Thursday, 7 January 2010

Preview: Kick-Ass (

Matthew Vaughn was destined to get to superheroes eventually. After an eleventh-hour exit from directing the third X-Men outing in 2005, he side-stepped into the fantasy genre, successfully adapting Neil Gaiman's playful novel Stardust (with a very starry cast to boot), and revealed a flair for tongue-in-cheek comedy; quite a change from his efficient and brutally violent debut, Layer Cake. It appears that comic books were still close to his heart though, as his forthcoming third feature is an adaptation of Kick-Ass, an ongoing comics series by Scottish writer Mark Millar and American artist John Romita Jr. Described by Millar as 'Spider-Man meets Superbad', Kick-Ass appears to fit Vaughn's established styles perfectly, taking a cheeky sideways glance at the superhero genre and layering it with blood-gushing violence.

The title refers to the superhero name that ordinary kid Dave Lizewski assumes when he decides to put on a home-made costume and become a crime fighter. This decision is prompted by a question: how come, out of all the billions of people in the world, no-one has ever actually tried to do what the guys in the comics do? Dave decides to give it a shot, and is predictably laughed at and beaten up by the criminals he tries to stop. But in taking that first step he becomes aware of others who are out there doing the same thing, and while they're all just as 'normal' as Dave, they're a little bit more prepared for action.

Those with memory spans of over five minutes might be thinking that we've been here before, not even 12 months ago, with Zack Snyder's stylised epic Watchmen. While it's true that the basic themes of ordinary people donning capes and 18-rated violence flies pretty close to the hallmarks of Snyder's divisive hit, from the footage I've seen of Kick-Ass the key difference here is in the tone. Where Watchmen was deadly serious and played out on a global canvas, Kick-Ass seems to be pitched somewhere between playful and silly, and has a much more focused, personal storyline. In fact, the film it appears most comparable to is Kill Bill: Vol. 1; as well as the aforementioned spraying blood, Vaughn has opted for a primary-coloured visual palette reminiscent of Bill, and the snippets of dialogue I heard positively fizzed with self-consciously Tarantino-esque wit.

That dialogue, penned by Vaughn and his Stardust co-writer Jane Goldman, is one of the film's most potentially controversial points, particularly in the amount of expletives uttered by Hit Girl, a 12-year old sword-swinger you definitely wouldn't want to mess with (played by up-and-coming actress Chloe Moretz, last seen as Joe Gordon Levitt's worldly-wise little sister in (500) Days of Summer). The UK's easily excited movie magazines, along with the film's distributors Universal, are already celebrating this censor-baiting aspect of Kick-Ass, and even using it as a selling point, but I am yet to be convinced that it is anything more than a gimmick, and a bad taste one at that. Of course, Hit Girl's dialogue may yet prove to be an essential element of the character and perfectly justifiable within the context; we'll have to wait and see.

Regardless of such controversies, what is clear now is that Vaughn deserves praise for even getting this film made. Having received no studio backing, he raised funds independently, attracted a great mix of new and established acting talent - from hot young lead Aaron Johnson to old pro in need of a kick-start Nicolas Cage - and has not compromised on creating the film he originally had in mind. Let's hope it's worth the effort.

Kick-Ass is released in UK cinemas on April 2nd. This preview first appeared on

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