Massawyrm finds KICK-ASS morally reprehensible! But in a good way!!
Published at: April 15, 2010, 8:30 a.m. CST by merrick
Hola all. Massawyrm here.
[This is not my review of KICK-ASS. You can find my initial thoughts here. I have seen the film twice now, and my love for it has only grown. I find it to be brilliant and eagerly await seeing it again this weekend (and no doubt a few more times while it plays at the Drafthouse down the street and I can still walk to see it and write it off as exercise.)]
Is KICK-ASS morally reprehensible? Abso-fucking-lutely. In the same way James Gunn’s brilliant PG PORN and Parker/Stone’s SOUTH PARK are morally reprehensible. Are they over the top, wicked and downright offensive? They sure are, but not half as much as what they are satirizing. KICK-ASS gets a lot of mileage by going places other super hero movies don’t. It is also what elevates this above the level of mere comic book imitation or post-modern riffing.
The confusion here is, as many critics have pointed out, that this film exists neither in the real world nor the comic book world. Some feel that it can’t figure out where it wants to exist. I disagree. This film exists in the shadowy netherworld between these two universes - the great what-if universe in which Dr. Julius No captures James Bond, smiles at meeting the world’s most famous spy, then orders his men to put a bullet in his head while he watches. It is the fantasy/science fiction/thriller universe of our dreams – with gadgets and mystery and evil doers – juxtaposed against the violence inherent in the real world.
Somewhere, in the world you live in, right this very moment, a woman is being raped; a ten year old boy is carrying a machine gun with the full intention of using it today; and someone is being murdered with a machete in broad daylight. We live in a very fucked up world. It’s kind of why we invented comic books in the first place: to dream of a better one.
Comic books are great, and once upon a time they were noble, idealistic ambassadors of good will. They spoke of justice, righteousness and sacrifice. The heroes smiled, drank their milk and risked everything for God, country and their fellow man. But then the 80’s happened. My generation fell in love with the idea of the anti-hero. Batman ceased to be a silly gadget-making detective and became THE DARK KNIGHT. One-time villains from the pages of THE INCREDIBLE HULK and THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN became brooding heroes named WOLVERINE and THE PUNISHER and surpassed the popularity of their original foes. The heroes we wanted in our fiction slowly eroded from smiling beacons of hope to dark, menacing creatures of the night – assholes who were (to paraphrase John Amos in DIE HARD 2) our kind of assholes.
But despite our desire for grittiness, we still longed for a magical world in which these “more realistic” characters still existed within a fanciful framework. We wanted to believe that if you painted a giant white skull on your bullet proof vest, no one would EVER try for a headshot and you never had to worry about stray bullets or ricochets. And never in a million years would someone like the Punisher accidentally get in the way of GALACTUS or APOCALYPSE or anyone with the ability to vaporize him with a thought, because really, what would the Punisher be doing anywhere near where these guys showed up? Right?
We love our comic book violence. And that’s why KICK-ASS is brilliant. The very scene that is fucking so many critics so hard on a moral level is the very satire that this film is addressing. This isn’t just a riff on comic books. That’s been done. This is a riff on our love affair with violent “heroes” and what that really means. It’s all fun and games until Frank D’Amico picks up Hit Girl. Then it gets all too real.
When Frank D’Amico begins wailing mercilessly on Hit Girl, it destroys the audience. We’ve invested a lot in this little girl. She’s the kid sister we all wish we had. Funny. Dedicated. Badass. But she’s 11. And the minute she starts getting beat senseless we are reminded of that. All of a sudden we’ve forgotten the hallway scene and the atrium scene and the kitchen scene and we start wondering “WHAT THE FUCK IS A LITTLE GIRL DOING FIGHTING ARMED THUGS?!?” We are reminded all too brutally that this is that universe where Dr. No kills Bond and that D’Amico will most likely kill Hit Girl and there isn’t a damned thing we can do about it. And we pine, more than anything, to return to a silly, goofy, four-color universe in which it is okay to enjoy the violence. Please, for the love of all that is holy, become a fucking comic book again!
And then Kick-Ass waltzes in with a fucking bazooka and blasts him out a window to explode all over fake New York City, despite breaking five or six different laws of physics. Ahhhh. Good old comic books. Now we can safely snuggle up in our beds, safe and content that the real world can’t hurt us. Not in comic book land. That’s why I dare to call this movie brilliant. It reminds you that what you want isn’t realism. You want the fantasy. You just want the fantasy to be grim. There’s nothing wrong with that. But there’s still a line.
What is KICK-ASS satirizing? The audience and their desire for reality. Their desire for violence. For the critics to line up attacking this film to do so after years of promoting ultra-violent films is the very point of what Vaughn and Millar have created. If these were the views of the CHRISTIAN SCIENCE MONITOR or PARENT magazine, I could nod along and simply dismiss their views as usually being against this sort of fanciful violence in the first place. But when guys who trumpet accolades for violent movies suddenly have a problem now? Read their critiques. 16 year old boy fighting crime? Fine. 16 year old boy getting stabbed near to death? Fine. 16 year old boy fucking his 16 year old high-school sweetheart turned on by his crimefighter status? Fine. Little girl getting hit in the face? FUCK YOU! Now you’ve crossed the line!
You see, it’s not that these guys oppose violence; it is that they oppose violence against a little girl, no matter how empowered the film allows that little girl to be up until that point. And that’s exactly what makes this great satire. It takes you to the point of being viscerally affected and forces you to confront your feelings, asking you why it is you feel that way. I think the critical voices rising up against this film have every right to be offended. I’m just disappointed so many of them are stopping there.
Until next time friends,