Sunday, 5 September 2010

I've Seen The Future... and it Kicked Ass!

Regulars will know by now that I'm a hopeless comic addict. I've posted before about the genuine worries that go through my head when a Hollywood film adaptation of a much loved comic book is announced. All that film companies are interested in is making money, and so what if they ruin a good character\story in the process?? The movie adaptation of Kick Ass involved a rare trip to the cinema for me when it came out earlier this year, I just couldn't wait to see what they had done with it. Tomorrow it comes out on DVD.

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:



Mondo said...

Criminally I still haven't seen the film.

Like you I'm also a life-long comic fan, but can be a bit jaded with some areas of the format. I gave Kick Ass a look after your tip off - completely blown away by this torndado of a tale and chowed it down in two sittings.

Equally I'd add any of Mark Millar's other collections: Wanted (read it yesterday, in one sitting), The Ultimates or Civil War..

I'd also add Neil Gaiman to the list of Brit-Com talent. 1602 is well worth a pop (the Marvel universe in the Elizabethan era)and Dave Gibbons and Brian Bolland's artwork

John Medd said...

Corrupting our children? A bit late for that, don't you think? Remember the old X classification? That would have kept them out.

Word Verification: derisk!

Anonymous said...

Love love love Kick Ass.
I think its great that the critics fail to give teenagers any credit for the fact that many of them have the brain power to differentiate between reality and a movie and are not so gullible as to start jumping off tower blocks and blowing peoples heads off!

Piley said...

Hope you manage to pick it up in the next few days then Mondo, you are in for a treat! Millar has been pushing out some quality product for a while now. Wanted is a great one - not sure about the film adaptation of that one though... did they read the book at all??

JM - Yeah, can't really see Kick Ass making much difference if the falling morals of our kids\society in general. Still that'll never stop the Daily Mail making a great story out of it eh?!

JJ - Yeah a great romp... and I think you are right, most kids are sensible enough to understand. It's the twisted ones that you gotta watch, and to be honest, they are gonna be a problem regardless of what films they watch.


phsend said...

Yeah great movie, loads of great lines too. Some of the violence was a tad brutal though. It was fine in the comic book but sat uneasily with the rest of the film I thought. I'm glad it was a cult hit but I think it had the potential to be massive. Aww dude, that is one *gay* looking taser. Overall the best movie since Serenity - another film that should have been huge. Chloe Moretz is starring as Eli in Let Me In - she might just save the day on that one!

Piley said...

yes, some classic quotes throughout PH.... another good one is the Spiderman parody:

"With no power, comes no responsibility"

oh, and practically anything that comes out of Hit Girl... but you alredy picked just about the only clean one (taser)!

Heff said...

Hmmm. By the movie trailer I saw, I thought it was gonna SUCK ASS.

Piley said...

Get on it Heff... You wont regret it!