I only made it four issues into the comic Kick-Ass, it was a little too x-treme for my liking: The kind of ultra violence that children get excited about, but becomes old news once you’ve looked at spaceghetto a couple of times. It’s just a little too crazy with over-the-top blood and guts and snarky, tongue-in-cheek dialogue, and it moves out of the "shocking" territory and steps into "this is silly but not in a good way" territory. John Romita Jr.’s art is an ill-fit, all the sprays of blood and the prostitutes and gangsters are too cartoony for a story that is supposed to be “real” and gritty.
The comic tries to comment on comics and vigilantism--it's but one more cynical superhero deconstruction--while also presenting a relatively interesting, at least initially, what if: What if the people of New York City got behind a guy in a green and yellow suit who walks down the street fighting crime and saving kittens? What if it inspired copycats and became a social networking phenomenon? Basically, a comic book world, so citizens believe in super heroes as an every day thing the way the population in Marvel and DC comics do, but tempered by reality. Or "reality". Specifically, Mark Millar's view of the world which is ugly, confused, and pretty boring really.
Kick-Ass the movie, at least, does a better job of selling you on a boy who could do this. He's a normal kid who's mom is dead and who jerks off a lot, he isn't popular but isn't unpopular--he just exists. He's the reality of most comics readers, they aren't fat losers or these annoying fucks who are loud and say "Huzzah", he's just an escapist of sorts who has found something to bond with friends over.
Becoming Kick-Ass is a decision less fueled by his getting mugged everyday, and more from a lack of anything better to do. "Why hasn't anyone ever tried to be a super hero before?" he asks--a valid question even in real life that can't really be answered. When you're under age with no ambition, anything you get excited about is worth at least giving a shot, so he becomes a hero. This is more organic than the comic which muddles Golden-Age comics tropes even as it tries to shit on them.
Where Romita Jr.’s art fails to make the violence--well--violent, the live action punches and gunshots pierce, they hit and are wet and brutal. This being a movie, with real people, not drawings, the reality of a skinny kid turned crimefighter is even more apparent. Every blow is felt and you get a little nauseous when Kick-Ass is left bloodied and dying. Kick-Ass goes to the E.R, living shit beat out of him, nerve-endings broken, gets steel plates inserted to save his life. Looking at his X-rayed body, he exclaims "I look like Wolverine!"...and this is where the story of the movie loses me.
Bullet dodging and roof jumping aside, Kick-Ass is supposed to be a movie about a regular dude who puts on a suit and plays super hero. He isn't supposed to have powers or abilities, he's a regular guy with billy clubs. Slowly Kick-Ass becomes a "super" hero, and the whole point of the "With no power comes no responsibility" quote is null. He can't feel pain, so therefore he can push himself, he ends up with a gattling guns and a jet-pack, "Hallelujah" playing in the background as he saves the day to fly off into the sunset.
Dave Lizewski, the boy who becomes Kick-Ass, is essentially not a character, he's just who Kick-Ass is when he isn't in the suit. I don't mean this in a Batman way where Batman is the man and Bruce Wayne is the mask, it's that you never care enough about Dave. This is especially strange because what made the first two issues of the comic work were those injections of teenage angst and sad, reality. That's all gone. You're just waiting for Kick-Ass to hit someone in the face. The love story is, as in almost every big blockbuster, just a requirement that essentially slows down the story line. The process of taking down the big baddies is put on hold while Kick-Ass gets the girl in not an awkward high school way, but as a confident man.
What really saves the movie is the lack of CG and great acting. Nicholas Cage steals your attention in his scenes, being the loving and psychotic father while out of the suit and spouting his lines in true 60's Adam West dialect while in it, and completely scary in this "Batman with a gun and no conscience" kind of way. Chloe Moretz's Hit-Girl cuts people in half and says "cunt" like she means it, you only know she's an 11 year old girl because you can see her. Although it doesn't have a message or a moral in the end, it's sorta like comics where you just accept it as pure entertainment, not really scared of all the people who are going to hate it, and only working for the people that will love it.
In the end, just like every other person who's seen it, I think Kick-Ass kicked ass (har har) but that's unfortunately, all it does.