Kick-Ass, the comic, despises its protagonist. Kick-Ass, the comic, thinks Dave Lizewski is a creepy (possibly sick in the head) loser, and while he’s certainly relate-able, Dave Lizewski is kind of a creepy loser. Kick-Ass, the movie, on the other hand, takes pity on this poor sad sack of teenage angst and allows his wish fulfillment fantasies to go ahead and work out, a notion the comic has utterly rejected, at least so far.
While the movie and the comic are essentially about the same idea – what happens when some asshole decides to play superhero? - the comic remains realistic to the end. Hardcore fans of the comic’s unforgiving treatment of Dave’s addiction to vigilantism might find the movie’s much happier ending a bit hard to swallow, but they’ll be lying if they tell you Hit-Girl’s merciless slaughter of 50-some-odd gangsters isn’t something to cheer out loud for.
Yeah, that’s right. I said cheer. Plenty of mainstream critics have criticized Kick-Ass‘ violence in general, and most of them have focused on Hit-Girl, a prepubescent vigilante who could match or maybe even take down Beatrix Kiddo in a sword fight. They’re a little freaked out that an eleven year old actress uttered the word “cunt” and then racked up a ridiculously high body count. Putting aside the fact that Kick-Ass is (by the way) a work of fiction, based on a work of comic book fiction, actress Chloe Grace Moretz didn’t actually slice and dice anyone. (It’s not real ketchup, Bobby!) She did some stunts with a green screen and a blue sword and the gore was, for the most part, added in later. Anyone who thinks a girl with four big brothers has never heard the word cunt before is kidding herself, and let’s not forget that Moretz’s parents must have approved her working on the movie in the first place. Parents concerned about Hit-Girl’s negative influence on their own children probably shouldn’t be taking their young girls to rated R movies in the first place. Ultimately, one wonders if a silver screen version of Damien Wayne would invite the same sort of criticism, but I doubt it. He’s a boy. Much of the criticism seems to say “Look what they made that little girl do!” without actually considering the movie based on its merits, one of which is the fact that Moretz’s pint-sized ass-kicker saves the day, big time.
Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are the real stars of this movie, even though they’re not the main characters, which isn’t surprising. Mark Millar actually conceived Hit-Girl and Big Daddy before he came up with Dave Lizewski, who was added later as a sympathetic character through whom we’d meet the disturbing Father/Daughter team. While Kick-Ass (the loser) pisses his pants, Hit-Girl and Big Daddy are an arsenal closer to the real deal. Comic Hit-Girl is the only masked hero who’s not a complete wanker, and the only character with any semblance of a happy ending, the years she should be spending in therapy notwithstanding. Kick-Ass, the movie, lets Dave have a happy ending too. This makes for far more enjoyable cinema, but takes quite a bit away from the comic’s message that “Doing this will get your ass kicked in the real world, asshole!”
In the end, the comic’s version of the story is more accurate and realistic, remaining faithful to the idea that vigilantism in the real world will just get your ass kicked, but the movie’s version of events is way more fun to watch. Fans of the comic will be a bit taken aback by some of the changes in the plot, but the tweaks don’t make the movie any less enjoyable, though regular audiences who migrate to the comic after seeing the movie may be a little disappointed.
Kick-Ass gets 3.9 out of 5 stars from me, because any movie that can make me yell “You get ‘em girl!” at the screen with sheer delight is a movie worth catching in theaters. (Sorry to anyone who was in the theater with me. I was just really excited.) Bonus points for Nic Cage’s Adam West impression and all the John Romita Jr. artwork featured in the film.