Kick Ass is an unusual movie adaptation, because the film was 'in the can' before the comic book had been completed! After just 2 issues, director and producer Matthew Vaughn (Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, Layer Cake) contacted writer Mark Millar to say he wanted to turn it into a film. By the time issue 4 came out, work had commenced on the film script. From then on Millar was splitting his time between completing the comic, and providing Vaughn with the future story lines. If you are familiar with the comic, then you can pretty much spot the exact point where the film overtook it. The film adaptation of the first few issues is so close to the original, but as the film continues, there are a number of fairly significant differences. This is not a criticism, I guess Millar was giving Vaughn the story as it was in his mind at that point, but by the time he was getting it down in comic form his thoughts had matured and changed somewhat. Thankfully the changes worked great in the film (bar one or two little personal niggles), and resulted in one of the best film romps I've seen in years.
I won't give away any of the twists and turns, but briefly this is the ultimate antidote to all those macho big budget superhero films of the last decade or so (Spiderman, Batman, Superman, Hulk etc etc). Dave Lizewski is a geeky schoolboy, obsessed with comic books. He can't understand why nobody has ever tried to be a superhero for real, so he decides to give it a go. But without any 'super powers', he is promptly put in hospital for a number of months (ahh, so that's why nobody has done it before!). Undeterred, he goes back out on the street, but soon discovers he is now not the only real life super hero on the block.
The original first series of Kick Ass (8 issue) are fabulous... un-put-downable in fact, and the film is the perfect companion. A real roller coaster from start to finish, full of self-knowing comedy and Tarantino style violence (occasionally both at the same time!). And this is another significant difference form your average comic book movie... Back in the dark days, comics really were just for kids. But in the 80's they grew up, thanks to the arrival of people like Alan Moore, and stories for adults started to emerge. Enter a (American import) comic shop today and the majority of titles will have a "for mature readers only" warning slapped on the cover. But with the movie adaptations, we have still been in the equivalent period of those pre-1980's comics. Sure there have been big grossing films of all the biggies, Spidey, Batman, Iron Man, Ghost Rider, Superman, X-men, Hulk etc, but essentially they have all been fairly 'kid-friendly'. The film studios are no fools, they know their target audience, and ensure the content of the films pick up the suitable rating.... until now!
You have to take your hat off to Matthew Vaughn. After just 2 issues of Kick Ass the comic he had the complete vision, and refused to let anyone change it or water it down. So much so that one by one, every single major film company turned him down... some even saying it was the worst idea they had ever seen. But he remained determined to get the film made, so in 2007 Vaughn turned to his friends, and got enough people to back his idea to enable him to self-finance the movie (£50 million!). And so the indie comic book became an indie film.... and with it came complete control. This is the exact film that Vaughn wanted to make, no concessions made for any squeamish corp-heads, he even had complete control of all the marketing and trailers.
When Vaughn screened some early footage at the 2009 San Diego Comic Con, he could not believe the reaction, the fans went completely crazy for it. As if by magic, as soon as the major film companies caught wind of it, they were all calling Vaughn to see if they could get involved after all. You can imagine the reply they got! Matthew Vaughn has produced what is essentially the first 'mature-viewer' superhero film, and I wouldn't be surprised if it starts a trend... just like Alan Moore's Watchmen comic did back in the 1980's.
Although the film is set in downtown New York, and has the look and feel of an 'all American' flick, there is actually more than a large slice of UK talent about Kick Ass:
- Of course Mark Millar wrote the original comic book, Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn wrote the film screenplay and Vaughn directed and produced it...
- Aaron Johnson plays the title roll, Mark Strong does a wonderful job as the arch-baddie, and there's some great support from the likes of Dexter Fletcher, Jason Flemyng, Tamer Hassan, Tim Plester, Craig Ferguson and more.
- A number of scenes were shot in the UK too.... London, Elstree, Pinewood, and what wasn't done here was mostly filmed in Canada!
Ignore the moaning minnies saying this film is corrupting our children.... This is an adult film, made for adults. Yes it's violent, and out of context the idea of Hit-Girl - a mass murdering ultra-violent crime fighting 13 year old girl (who swears like a trooper!) - does sound a little unconformable... (actually, count your blessings, she was only 10 in the book!). But within the boundaries of the film it works a treat (especially when hacking down the bad guys to the theme from the Banana Splits!), and the violence she inflicts is so over the top that you really can't take it seriously.... It's more 'Itchy and Scratchy' than Deathwish. In fact Hit-Girl steals the show, and the performance by Chloe Moretz is simply stunning. Add to this a great little turn out from Nicolas Cage (for once!), camping it up like there's no tomorrow as Hit Girl's somewhat deranged father.
Far from the 'meathead' no-brainer, the tabloids would have you believe, this is a gritty, intelligent, highly entertaining film, with much more to say than any other costumed caper.... and with great use of Sparks in the soundtrack too, what isn't there to like??!
Easily the best superhero film to date. Kick Ass is out on DVD and Blu-Ray tomorrow.
All 8 issues of the first series of Kick Ass the comic are now compiled as a graphic novel, and over at Amazon you can pick it up for the frankly crazy price of a fiver! (free postage too!)
The second series of the Kick Ass comic is being published exclusively in the new British comic CLiNT. Issue 1 out now!
Kick Ass - Movie Trailer: