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part of a small rebellion | by maryann johanson

Kick-Ass 2 review: the mask is empty

Kick-Ass 2 red light Aaron Taylor-Johnson Chloe Grace Moretz

Like a Comic-Con cosplay event gone horribly wrong, this poor excuse for an action comedy has nothing to say beyond a few expletives and nothing to offer but a shocking lack of appreciation for its own awful irony.
I’m “biast” (pro): I hoped perhaps Jim Carrey would bring something intriguing

I’m “biast” (con): hated the first film

I have not read the source material

(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

Blink and you miss it, but in one scene in Kick-Ass 2, high-school wannabe superhero Dave “Kick-Ass” Lizewski sports a T-shirt with “I HATE REBOOTS” emblazoned across it. This is among the many desperately unfunny things that pass for humor in what purports to be an action comedy. This particular thing is desperately unfunny because it appears to miss its own irony: Kick-Ass is itself little more than a reboot of the classic graphic novel Watchmen. An accidental reboot, of course; to call it a reboot is to be kind, and to avoid calling it a pale imitation that has nothing new to add to the metacriticism of superhero stories but thinks it’s being hip and cool by dolloping on some calculated-for-cruelty ultraviolence and rampant crudity.

If the first film appeared blissfully ignorant of its own state of being, No. 2 revels in it. (Yes, I said “No. 2.” A shit joke in aid of criticizing a shit joke of a film that itself thinks shit jokes are funny is no crime.) It’s difficult to determine, however, whether Kick-Ass 2 is unironically enjoying being a lousy, uninteresting Watchmen knockoff, or whether it is attempting to be ironically meta about it (evidence: Dave’s T-shirt), or whether it is entirely unaware of how ironic it is.

I’m guessing the latter. For there is all too much earnest sincerity in how Dave (Aaron Taylor-Johnson: Anna Karenina, Nowhere Boy) and his fellow wannabe superhero Hit-Girl, aka ninth-grader Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz: Movie 43, Dark Shadows), engage in their plot-padding game of trading aphorisms about how none of what they get up to in their masked costumes is a comic book, this is real life, real people are dying, etc. The trading of earnest aphorisms is required because Dave and Mindy are taking turns deciding to “retire” from masked avenging, and need to be alternately reminded that their masked-avenging alter egos are who they really are, and the high-school stuff is the real mask, so, no, wait: they’re back on the night patrol. They shift sides on this debate unconvincingly as required to keep a roundrobin of cartoonish violence going.

Oh, yes: Irony. Gotta be unintentional for Hit-Girl and/or Kick-Ass to be Oh So Serious about real people dying while at the same time screenwriter-director Jeff Wadlow — no, you’ve never heard of him — is gleefully having the villains dispatch a small army of anonymous NYPD officers just doing their jobs, showing up to a call for help, in creatively inventive and very very bloody ways. Sure, it’s the bad guys — or one particular bad girl, Mother Russia (Olga Kurkulina) — doing the terrible deeds, but it’s plain that Wadlow hopes we’ll find this violent and egregiously antisocial mayhem clever and amusing. Even though those are, we’re also meant to believe, real men dying. (Or maybe we should be grateful that this pointless bit of awfulness may have replaced the gang-rape scene from Mark Millar and John Romita Jr.’s original comic book as the Illustration of Evil? The one that even Christopher Mintz-Plasse [This Is the End, Pitch Perfect] — as the supervillain with a name so juvenile yet “shocking” it cannot be mentioned in polite company — was relieved he didn’t have to act out? Nah, I’m not grateful. Someone needs to be smarter about depicting villainy.)

And how are we to take it when Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey: The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, A Christmas Carol), leader of a new superhero vigilante group operating in the city, delights in training his German shepherd to attack a man’s testicles, and then sics the dog on a bad guy, and then cackles, “Yeah, there’s a dog on your balls!” This would be a real man’s real balls, would it? And the Colonel would be one of those people who are trying to take their pain and do something good in the world (as one of Dave and Mindy’s unpersuasive pep sessions would have it)?

Kick-Ass 2 has nothing interesting to say, except — perhaps — around its outermost and glossed over edges. Because there’s apparently nothing kick-ass about masked avengers volunteering in soup kitchens (this happens here, onscreen for maybe five seconds) or battling homophobia, as in the brief line of dialogue when one avenger eschews his mask because “it was too much like the closet.” That’s pretty cool. Too bad that’s not what this movie is about.

Mostly, this flick appears to be about getting two posses of masked idiots into one big room so they could fight it out, heroes versus villains, like a Comic-Con cosplay event gone horribly wrong. What I don’t get is this: all these people in mask and capes mostly don’t know one another and don’t know which allegedly badass costume indicates good and which evil, so how, in the midst of the melee that Wadlow thinks is awesome is mostly just a mess, does anyone know whom they should be beating the crap out of?

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Kick-Ass 2 (2013)
US/Can release: Aug 16 2013
UK/Ire release: Aug 14 2013

Flick Filosopher Real Rating: rated NCs: no capes!
MPAA: rated R for strong violence, pervasive language, crude and sexual content, and brief nudity
BBFC: rated 15 (contains strong bloody violence, sex references and very strong language)

viewed in 2D
viewed at a semipublic screening with an audience of critics and ordinary moviegoers

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

If you’re tempted to post a comment that resembles anything on the film review comment bingo card, please reconsider.

  • Tommy Woodard

    I’m “biast” hated the first film

  • Nemuri Kyoshiro

    I agree, Kick Ass 2 was a piece of shit/ literally.

  • Slade Rockwell


  • Jonathan Snyder

    You are too old to enjoy this film

  • b.lynch black

    so then cutting off guest posting doesn’t keep the trolls away…

  • Danielm80

    I’m just wondering how long it will take until we see:

    “You’re not the target audience for this movie.”

    “If you had read the comic book, you would understand why this is funny.”

    “Why can’t you just shut off your brain and enjoy the movie?”

    “A woman doesn’t like a film based on a comic book? What a surprise.”

    Place your bets now.

  • David C-D

    When did guest posting go away? I see recent posts (eg from Bluejay) that don’t have the poster’s name in red…

  • Dr. Rocketscience


    Though it does demonstrate that one is stunningly incurious, this fails at trolling because it’s actually totally legit. It’s kind of the point of the biast box.

  • Dr. Rocketscience


    Weak, boilerplate, wholly inoffensive. Would have gotten 4 or 5, but Daniel80 didn’t even notice you’d posted this.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    We should be so lucky that this is the worst trolling this review gets.

  • Just Red

    This review is god awful. Kick Ass shares very few similarities with Watchmen beyond the fact it’s a ‘superhero’ movie (although I’d argue that both are far removed from what most people would call a superhero movie). Essentially, this review reads like the whining of a frustrated soccer mom having just accidentally taken little Timmy to see the film thinking it was ‘like Spider-Man’. Reviewers are supposed to neutral and professional, not ‘biast’. It’s unfair on the film (whether it is crap or not) that this review contributes negatively to the film’s score on aggregate review sites thus deterring people from seeing it.

  • I don’t know why that didn’ work.

  • I turned off guest posting yesterday morning.

  • It’s true! You’ll find out when you turn 14…

  • Cool. That’s actually how the “biast” stuff is meant to work. Did you think otherwise? Do you imagine I am offended that you took all the information I give my readers about how I approach a film and used it to determine whether my review would be useful to you?

  • 김효환

    LOL How the fuck are you can think Kick Ass is the reboot or imitation of Watchmen? One of most foolish comment I’ve ever heard.

  • LOL because they both explore what the ramifications would be in the “real world” if masked vigilantes actually roamed the streets.

  • Then you are using the “biast” information as intended. Congratulations!

  • bronxbee

    again, not so much with keeping the rude “guest” posters out.

