Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

Kick-Ass 2
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Writer: Jeff Wadlow
Based on: Mark Millar’s and John Romita Jr.’s comic
Sequel to: Kick-Ass
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Lyndsy Fonseca, Morris ChestnutClaudia Lee, Donald Faison, John Leguizamo, Jim Carrey, Iain Glen

Plot:
After the events in the last film, Hit-Girl aka Mindy (Chloe Moretz) now lives with her father’s best friend Marcus (Morris Chestnut) and pretends to be a normal high school girl. But instead, she’s fighting crime and training Dave aka Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). But Dave is dreaming of a superhero-team-up. And when Chris, formerly know as Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), decides to become the world’s first supervillain The Motherfucker, a team-up seems to become absolutely necessary.

I was really looking forward to this film. But I spent most of it in horror at the way they twisted the characters and the story and left the movie quite disappointed. It’s not that bad per se, but it rubbed me the wrong way in so many things.

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[SPOILERS]

My major issue with the movie was Hit-Girl’s storyline. It starts with her being magically 4 years older than the last time, even though Kick-Ass only aged two years. And the way it plays out it seems that this is only done so that the film can let out embarrassing clichés about the sexuality of girls (Mindy is turned on for the first time in her life when she watches a boyband video. At 15. Which is just ridiculous) [the dude in the seat behind me yelled out “Fuck You!” at this point, for which I will be eternally grateful]. It ends with her kissing Dave. Which turns one of the most unusual and great relationships between a boy and a girl entirely on its head. And it’s also ew since for me they always had more of a sibling relationship. I dreaded this kiss the entire film, ever since they had Mindy pretending he was her boyfriend to Marcus. [At the same time they don’t manage to take on the female gaze for just one second. If you want to tell the story of a young girl discovering her sexuality, the least you could do, is show her perspective.*]

Oh and the entire storyline with Brooke (Claudia Lee) – Debbie in the comics – was just… first I thought, “interesting, they take the bitchy cheerleader trope and turn it on its head by having Brooke being actually nice and inclusive and trying to help Mindy.” And then it all goes wrong. First they highly sexualize this entire gaggle of teen girls, especially Brooke with her varsity dance**  – and the movie lingers disproportionately on that dance. Then Brooke becomes jealous of Mindy and suddenly we’re back at the stereotype they had subverted thus far. And then they forced vomiting and diarrhea into the story and this is just unnecessary. It also didn’t feel like a particular Hit-Girl-worthy take-down. And it would have been nice to have one female character to be actually girly and still be cool. Because what we get instead is girls and women taking on stereotypically male traits as the only kind of strength. And those who are girly are evil bitches. That’s not what I’d call girl power, even if Mother Russia and Hit-Girl are strong characters, Hit-Girl even in a not only physical way.***

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Apart from my feminist qualms, there was also the fact that this film ends on a way too positive not. Instead of taking the dark direction the comic took and that felt to me like finally the story was going in the right, severe direction that I was missing so far, they let both Hit-Girl and Kick-Ass off the hook and it’s almost as if they’ve forgotten that Dave is now a fucking orphan. Instead they have this creepy kiss and it’s almost like the ending to a fucking RomCom.

I also felt like the story was hampered by the bazooka-ending of the first film. When Dave seeks revenge for his father and Chris screams at him that he killed his father with damn bazooka, so what does he want, you can’t help but kinda agree. I also missed Mindy’s mom, which is also the fault of the first film.**** And the ending with the shark just had none of the charm of the comic.***** I also missed the real evil of the bad guys.

Film Title: Kick-Ass 2

But even though there was this much wrong with the film for me and even though it certainly doesn’t reach the quality of the first film, it was mostly pretty entertaining. There wasn’t a minute I was bored (though I would have gladly exchanged some of my uncomfortableness for boredom). The direction and pacing was mostly excellent, with just a few missed beats (especially when Dave hears of his father’s death – they should have taken more time with his reaction).

The cast was excellent, too, not surprisingly. Chloe Moretz does great things with Hit-Girl. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is perfectly annoying and very funny as The Motherfucker. I didn’t know Iain Glen was in this [and the dude behind me – who left in a hurry unfortunately because I really wanted to tell him that he made the film much better for me] apparently didn’t either as he cried out “NO! Khaleesi!” when he first appeared] and he was creepy as fuck. [Too bad it was only a short scene.] I would have also liked to get more of John Leguizamo. They did get the amount of Jim Carrey just right, and it was great. Aaron Taylor-Johnson should be in every movie anyway.

But despite that I left the theater with a frown on my face. (Actually this was what I felt like.)

