Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
“You Can’t Fight Your Destiny.”
Director: Jeff Wadlow
Cast: Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloe Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse
Synopsis: The costumed high-school hero Kick-Ass joins with a group of normal citizens who have been inspired to fight crime in costume. Meanwhile, the Red Mist plots an act of revenge that will affect everyone Kick-Ass knows.
It’s remarkable how a change of personnel can have such a drastic effect on a movie idea. The original Kick-Ass movie was directed by Matthew Vaughn and co-written by Vaughn and Jane Goldman, and was a vibrant and fun explosion of colourful violence that skilfully exploited the desire within us all to right wrongs and make a difference. For the second Kick-Ass movie, Vaughn moved up to production duties, passing responsibility for both writing and directing to James Wadlow. Despite retaining the colour and violence of the original, Wadlow somehow managed to suck nearly all of the freshness and vitality from the ongoing story of Kick-Ass and Hit Girl. By definition, a sequel loses the originality of its predecessor, and must therefore find something different if it’s to stand any chance of positive comparison with Episode 1. Wadlow not only fails to find that vital but elusive component, he also loses the buccaneering sense of bravado that pervaded the original and opts for too many predictable plot twists when a story like Kick-Ass demands innovation.
The second Kick-Ass movie picks up four years after the events of the first, which is unavoidable given that at sixteen there’s no way Chloe Grace Moretz could pass for an eleven-year-old. Dave Lizewski’s (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) antics as superhero vigilante Kick-Ass spawned a rash of copycat vigilantes, but Dave has given up fighting the bad guys to concentrate on his schooling. Mindy (Chloe Grace Moretz), meanwhile has come under the guardianship of Marcus (Morris Chestnut — Identity Thief) her late cop father’s ex-partner, but bunks off from school every day and secretly continues to fight crime in the guise of Hit Girl. However, it’s not long before Marcus gets wise to Mindy’s clandestine activities and extracts a promise from her to give up her life of fighting crime. This promise comes just a short while after Dave’s decision to return to the crime-fighting business, but Mindy’s decision brings an abrupt end to her assistance in helping Kick-Ass to bulk up.
Without Mindy to mentor him, Dave joins a group of superheroes named Justice Forever, led by Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey — The Dead Pool, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone — barely recognisable under prosthetic make-up), a former Mafia hitman turned born-again Christian. They’re a mixed bunch: there’s Dr Gravity (Donald Faison), who not only falsely claims to be a physics professor but also attempts to pass off his baseball bat wrapped in tin foil as a weapon capable of levitating objects, Night-Bitch (Lindy Booth — Dawn of the Dead) who took up crime-fighting after her sister was murdered, Remembering Tommy, a husband-and-wife duo (Steven Mackintosh — The Sweeney – and Monica Dolan — Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa) who fight crime as a tribute to their dead son, Insect Man (Robert Emms) who doesn’t wear a mask because he’s tired of concealing his true identity, and Battle Guy, who turns out to be Dave’s friend Marty (Clark Duke — Identity Thief).
While Kick-Ass is patrolling the streets with his new mates, however, Chris D’Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse — ParaNorman, This is the End), whose crime boss father Kick-Ass killed in the first movie, suffers the loss of his mother (Yancy Butler). Her death means he’s now free to indulge his burning desire to get revenge on Kick-Ass, and he wastes no time creating the ultimate super-villain whose name will no doubt be hilarious to 13-year-old boys everywhere. And Mindy’s attempts to assimilate into high school life ends disastrously when she falls foul of the school’s vicious Queen Bee, Brooke (Claudia Lee)…
There’s no getting around the fact that Kick-Ass 2 is a poor movie that draws only limited inspiration from the first Kick-Ass movie. Whereas the first movie addressed the impotence of the ordinary person in the face of an increasingly lawless society and won over its audience by offering it a vicarious taste of how it feels to finally get to, well, kick ass for a change. Wadlow is at least to be credited with declining to mine the same vein, but finds nothing with which to replace such a rich source, plumping for the old superhero chestnut of just when is the mask being worn — when the hero is in costume or incognito? The entire episode in which Mindy battles with the cliquey gang of teen bitches is a total failure concluded with an appallingly childish gross-out scene which wouldn’t be out of place in one of those abysmal Jason Friedberg/Aaron Seltzer ‘Movie’ movies.
With the exuberance from the first Kick-Ass movie drained almost dry and the humour descended to a level of immaturity that is quite astonishing, Kick-Ass 2 serves only to remind us of just how good the first movie was, especially as Wadlow has retained the look — bright primary colours and shot compositions reminiscent of comic books. And, sadly, by reminding us of the first Kick-Ass movie, this sequel also serves to devalue it.