  • Jonathan Snyder

    Is this your attempt at being witty? If so, you need more work

  • Jonathan Snyder

    Oh snap!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jonathan Snyder

    Except one is being serious with most of the characters having superpowers and the other is a cartoonish approach with characters who do not have superpowers.

  • Jonathan Snyder

    LMFAO! Silly logic.

  • Kameron Cruz

    So anyone who doesn’t like the review is a troll? LOL.

  • Kameron Cruz

    Biast? Lmao. In England, our critics are actually required to speak proper English. Or is the “biast” thing supposed to be a joke. Poor spelling is not funny.

  • Kameron Cruz

    She says herself that she hated the first film, so if you loved the first film obviously you’re not going to take her review seriously.

  • By my count, there is *one* character with superpowers in Watchmen. And he has removed himself from actually using them in a superhero sort of way.

    But there’s my silly “logic” again.

  • No, Feel free to disagree with me in a reasonable way.

    Hint: “this review reads like the whining of a frustrated soccer mom having just accidentally taken little Timmy to see the film thinking it was ‘like Spider-Man’.” is not reasonable. It is trollish.

  • If you are unable to participate in a grownup conversation, you are invited to leave. If you would like to have a reasonable discussion of my review and this film, you can stay.

  • I guess this is your first time here. Yes, it’s a joke: a joke on the idiots of misspell “bias” when they invariably “accuse” me of being in such a state (when in fact there is no other state for a critic to be in).

    “Lmao” wouldn’t be considered “proper English” either.

    Now, please: If you would like to have an adult conversation, please start one. Or leave.

  • Really? A downvote? Would you prefer that I NOT reveal my biases? Cuz every critic has ’em. I’m upfront about them.

  • Are you suggesting that what I wrote is NOT the case?

  • James

    Stupid review!!!

  • Jon

    Clearly some old coot having a first shot at reviews, dare I even call this a review, more of an attempt to bitch about something they clearly do not understand, so I wouldn’t try again.

  • Emil Hyde

    Have you read WATCHMEN? Only one character has superhuman powers… sure, one has slightly sci-fi gadgets and the other a vast fortune, but really it’s a bunch of power-less Batmans + one character who’s basically god.

  • Emil Hyde

    If anyone wants to see a movie that *really* shows what it would be like if someone tried to be a superhero in the real world, go watch SUPER. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1512235/

    The problem with the original KICK-ASS is that it couldn’t find a consistent balance between realism and goofy comic-book comedy. You can’t purport to be a movie about what it would “really” be like to be a superhero then have the protagonist flying around with a jetpack at the end or a prepubescent girl taking out a horde of mafia enforcers with kung-fu movie wire moves. One sequence where the main character is all bandaged up from a beat-down doesn’t cancel those lapses out.

    SUPER on the other hand depicts a world where gunshots to vital organs kill people, violence is nauseating rather than stylish, and only someone with real mental problems would go out at night looking to pick fights with “criminals”. And yet it manages to be darkly hilarious in ways KICK-ASS is too timid to be.

    Okay, trolls… have at me.

  • Bradley Conder

    Wow she is getting so much shit for not liking this film. Do you guys actually want to here someone elses point of view or are you just here to confirm your already formed opinion?

  • Slade Rockwell

    I personally preferred Ebert’s approach. He did not care for “Aliens” yet he gave it a very high review…four stars I believe. He said in his review that even though the film wasn’t something he cared for, its intended audience would love it as it was what the filmmakers promised. He tried to accept films in the context of what they are and are trying to be and to grade them based on that merit. Yes, Ebert’s bias’ came in from time to time (his hatred of 3D for instance) but, for the most part, he wrote his reviews bias free.

  • Danielm80

    Well, sure, MaryAnn could write: “I don’t agree with the message of the movie–in fact, I find it repugnant–but the film is technically brilliant, one of the best screenplays to come out of Hollywood this year or any year.”