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Summarizing: it is entirely possible that I’m overreacting (though I don’t think so). And the film is entertaining. So see it and then let me know what you think.

*And I’m not saying that because I would have enjoyed a more lingering look at Aaron Taylor-Johnson shirtless, though I certainly would have, but because that scene was bad film-making. He takes off his shirt, she looks at him and we don’t really get to see what she sees. That just doesn’t fit.
**Though they certainly aren’t the only ones to be even further sexualized. Night Bitch in her skimpy costume had said skimpy costume in the comic already. Not exactly a grand feminist moment. But the comic does this thing that while you see her boobs and while her costume is barely there, she owns her outfit. Nobody comments on it, nobody takes it as a sign that she can’t be violent and nobody takes it as an invitation to sleep with her. In the film she ends up being yet another lay for Kick-Ass which, you know, is not bad in itself, but it makes her even more sexual than the outfit already does and it made me kinda uncomfortable.
***Read this.
****I didn’t miss her so much because she is a great character – we barely know anything about her. But at least she’s there, thus softening the whole male mentor/young girl dynamic between Marcus and Mindy.
*****[TRIGGER WARNING: rape] They also changed the rape scene from the comic. Which on the one hand I applaud because that scene was extremely fucked up and had no place in the comic at all. But on the other hand the rape doesn’t happen only because The Motherfucker can’t get it up. There is still the intent. The control is still firmly in the men’s hands. Which makes this less of a subversion of the “rape the girlfriend” trope and more of a rape joke.

3 thoughts on “Kick-Ass 2 (2013)

  1. We already talked about this a little bit on Twitter. I agree that it’s not as good as the first one; still, I think one should not just compare it to “Kick-Ass”, which was fantastic in every way IMHO, but also to the rest of the sommer movies. And compared to those, “Kick-Ass 2″ does hold up quite well, I believe.

    Some other thoughts:
    “It starts with her being magically 4 years older than the last time, even though Kick-Ass only aged two years.”
    That’s one of the things that bugged me too. However, given that there were 4 years between the shooting of the first and the second one, I really don’t see how else they could have done it, than practically retroactively age Hit-Girl in “Kick-Ass 1″. I do NOT agree that they did it purposely to bring in all the puberty stuff.

    “Mindy is turned on for the first time in her life when she watches a boyband video. At 15. Which is just ridiculous.” Yes it is. That was the point. ;-)

    “It ends with her kissing Dave. Which turns one of the most unusual and great relationships between a boy and a girl entirely on its head.” Oh boy, did I love that kiss. It was sweet and tender and lovely and the perfect ending to the movie. And if you didn’t already stop reading a couple of words back, because you feared that you’re eyes may roll out of your head otherwise *g*, let me explain: It wasn’t a “horny” kiss. Obviously, Mindy finds him attractive – while he really only sees her as a little sister. However, he’s still the one she runs to when she’s hurt, and arguably the only person in the world that she relies on. I didn’t get the impression that the kiss was there to start anything, relationsship-wise. But it was the logical conclusion for me, giving what both characters went through over the course of those two movies. It was a “recognition” of their time together, and more a farewell-kiss than anything else. I loved it.

    “first I thought, “interesting, they take the bitchy cheerleader trope and turn it on its head by having Brooke being actually nice and inclusive and trying to help Mindy.” And then it all goes wrong.” While I too might have preferred it they wouldn’t have shown Brooke in such a stereotyped way, I do believe it was important for Mindys storyline in the movie.

    “And then they forced vomiting and diarrhea into the story and this is just unnecessary. It also didn’t feel like a particular Hit-Girl-worthy take-down. And it would have been nice to have one female character to be actually girly and still be cool.” Agreed on all three counts.

    “Apart from my feminist qualms, there was also the fact that this film ends on a way too positive not.” Well, she still has to leave town, and has to start over on her own somewhere else. Yes, it wasn’t a downer like her going to prison, but it’s not like it was without consequence at all. Anyway, I loved this ending. Actually, it’s the main reason that – while I would love to see Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl in action on the big screen one more time; however, given the not-so-stellar performance at the box office this seems rather unlikely, unfortunately – I would be ok it this was the last “Kick-Ass” movie. It’s a nice place to leave the characters should they not come back to the big screen. IMHO, that’s one of the things Wadlow absolutely nailed.

    “When Dave seeks revenge for his father and Chris screams at him that he killed his father with damn bazooka, so what does he want, you can’t help but kinda agree.” Indeed. Which was one of the strengths of the movie for me. The MoFo had a point.

