Why my friend, Roger Ebert is dead wrong about KICK ASS by Harry Knowles
This is not a review of KICK ASS, I can't do that right now as I still haven't seen the final version of the film - just the print that played Butt-Numb-A-Thon 11 with the greatest temp track I've seen on a film since Brian Helgeland's PAYBACK director's cut- back in the day.
No - Instead I'm going to address the review that just went up over at the Chicago Sun-Times complements of a man I once shared an aisle with, a few times. I'm talking, of course, about Roger Ebert.
He summarily dismisses the film for moral reasons. Fearing the possible damage that kids will suffer if they are allowed to see the film.
The first retort that will come to mind is that the film isn't meant for children. This is a very hard R-rated film, but that's a hollow argument, as we all know that the supervision level that goes on in this country is a joke. Parents can keep them out of the theaters, but can they guard their computers? They probably can, but will they? No, not really. Going to theaters, it seems that films rated R tend to have LARGER families rather than smaller ones - and what will these kids think?
There is an inherent difference between Hit Girl and say... Bobby Driscoll's Jim Hawkins - which Roger Ebert could have seen as early as the age of 8 in Disney's TREASURE ISLAND. The scene where young Jim Hawkins levels a musket at that pirate that is out to kill him, it was dramatically chilling. It had a weight to it. Jim even gets stabbed. That film is filled with peril and crazy chances that young Jim makes, but it isn't the same as Hit Girl.
And kids today are not like Roger Ebert was way back in 1950. Children back then were huge fans of Westerns. Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and Hopalong Cassidy were the kings. No - back when Roger Ebert was a kid - every boy in this country played with cap-guns at the very least. My father has stories about the kids strapping on guns of all type. Like the cowboy hat that when you lifted it up, a derringer popped out and fired a blast straight ahead. There were up your sleeve, mechanical guns that would pop out.
Never in history were guns more played with than in Roger's youth. And oddly - their guns in films simply knocked the enemy over with a single bullet dead. No matter where you hit the enemy. It was grand times to be sure.
At the same time, kids had free access to actual explosives in the form of fireworks. They would go have Roman Candle battles at the train tracks - Sometimes jumping onto moving trains and jumping back off. (again - that's what my Dad says) They had the most violent comic books complements of EC, although they were better written generally than most of what we have today...
And there was a shitload of self-righteous pricks in CONGRESS that felt those Comic Books would Ruin their youth. It is true - Roger's generation became a generation of Free Thinkers, possibly partly due to first realizing the government could be so wrong as to outlaw all sorts of Comics at the time. Probably more so once the draft kicked in for VIETNAM...
But enough of Roger's time as a kid. The fact that they were able to watch early matinees of the classic Errol Flynn films, Gangster movies and the Disney films... well, it kinda shows the classier times - but morally... these films espoused sexist and some not so subtle forms of racism.
Roger Ebert says he's not so much worried about the teens seeing KICK ASS - as much as the kids under 10.
Well, Rog... Kids today don't play with cap-guns - the morality police have pretty much wiped them out of the toy stores. Too many incidents of police shooting a kid playing with something they thought was a real weapon. No, beginning when I was a kid - the cap-pistol became the Han Solo blaster. Ray guns came in. Then very cartoonish Nerf guns and water blasters. Kids have always been shooting at each other. Whether it was with a Star Wars ray gun or a pair of pearl handled 6 shooters that you loaded bullets in, and it fired out the soft plastic shells while shooting a real rubber bullet at a kid. Back in his day.
Sure, kids today still have the rapid fire nerve guns and insanely powerful water guns. But no - where the kids today really have it is in their video games. Kids have been going to pizza places and handed quarters... and playing with the family... incredibly violent and FUN video games. Most kids have some form of violent video game that involves them chopping up, beating or shooting some enemy... and their onscreen avatar is usually some manner of badass... even if they're a cute little Lego version of them.
The sort of kids that will see KICK ASS this weekend are well prepared for it. Talk to a teacher at our public schools and you'll hear fouler language than even Hit Girl dishes in the classrooms. Not of a private school, but I have dear friends that teach - their kids know the language and how to use it. They’ll see it as just a really cool movie that really let kids KICK ASS. And hopefully it’ll make a few kids want to get into acting so they could do stuff like that. Hopefully. More likely will be sales of Purple wigs and plastic samurai swords this Halloween… as little girls across the country with the cool parents will have a real badass little girl to call their own. Not dressing as Barbie or some Princess. But a girl that is shown to train really really hard. A smart parent would sign their girl up in a Kung Fu class or a Gymnastics class. And that would be a good thing to help keep future kids from being fatasses like the two of us.
All that aside, KICK ASS is an uncompromised comic book classic. Roger says it is a satire, but that he's unsure what exactly it is satirizing.
KICK ASS is, essentially a satire of the world of comics. KICK ASS specifically is playing in the same sort of universe as Stan Lee's MARVEL... just modernized and made as a point about how unrealistic the very notion of Superheroes are. But make no bones about it - it is made for Adults. Adults raised on an entire lifetime of comics that's specific dream was of bringing Superheroes into a realistic world.
That was the pretense of the Marvel Universe... that you could be a superhero. Then they started selling the costumes and "hero supplies". You walk into a Target or a Wal-Mart and you'll find aisle after aisle of superhero role-play gear.
Is it really much to imagine a slightly heightened dream of kids as superheroes in a violent modern world?
No - it really isn't. It is perfectly realized in KICK-ASS.
KICK ASS is a violent dark film meant to be seen with a full audience to cheer it on. Read some interviews with Matthew Vaughn and he pretty much says that that was his implicit purpose in creating the movie. To Entertain.
Roger states at the beginning of his review that he feels he's going to hopeless square for his feelings about the morality of KICK ASS.
At a base level it is a film about taking a stand, to protect the innocent and uphold justice... in a pretty fascist as kicking manner. I am not upset at Roger for his point of view... I understand, it is a lot to take.
But I remind you that there was a time, when Martin Scorsese was under fire for having a 13 year old Jodie Foster play a whore in TAXI DRIVER - which is more or less about a man that in the end is a hero for taking violent action to protect that girl.
At that time there were critics that wanted to hang Marty. You were not one of them. I remember that time because as a 6 year old I can remember watching you and Gene defend Scorsese and you were my heroes.
I have to say it is a little sad to see you go the route you did in your KICK ASS review. And don't worry, while I suppose you'll never really just get KICK-ASS... You're no square in my book. But you may be in danger of being a 'grown up'.