    She could write that, except that she doesn’t believe it. She thinks the story is trite and derivative, the jokes aren’t funny, and the message is incoherent. She can’t praise the film for its merits, because she didn’t see any merits to praise.

    At best, she could write something like: “Rabid superhero fans, the kind who are always on the lookout for even more disturbing scenes of violence, may be willing to overlook the film’s many flaws.” But she might as well write: “This movie is perfect for Slade Rockwell and everyone who agrees with his taste in film,” and the review would be very useful to you and everyone who shares your exact opinions about the world.

  • No, it’s not helping at all. And now I’m hearing from regular commenters who want to continue commenting as guests. I’d rather deal with trolls and idiots than annoy my regulars, so guest commenting is back on.

  • I’m hearing from regular commenters who want to continue commenting as guests. I’d rather deal with trolls and idiots than annoy my regulars, so guest commenting is back on.

  • I’m not Ebert. And I am not unbiased. I refuse to pretend that I can predict what someone else who has completely different tastes than mine will like or dislike.

  • Kameron Cruz

    Lmao is internet slang. I never said it was proper English. Yes, this is my first time here. I don’t spend too much time listening to what critics have to say about anything. Someone linked this on IMDB, so I came to check it out. That’s all. As far as I’m concerned, the opinion of a critic has no more weight than the opinion of any other ordinary person. Most critics have never stepped foot on a movie set and thus have no more insight into the filmmaking process than anyone else who isn’t in the film industry.
    Please deflate your ego and sense of self-importance. You’re not a Hollywood hotshot. You’re a critic.

  • Kameron Cruz

    You’re comparing a legendary critic to some woman no one has ever heard of.

  • Thera Pitts

    I don’t get all of the fan wanking over the first movie, there are far better films to get all weirdly defensive about. I thought it had its moments but was overall pretty damn disappointing.

  • Thera Pitts

    That sounds like a compliment.

  • mortadella

    Oh wow, you don’t listen to critics because you’re so cool. Or, in fact, you don’t understand art criticism isn’t meant to reflect the reader’s opinion back to them. Talk about a fragile ego. Analysis? Critical thinking? These things offend you, sonny? Grow-up.

  • mortadella

    “…some woman…” Wow, such sexist disdain. And I’ve heard of her, fella.

  • Please deflate your attitude. You don’t like critics? Fine. No one is forcing you come here.

    Now, if you would care to have a conversation about the movie, please post a comment that responds to my review. Otherwise, you have no reason to continue hanging around here.

  • And now you are periously close to getting banned. Grow up or leave.

  • amanohyo

    Any attempt to write film criticism “bias free” eventually leads to a review similar to the one you praised above which essentially states: “I don’t like this type of thing, but if this is the type of thing you like, you’ll probably like it.”

    That sort of review can be useful to someone approaching a movie solely as a product that they are choosing whether or not to consume based on a reductive grading system. However, for those who approach movies critically, the question of consumption is the beginning of the review, not the end. If Ebert’s Aliens review has any lasting value, it’s not to be found by counting stars.

    That said, you do go on to make an argument which is more than most hit and run posters manage. Your argument is that this is a poor review because MA does not accept the film in the context of what it is and what it is trying to be. A good critic would, according to your system: 1) determine what a movie was trying to be, that is the primary intentions of its “makers,” then 2) determine what the film “is,” and finally, 3) by comparing the two, a grade would be obtained on a numerical scale, and the work is done.

    Assuming that this process has the potential to produce a valuable critique if properly executed (I maintain that it does not), can you see how all three steps are ridiculously vulnerable to personal bias? Personal bias is the reason we read reviews and don’t watch Entertainment Tonight. Personal bias is the reason you came here and posted your comment (and the reason I’m posting mine). We are all slaves to personal bias because we are people. Rationalization and airtight logic enter the picture long, long after the paint is dry.

    Your process is well suited for judging a product – What is this product for? How well does it do its intended job? – however I maintain that despite the concerted and valiant efforts of our best and brightest marketing departments, most movies are not merely products, they are works of art even movies as pedestrian as this one.

