Through what I can only describe as a series of random events and accidents, I found myself sitting in front of a copy of the script to the adaptation of Mark Millar’s Kick-Ass. I found myself very confused and excited. Do I read it? Is this OK? What are the legalities of this? I mean, clearly I’m not supposed to be seeing this, but I am. And at the end of the day, I found that my inherent curiousity beat out my natural hate for spoilers and all things spoilers. The thing is – we’ve seen bits and pieces of Kick-Ass already. There are the character photos, the ComicCon footage, not to mention set reports. Information is out there on the film if you really want it, just not the complete explanation.
So why not, right? I mean, I’m one of the most opinionated people on the planet! How can I read this and NOT comment all over it?
And just as an added DISCLAIMER, this review is FULL of spoilers for the film. After reading the ending, I can’t say if this will spoil the comic, but I’m 90% sure it won’t because up to the latest issue of Kick-Ass, the endings are different. But, considering all the delays, we may never know.
So if you’re brave enough,
Remember when you read Mark Millar’s Wanted and you thought, “Man, this is such an awesome concept!” And then you heard about the movie and you thought, “Oh wow, how are they going to do this?” And then you saw the movie and you thought, “Oh God. This is what came out of it?” This is basically the format for Kick-Ass. It’s a fun little comic and definitely an enjoyable read, and as soon as the movie was announced we’re all wondering how it’s going to be done. Now that I’ve read the script, I can assure you: it will be done just as well as Wanted. And by that I mean it’ll be grossly inaccurate, miss the point entirely, and be somewhat of a clusterfrak.
In reviewing this script, I’m not entirely sure where to begin. There is a lot that’s wrong with it. As far as mere writing goes, it’s incredibly poorly paced. The majority of the scenes happen out of sequence (compared to the book) and don’t move well into each other. For example, the opening scene of Issue #5, which was one of the scenes showed at Comic Con, happens in the beginning of the movie, and it makes no sense whatsoever. When we see this scene in the book, we’ve already established that there are two mysterious “heroes” running around along with Kick-Ass, so when we are shown their “origin” it seems less out of place. However, the movie introduces characters at awkward times, as well as invents new ones, including a set of goons who are, I kid you not, named after the Spice Girls. The most important of the two are Frank, the mob boss who now has a main role as a forefront antagonist (and generally insane guy) and Marcus, a cop who just wants to do right in the world. I feel that the addition of these characters is important to the film because without them, the story doesn’t flow (or whatever word you’d like to use in terms of it moving along), but for a film that is supposd to center around the origin, rise, fall, and rise of Kick-Ass, we barely actually see the origin of Kick-Ass. To explain, the movie opens essentially in a comic book store (after what I’m assuming is supposed to be a humorous look at Dave’s life) where Dave mentions out of the blue that people should dress up like superheroes and fight crime. We cut around a bit to gangsters and coke deals as well as Big Daddy shooting Hit Girl, and then all of a sudden Dave has his costume and is out patrolling. In the book, the narrative has a slow segue to why Dave decides to dress up, but in the movie, it just sorts of happens while you watch other things. This is what I call “missing the point completely,” and the rest of the movie follows suit.Continued below
Plus, the script features very poor writing. Here’s a visual example:
As I mentioned before, Frank is the main antagonist of the film. When he first appears in the film, he is described as “FRANK D’AMICO, 50s. You know by the cut of Frank’s suit that he’s in charge.” He’s played by Mark Strong (pictured right), who you might remember from RocknRolla and Matthew Vaughn’s last film, Stardust (he played Septimus) as well as the smash hit by Danny Boyle, Sunshine. Good actor choice for a mob boss, am I right? And Frank himself is a very dark individual. He beats up a kid on the street at one point and kills very wantonly, including innocent bystanders and people who work for him. He clearly doesn’t afraid of anything! In the scene I posted above, he’s talking to Gigante(another new character), a cop that he pays off. He’s asking Gigante to find Kick-Ass and get rid of him, but Gigante says that the general public won’t take with that. Kick-Ass is rounding up gang-bangers and helping to find lost cats. Frank isn’t having any of this however, so how does he get Gigante into action? BY THREATENING TO PUT A PICTURE ON FACEBOOK. Did this properly register? Let me say it again: BY THREATENING TO PUT A PICTURE ON FACEBOOK. Go look at the screenshot again. I’m not lying.
