Patrolling on the brick wall that separates Spider-Man’s NYC and Hobo with a Shotgun’s Scumtown is Kick-Ass 2, a super-hero film for the midnight movie faithful, a Tromaville splatter-comedy revenge epic with A-List backing, the Tick vs. Maniac Cop, the Super-Friends as re-imagined by the Murder Junkies, playing make believe with spastics and sociopaths…. Hell, just call it one cocksucker of a good time at the movies. Remember having those? Before every asbestos-wheezing gasbag would spoil your fun via lazily ranting through a keyboard, not so much angry because the entertainment was less-than-stellar as they are infuriated that they had to leave the house for a few hours and be around people (previous sentence only done with the faintest hint of self mockery… ok, a lot of it)? or before this new wave of outrage began punctuating the expression of opinion? I’d say its level has reached parodic, but the self-righteous indignation is so un-entertainingly callow that it surpasses spoof and glides comfortably into cryptofacist hate-speech. It’s why you see insufferable blog posts bemoaning the existence of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”, a benign nudie-cutie charmer, densely accusing the song and its accompanying video of being recruitment tools for misogynistic objectification, causally promoting the thriving continuity of a pop culture rape machine through a wink-wink-nudge-nudge-say-no-more mock-dismissal of such a system’s existence.
It really shouldn’t surprise me at this point, but I’m still perplexed that here we are, 13 years deep into a new millennium, and we still have people fainting from appall when faced with violence or sex being presented in a creative environment. I wonder if its just an opportunity for certain types to condescend to supposed moral sensitivities, deluding themselves into the idea that they’re less prone to reptilian impulses than those of us who dare to find value in what the popular conscious has deemed objectionable, judging a work that is deliberate in its unpleasantness for achieving its goal. They call its acts/message “pointless”, when really it’s their tangential disgust that’s pointless, because while not entirely without provocation, it’s barren of interpersonal substance beyond the emotional misnomer that being outraged is synonymous with being humane, that they’ve achieved some sort of ultra-enlightenment that grants them the wisdom and the strength to rise above their baser instincts.
Make no mistake; KA2 is a violent film, more than equal to its predecessor, yet still more than a few pints shy of the blood-drenched anti-chicanery present in its four-color counterpart. Don’t let the critics fool you, if you’ve read the comic, you know how much more vicious it could have been. And for the rest, trust me, you have seen A LOT worse. Other than that and a few other details, a generous helping of the comic has made it to the film, with some further character-play and breezy comedy peppered in to keep the affair a charming thrift shop version of the Masters of Evil destroying the Avengers’ mansion rather than an Infinity Gauntlet Red Wedding.
Playing off of the Dark Knight theory of escalation, KA2 ramps up the menace a few hundred notches, with armies of people in funny costumes with silly names making the world all their own. It’s the sort of group of heroes vs. conglomerate of villains war story that never not works in comics, yet somehow never seems to make it to the cinematic adaptations. How much cooler would Avengers had been if instead of fighting non-descript alien invaders, the team had fought an equal-to-greater alliance of their greatest adversaries? All that history, personality, and character definition as each of them faced off against their opposite number? Where the “big two” slack, KA2 runs full throttle into the battle of good vs. evil, making it matter. It also doesn’t forget about the fundamental absurdity of masked vigilantes/costumed villains or the ruthless surrealism of their hyper-dramatic clashes. It short, it’s not all grimly serious and gritty business here. While the chaos of the KA universe (comic and film) is brutal and not without consequence, it follows that with a message of “yeah, it’s not always gonna be a slap fight with a bad-guy wrestler, but if we’re gonna do this, then we’re gonna do it all, because that’s the only way our cause will truly mean anything… so stop your fucking whining and suit up”. And isn’t that really what being a super-hero is about?
Perhaps this is no better illustrated than in the character of Hit-Girl, the closest thing the KA universe has to a conscious. The first act of the film, drawing from the Hit-Girl micro-series, makes the same point as its source material without beating it into your head that its making that point; that Mindy McCready (wondrously embodied by Chloe Grace Moretz) is everything not only a comic book hero (male or female, adult or child) should be, but at her essence, her center, she is perhaps the most positive role model (again, not constrained to gender) to come along in the medium in a long time. Yes, she kills people. Yes, she has a potty mouth. Yes, she wouldn’t have voted for President Obama (had she been voting age), but she is also determined, resilient, loyal, intelligent, fully capable of taking care of herself, and knows exactly who she is and what she’s about. Also, unlike some other lady heroes (some of whom appear in this film); her costume is functional rather than revealingly sexualized…. Not that there’s anything wrong with the latter AMIRITEDURHUR. Anyway, even when the customs of tween hierarchy dictate to girls that they’re supposed to value overpriced accessories, glib vapidness, and their appeal/dependence on boys as a form of self-validation, Mindy McCready understands that it’s more important to pay attention the your surroundings, to have a plan, and that, borrowing a line from Frank Millers the Dark Knight Returns, the world will only make sense when you force it to do so. Now, I’m suggesting that the total of one’s morals be taken entirely from comic books down to minutia (don’t kill people or get behind cowboy conservatives who haven’t really fought a day in their lives), but the basic essence of that ideological structure can act as a skeleton for your own moral architecture…. But then again, the series also shows you how fucked-up and dangerous it is to get your morals from comic books, creating a dystopic atmosphere of reckless endangerment with an ouroboros of payback; a devour/defecate clockwork orgy where the battle is owed more to callous routine than sympathetic instigation… but let’s chill for a minute here.
That a film this colorfully offbeat and less-than-gun-shy found itself a wide release in 2013 is a success all its own. we’re in a time right now where it seems like a work that’s daringly eccentric or even marginally transgressive struggles to make a 2 day go of it at some run-down art theater on the outskirts of civilization before being dumped unceremoniously onto various home viewing outlets, because multiplexes are more preoccupied with showcasing struggling, bloated turkeys like the Lone Ranger than providing a decent venue for something like Only God Forgives, a film that might not fit the textbook definition of “crowd pleaser”, but no doubt packs a more memorable, long lasting punch than Johnny Depp playing Powderface Funnyhat for the 857th go-round.
I can’t believe this needs to be said, but KA2 is not what’s wrong with films, let alone society. It’s a satire, one that works as a candy colored exaggeration of real world violence and as a sobering reality check for cartoon violence. If choreographed carnage, ambiguous shifts in morality, and playful profanity will only further bruise your tenderized soul, take in a screening of the Butler instead. There you can weep along with the weep-along, placate your white-guilt, assure yourself that everything is better now, and rock your gentle self to sleep as a compilation of whale songs hums at low volume, all the while whispering “this too will pass” into the tummy of your stuffed spirit animal. If your comic habits revolve around the latest Green Lantern x-over event, if your viewing habits are exclusively dependent upon the Walt Disney Fantasy Film Monopoly, than KA was never meant for you. If you love films, comics, and films based on comics, but have grown tired of all their overwrought symbolism, hackish video game conflicts, murky humanism, and assembly-line-formulaic structure, than consider KA2 your consolation prize for trudging through the Wolverines, the Men of Steel, and any other high-calorie-no-nutrition mid-octane sludge begging for your entertainment dollar this (or any) summer. It fucking delivers what it fucking promises.