    If Ebert has a legacy, it is that he was willing to think seriously about movies that previous critics dismissed as mere products not worthy of their attention. I would argue that by writing this review, MA is carrying on that legacy. By stopping by simply to state “That thing you’ve been doing for over 15 years, you’re doing it all wrong!” you are carrying on the legacy of Ebert’s detractors, and I think the internet has a word for that kind of person (hint: it rhymes with droll).

  • thomskis

    Po-faced critic fails to be entertained by an entertainment. Shock.

  • thomskis

    Yeah Super was good. Definitely underrated. Just the right balance of lunacy and pathos.

  • thomskis

    Come on Mary. Get some fun out of life. You know the trolls are really in love with you and craving any scrap of attention :-)

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Yes, it’s terrible that aggregate critic scores should reflect the actual opinions of film critics, and not the heartfelt wishes of those who desperately want – nay, need – the personal valdiation that can only come if the movie is successful.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Hmm… 4/10.

    Points for trying to make a personal fight out of my critique of your trolling, but it’s still weak and unimaginative.

  • Dr. Rocketscience

    Methinks you haven’t read much of Roger “I hated, hated, hated, hated this movie” Ebert if you’re under the impression that he was in any way reticent about laying into a film that offended – or heaping praise on a film that appealed to – his filmic sensibilities (read: biases). Or that he was somehow immune to the old canard of allowing his biases somehow taint his “objectivity”. Basically you’re just name checking Ebert, and citing an exceptional (as in, an exception to the norm) review he once wrote, in order to criticize another critic entirely for not echoing your own biases back at you.

  • Kameron Cruz

    Where did I say they offend me? Stop making things up. I never ever said I have something personal against critics. Stop defending this MaryAnn woman like you’re her PR rep. I merely said that critics don’t know more about films than the average person. I don’t pay more attention to their opinions than the opinions of any other person I speak to on the internet. That’s all. Don’t be so sensitive and get carried away.
    Oh, of course, because I don’t worship critics, that must mean I don’t understand art criticism isn’t meant to reflect the reader’s opinions back to them.
    Talk about an ego.
    If I want to see a movie, I see it. The opinion of a critic isn’t something that can sway me– because I actually have a mind of my own.

  • Kameron Cruz

    Please quote me where I said I don’t “like” critics.
    I’ll wait.

  • Kameron Cruz

    Please deflate your attitude? That doesn’t even make any sense. An ego can become inflated and thus need to be deflated. An attitude can only become better or worse. There’s no such thing as an inflated attitude.
    Egos and feelings of self-importance can become inflated. Attitudes cannot.

  • Kameron Cruz

    Anyone who disagrees with your opinion about Kick-ass is a troll? Wow. Gotta love the internet.

  • I merely said that critics don’t know more about films than the average person.

    And here you are simply wrong. The average person does not watch — with a critical eye — 200 to 400 movies each and every year. The average person does not *study* films and put them into a larger cultural context. The average person does not *write* about films in depth.

  • Quit it with the hairsplitting and the vocab policing. We’re here to talk about the film.

  • I could not possibly care less what the trolls want.

  • You have yet to mount an adequate defense of this film. Please feel free to do so at any time.

  • OnceJolly

    Your process is well suited for judging a product – What is this product
    for? How well does it do its intended job? – however I maintain that
    despite the concerted and valiant efforts of our best and brightest
    marketing departments, most movies are not merely products, they are
    works of art even movies as pedestrian as this one.

    I’m not so sure that this a useful distinction. Presumably works of art do have a purpose. The artist has something to say, or wants to entertain, or some combination of the two, and in the context of criticism, questions about intentions and the extent to which the work serves those intentions seem entirely appropriate.

    I also think that the form that most contemporary film criticism come in, which assumes the reader has not yet seen the work, and makes what is essentially a “buy or not” recommendation, is severely hampered it what it can accomplish. Which doesn’t mean that good critics can’t occasionally transcend the limitations of their chosen form of expression.