I would like to say that this is an isolated incident, but it isn’t. There are thousands of pop culture references in this movie. Some of them are actually entertaining, but a lot of it feels forced. To be honest, the film actually reads as a wacky teen comedy or a coming of age high school film more than it does a superhero flick. Parts of it even remind me of what I’d read in my high school screenwriting class. In fact, if I didn’t know any better, I would say that Diablo Cody wrote this in between Juno and Jennifer’s Body. I know, I know, this was always an element of Kick-Ass. He has a Myspace that he uses to get in touch with people, and his antics are put on YouTube and that’s how he gains celebrity. This just takes those ideas and pushes it further. We have references to Family Guy and World of Warcraft, and one of the two involves masturbation (although I won’t divulge which). The thing is, I know that Mark Millar is a funny guy, especially in his character owned work. Just look at Wanted – it’s a clear send up of the superhero world, and so is Kick-Ass. I’m with that. My complaint is that Kick-Ass, while essentally being the wacky teen comedy, is acting more as a parody of the other superhero films already out versus a satire. The script even alludes to what scenes are supposed to parody what, such as the death of Dave’s mother mirroring the death of Batman’s mother – with cereal.
Now, let’s discuss accuracy. I do honestly try not to be an accuracy Nazi these days, especially in the wake of the disaster film known as Watchmen, but it’s hard not to point out all the glaring mistakes in this one. In fact, to call this an adaptation is a pretty generous comment. Essentially, the film takes all the characters and ideas of the book and makes something that follows a similar path, but is essentially compeltely different. This movie is not actually the comic, and that’s an important comment to make because that legimately tells you how much you may or may not enjoy it. For example, in the book, it’s a big deal that Red Mist betrays everyone at the end and turns out to be the mob bosses son. Or, it would have been if all the film synopsis’ didn’t give that away. But do you know why they all gave it away? Because in the movie, it’s not a big deal. In fact, we meet Chris very early on, and instead of being a background character he spends a large part of the movie trying to prove to his father that he can be just as bad of a gangster as Frank. In fact, before Red Mist appears at the end of the script, Chris flat out says, “Hey dad. The way to stop Kick-Ass is to have me dress up as a superhero and deliver him to you!” Now, they probably figured that everyone would recognize the actor in the suit, so the big reveal would be meaningless in a feature film. But I can easily say that they’re wrong in this assumption. See, in the book, Chris is a minor character, so when Red Mist shows up, sure we might know who he is based on the voice and look, but how would we know that he’d betray everyone? On top of that, the betrayal of the movie is very different than the betrayal in the comic, leading me to believe that the book’s ending and the movie’s ending will be vastly different. This, above all things, is probably the key thing to realize. Essentially, you need to remember all the other inaccurate adaptations you’ve seen, and that’s what you have with this script. I will say that, once upon a time, we had a movie called V For Vendetta, which was different than the book in a similar way but it still kept the same basic plot and spirit that the book had. This is what needs to happen in a comic based film like this, and Kick-Ass the movie just doesn’t seem to want to take the same concessions overall.Continued below
Finally, we have to look outside the script a bit and look at the cast. You can go online and look at Aaron Johnson and say, “Oh, he’s not blonde and nerdy enough!” and this is definitely true. In fact, the script describes Dave as “Not quite Napoleon Dynamite, but not quite Zac Efron either” (verbatim). We can complain that the costumes are inaccurate, which they are and which you can see from John Romita Jr’s poster from Comic Con at the top of the article. But want to know what my biggest complaint is? My biggest complaint is this:
This is the one complaint I feel goes beyond my complaints of the need for accuracy in an adaptation. When Nicolas Cage was cast in the role of Big Daddy, I cringed. I cringed because I think Nicolas Cage is a terrible actor, but I also cringed because Bid Daddy is… well, big. He’s gargantuan. He’s a mammoth of a man who likes chainsaws. And want to know something? The script thinks so too. When Big Daddy first appears, the EXACT description is: “DAMON, 35, is big and ripped and has a killer handle-bar moustache. But he’s softly spoken.” Read that and look at the picture of Nic. Is he big? No. Is he ripped? No. Does he have a killer handle-bar moustache? No. That’s three fails in a row. I’ll give them Hit Girl. She’s small and cute enough to be believable enough for the absurdity of the role, and I don’t even care about hair color. But Nicolas Cage? Please. That was just asking for this to be unbelievable. At this point, you might as well just retitle the character to be just Daddy because Nic is a small guy, and he definitely doesn’t have a sweet handlebar moustache.