    “And the ending with the shark just had none of the charm of the comic.” What I loved about it: a) the shark is such a bond-type bad guy cliché. And the first time you saw it you just KNEW who’s going to end up in that tank :-D.

    “especially when Dave hears of his father’s death – they should have taken more time with his reaction” I actually thought they handled that perfectly, with his shocked reaction and him breaking down, and then switching to the funeral. Btw the scene at the funeral between Mindy and Dave may be my favorite moment of the entire movie.

    “*And I’m not saying that because I would have enjoyed a more lingering look at Aaron Taylor-Johnson shirtless, though I certainly would have, but because that scene was bad film-making. He takes off his shirt, she looks at him and we don’t really get to see what she sees. That just doesn’t fit.” I don’t agree that it was bad filmmaking. IMHO it was not about what Hit-Girl sees, but about how she REACTS to what she sees. Which is exactly why she showed her face first, and only showed us a glimpse of Aaron Taylor-Johnson envy-inducing abs ;-).

    “But on the other hand the rape doesn’t happen only because The Motherfucker can’t get it up.” Which for me was a perfect way to sum the Motherfucker up in one single scene. He’s all ambition. He wants to, but he can’t. He thinks of himself as a supervillian, but in reality, he’s rather pathetic. And while I still have to read the comic, from what I’ve heard I agree with the assessment, that the scene as written wouldn’t have fit into this movie. So this actually was a nice, clever way out, because it actually said something about the character.

    • A sequel always has to hold up against the first one. And just because this summer movie season has been pretty disappointing, this one doesn’t get a free pass. It was decent enough, entertainment-wise, if you ignored/didn’t see/didn’t mind the issues I had with it. For me they just colored the whole thing. I’m not looking for reasons to dislike this film. I did not like it.

      “However, given that there were 4 years between the shooting of the first and the second one, I really don’t see how else they could have done it…”
      That’s a lazy excuse in a movie culture where it’s damn normal for 25+ actors to play high school students. And if it really was impossible that Chloe Moretz could play a 13 year old, then Kick-Ass has to be older, too. Would it have destroyed the story if he was at uni? Don’t think so.

      ““Mindy is turned on for the first time in her life when she watches a boyband video. At 15. Which is just ridiculous.” Yes it is. That was the point. ;-)”
      But the film makes the wrong thing seem ridiculous. It makes it look like all girls magically love boybands and just seeing a boyband video makes them hot and bothered. That means they don’t make fun of boybands or fandoms (which is an extremely low blow anyway) but of female sexuality. And you can stick that misogynistic crap somewhere else.

      I think that we can talk all night about that kiss but probably won’t reach the same conclusion. For me, even though it wasn’t a horny kiss, with that I concur, it was extremely icky because they’ve always had a sibling dynamic. And that means that no amount of farewell makes that kiss ok.

      “While I too might have preferred it they wouldn’t have shown Brooke in such a stereotyped way, I do believe it was important for Mindys storyline in the movie.”
      It’s fine for Mindy to have had an adversary in school, but Brooke was such a stereotype it didn’t work for me at all. And it wasn’t the only way this could have played out, either.

      Again, we probably could talk about the ending forever. I thought that, despite the fact the Hit-Girl has to leave, it was way too sweet for the dark storyline and it didn’t satisfy me at all.

      “The MoFo had a point.”
      I thought that Kick-Ass’s consistent use of double standards in this point hurt the story and him as a character.

      “the scene at the funeral between Mindy and Dave may be my favorite moment of the entire movie.”
      That scene was very nice. But I still wanted to stay with Dave a little longer during the discovery.

      “IMHO it was not about what Hit-Girl sees, but about how she REACTS to what she sees.”
      It’s about Hit-Girl’s awakening sexuality. Her awakening female gaze that sees the sexiness in men. And I think that showing almost only her reaction uses the male gaze (again) to talk about her female gaze. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t have seen her reaction at all. I’m saying that if you want to talk about the female gaze, employ it. That means that the scene plays out the same way, only that instead of 0.5 seconds of Taylor-Johnson’s abs, we get a 3 second pan. Suddenly we’re in Mindy’s had. We see what she’s seeing, and for her it is the first time that she actually looks at a man that way. Then cut to her face and her startled reaction. And that’s how this scene should have gone.

      “So this actually was a nice, clever way out, because it actually said something about the character.”
      Yeah, but it again marks a rape scene, albeit only an attempted one, that entirely revolves around the dude. It’s about his lack of power, it’s about his character. It’s not about the woman who is threatened. And that might make it less brutal than the original scene, but it’s not exactly a real take-down or inversion of these “rapes to get at the boyfriend” anyway.

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