decides to become a costume crime fighter. The initial futile attempts to ply his new vocation results in being batted so severely that bones replaced with metal substitutes and nerve damage makes him insensitive to pain. He teams up with a young girl barely in her teens, Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz) going under the name of Hit-Girl. Taught my her now deceased father she is a petite killing machine with deadly martial arts skills and an acumen for weaponry that would make Delta Force training seem routine.
The second movie picks up some time after the events of the first when the exploits of Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl has embolden a following of other regular citizens yearning to become costume vigilantes. Soon there were sufficient number of them that they gather together as the heroic team; Justice Forever. The principle membership of this rag tag accumulation of super hero wannabes included Dave’s friend, Marty (Clark Duke) now known as Battle Guy, Dr. Gravity (Donald Faison), Insect Man (Robert Emms) and Night-Bitch (Lindy Booth). The ‘team’ is led by the jingoistic, Colonel Stars and Stripes(Jim Carrey) who may have a higher pseudo rank than that guy with the shield but none of the abilities either mental or physical. Although Kick-ass and Hit-Girl are trying to distance themselves from their nocturnal antics in order to have some semblance of a regular teenage life. There is a tie to those endeavors for Dave who is enamored by Night Bitch. Mindy has a little success in normalizing her high school life by auditioning for the dance team. Her years of training as Hit-Girl pay off as she easily aces the tryout. This infuriates the local popular queen bee, Brooke (Claudia Lee) but unbeknownst to the archetypical mean girl Mindy is not one to be taken lightly. When she arranges a fake date leaving Mindy stranded in the middle of nowhere the audience is primed and ready for some retribution.
The villain from the first movie, Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), has abandoned his persona as ‘Red Mist’ in favor of a moniker unsuitable for any family friendly venue, let’s refer to it as ‘The Motherfu©∑er’. The number of situations and secondary characters employed here will be overly familiar to any comic book aficionado. For example if you have an ultra-patriotic hero you need to oppose him with an anti-American foe. An Amazonian ex KGB agent becomes his nemesis, Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina). Peppering the proceedings are characters with the distinctively descriptive names as Black Death (Daniel Kaluuya), The Tumor (Andy Nyman) and as a major part of the story Ass Kicker (Andy Nyman). It is normal for the producers of a sequel to make every effort to intensify the elements of the original a tactic that while necessary to a degree can get out of hand. When the action forms a tsunami overwhelming any semblance of a plot than the quality can only suffer. The original worked largely because of the way it built the story on a solid parody of the comic book urban costumed heroes particularly those lacking super human abilities. It played into a fantasy most of us played with as kids and that never completely left us as the adult responsibilities supplanted such notions. The dichotomy of a regular guy actually making a difference of a teenaged girl that can not only take out a squadron of armed men but shock the audience with profanity that could make a Teamster blush.
The sequel had a flimsy plot that barely served as a scaffold for the action sequences. Many action movies work despite the insubstantial story but there is usually sufficient audience investment with the characters from the original to carry over. The characters of Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl are quite interesting and quite capable of imitating a sequel. Unfortunately the value of these characters is diluted by the addition of all the other heroes and villains. This might be a standard tactic in the comics and has been picked up by several more successful franchises but inevitably the critics and fans often cite as the point the series makes that proverbial leap over the shark tank. It requires more than action to support such a crowed stage of combatants. The result is the over reliance on violence intensified to ludicrous level.
It might have been a planned means to increase the buzz but Jim Carrey became
This is indicative of the recent trend to append the word extreme to an activity conferring upon it a façade of being better than the ‘non extreme; some that is proven as not true. It might have been a part of a carefully planned marketing ploy but Jim Carrey publically and adamantly came out condemning the level of violence depicted in the film. Whether or not it was planned to counter the anticipated objections to the violence was to meet it head on siding with the vehement objections. While not as extreme or senseless as many other movies I’ve come across recently. It would make sense considering those most concerned with the box office of the flick had to realize that after an opening weekend that probably would be fairly strong the word of mouth would poison the subsequent revenues. At least this way the conversations were not focused on short comings and join in the public in condemning its excesses. In a way it is a shame since even a cursory glance at the cast list shows that that there was a considerable amount of talent assembled here.