Although, for the record? That image of Hit Girl? IT NEVER HAPPENS IN THE MOVIE. At no point in the script is she ever described as wearing a school girl outfit. She’s either in street clothes or in her Hit Girl costume, and based on Romita’s poster above, I’d like to believe she actually has a legitimate costume.
So, at the end of the day when I’m not nitpicking to Hell and back, did I enjoy the script? Yes and no. To be honest, I can imagine that this film will be entertaining. Or at least, it could have been. All the stuff that Hit Girl does on screen is pretty hilarious/awesome, and I bet it’d be pretty cool to see a little 11 year old girl doing all this. After watching the ComicCon footage, I can easily say that if you go into the movie expecting a comedy and never having read the book, you might actually really like the movie. I mean, I’m just trying to look at the positives here. The script is ridiculous, horribly paced, and a big bucket of fail, but I imagine a hilarious movie could be made out of it. Will the movie be intentionally funny or accidentally funny is the real question at hand. You see, there’s no way in Hell that purists of comic book adaptations will enjoy this film. It’s just too wrong, and there are plenty of things where you can sit and groan at (spoiler: Dave tells Katie he’s not gay to her face and then they have sex). But it’s still a funny movie. It’s actually kind of a brutally funny movie in the way you might watch an Eli Roth horror film and laugh at how uncomfortable his gore makes you.
I’m left undecided on Kick-Ass. I believe that when you adapt a comic that was a mini/maxi-series with a set beginning and ending, you shouldn’t take so much wiggle room. It’s one thing to take just a character and give him a feature film, such as Batman or Spider-Man, because then you have years and years of canon and stories to work with. Stuff like Kick-Ass, Watchmen, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Wanted, V For Vendetta, From Hell… all of these have set beginnings and end points, as well as a full middle. It’s essentially like any adaptation, such as a novel or even a biopic. Sure, you might take little liberties, but you have to keep true to your story. I think people feel they can change more with comic books because what works in a comic won’t always work in a movie, and I just feel that that is disrespectful. My basic opinion on it is, if you can’t do it right, don’t do it at all.Continued below
But what do we do when the creators of the book are happy with it? John Romita Jr worked on the set with the crew making storyboards, and if I’m right about one sequence of the movie, will actually provide in film art which is neat because, as much as John Romita Jr isn’t my favorite artist or anything, I’m finally used to his style after Spider-Man #600. Mark Millar has been on the set, is an extra in the film, and he raves and raves about how much he loves it. He’s even made deals with Vaughn to adapt other books he’s done such as the unfinished American Jesus, although adapting that first book should be ridiculously easy (there are no supes). Mark Millar also loved the adaptation of Wanted and is excited about the process of making a sequel.
So if they like it, should I just put my differences aside and enjoy it too? Should I give up my crusade against feature film adaptations of set stories vs. superhero movies?
In a nutshell, my thoughts are this: the script is a poorly written attempt at a Diablo Cody superhero parody, but all the actors chosen for the movie except for Aaron and Nic are well suited for their roles. It’ll probably be very entertaining, but ultimately, it’ll be stupid and passable and will never be as good as the book. No comic book movie ever has been and no comic book movie ever will be, and that includes The Dark Knight. And a reminder, I’m the guy who didn’t have a problem with Deadpool in Wolverine.