I made the mistake of watching the original Kick-Ass the day before watching the sequel. That’s like visiting the Grand Canyon and then expecting to be wowed by an average hole in the ground.
What Matthew Vaughn did with the first film was completely unexpected and equally impressive. At a time when superhero movies were still a studio risk, he made something that was fresh, original, funny, exciting, intense and most importantly, really well made.
Everything about that film was perfect. The script and style captured the heart of the graphic novel, and the dialogue and casting brought each of the characters alive. What I enjoyed most about the original film was that it’s essentially an origin story for the titular hero, but there was also a million other things going on in the background – each of them adding another level of depth to the world of Kick-Ass.
Think about it, there was a nerdy kid trying to become a superhero, then there was his family, his mum dying, his relationship with his dad, his time at school, trying to fit in and talk to girls, his best friends who never took him seriously, his love life, beginning with him pretending to be gay and then confessing who he really was, there’s all the stuff with Big Daddy and Hit Girl, as well as their connection with the bad guys. Then there are the actual bad-guys, with Mark Strong’s mob boss, his family, his henchmen, his business, his relationship with his son, and even his son’s relationship with Kick-Ass. It all fit perfectly. Even the bloody doorman had his own mini-arc.
In my opinion, comic book adaptations don’t get much better. And unsurprisingly, Vaughn went on to bigger and better things, following with X-Men: First Class – a movie that completely restored my faith in the X-Men franchise, especially after The Last Stand.
But this also meant someone else needed to step forward to direct the sequel. That someone was Jeff Wadlow, whose resume includes Never Back Down and slash-fest Cry_Wolf.
As far as sequels go, Kick-Ass 2 really isn’t that bad. It’s fun, fast-paced and full off extreme violence, all things we came to love from the first film. Unfortunately, it’s just weak in comparison when it comes to the script, dialogue, direction and support cast.
Instead of keeping Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s Kick-Ass front and centre, it splits the focus between him, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Mintz-Plasse. And instead of successfully exploring all three characters simultaneously, the film becomes a big mess that shifts without warning and fails to establish any connection between scenes.
Examples of this are most evident with Grace Moretz’s Hit Girl, who gives up her life of crime to start living life as a regular teenager. I understand why they would explore her new high school life, because helps her understand her true identity. But they didn’t need include as much as they did. They didn’t need to show a “date ditch”, a cheerleader try-out or explore the dynamics of a bitchy friendship group – especially when not one of these characters is around by the end of the film.
On a side note, the soundtrack is also pretty disappointing here. The music set the mood for many of the big scenes in the first film and helped shift the tone from light to heavy, especially the scene when Nicolas Cage attacks the warehouse on camera. There’s nothing like that here.
Kick-Ass 2 fails because it goes the same route as all sequels – more of everything. Wadlow tries to add too many new characters and more of what people liked in the first. Unfortunately, by doing this it loses all structure and balance. The first film was able to add so much detail, without distracting from the main story, and that’s what made it awesome.
As far as sequels go, this was OK. But in comparison with the first film, Kick-Ass 2 kicks way less ass.