  • keepITreal

    Yeah, says a guy who spells Cameron with a K. Even if it’s correct in somebody’s grammar world, at the very least it looks tacky spelled that way.

  • This is not necessary.

  • Really Disappointed

    I’d say this reviewer called it right. I couldn’t wait to see this movie when it opened, and I couldn’t wait to get out of the theater afterwards. Yes, it WAs that bad!

  • Imran

    by your logic every comic book film about DC or Marvel comic book characters is a reboot of the previous one because all of them explore what it would be like in a fantasy world where people had super powers.

    I havent seen kick-ass 2, but here is my attempt at defending Kick-Ass.

    Watchmen was completely different than Kick-Ass. Watchmen actually lost its realism as soon as Dr Manhattan was shown. There can be no explanation of how Dr Manhattan can be a real thing. Kick Ass does not even try to be a depiction of the real world. In the real world a 10 year old cannot kick hard enough to throw people across the room. Its a goofy, action movie full of blood and violence, about a fantasy world where people with super powers dont exist but crime fighters do.

  • Kameron Cruz

    You’re mocking me for my actual name? Wow. My name is Kameron with a K. That is my birth name. Sorry if it doesn’t meet your standards.

  • You’ve defended Kick-Ass 2 stalwartly, bro. Now it’s time to head on out to some other website.

  • Yeah… we should really turn off guest posting. Is that possible with Disqus?

  • No, no, don’t be silly. Trolling is when someone who has never, ever posted on a particular website before begins posting there to vehemently disagree with a review for obvious, heart-on-his-sleeve, personal reasons.

    You’re not the first, and you won’t be the last. But if you take a moment to consider exactly why you are doing this, perhaps you can be the first to say “Oh, I see what you mean… bringing my emotional baggage in to a place that I’ve never been before is kind of immature. Maybe I’ll come back to this site when I’ve grown up a little”. Or, you know, whatever your deal is…

    That’d be pretty impressive.

  • I loved Kick-Ass, and I also really liked Super.

    I can have it all!

  • It’s not a question of taking the review “seriously” or not, don’t be so prosaic. Are you saying if she hadn’t told you at the start that she didn’t enjoy the first movie, then you wouldn’t have been such a jerk about the review?

    What I’d like to know is why the fuck do you even care if MaryAnn likes this movie? Examine yourself and your personal motivations, and answer that question in a serious manner, if you dare.

  • Hmmm… setting up a disqus account takes like 2 minutes, max. It’s your site, of course… but I’d question why “regular” posters would be annoyed by this extra bit of effort to save us all the deluge of dickheads anonymity brings.

  • Bluejay

    I am one of the regular (no sarcastic quotes necessary) commenters you’re talking about, I suppose. I don’t know if anyone else has talked to MaryAnn, but this is what I told her: that I’m personally uncomfortable with the fact that a Disqus profile would show my entire comment history, not just on this site but on all Disqus-using sites. If I’m having a conversation with some people at a party, I see no reason for people at another party I may sometimes attend, halfway across town, to know what I’m saying.

    A quick glance at your public profile, KingNewbs, shows comments you’ve made at Den of Geek, TorrentFreak, CHUD, and Red Letter Media. Maybe you’re okay with everyone knowing which sites you frequent and what conversations you have there. Personally, I wouldn’t be. Not because I’m a secret asshole on other sites, but just because I like my privacy, what little of it I can hang onto.

    It also seems pretty obvious that commenters don’t have to be unregistered in order to be trolls. (See: “Kameron Cruz” on this thread, and “Edced8” and “Turdmon” and “novak84” and others on the Anchor Bay dick-washing thread, for just a few examples.)

    I know that this is MaryAnn’s site and her rules, and I’m very grateful and appreciative that she’s taken my concerns into account. It makes me feel welcome here, and that’s something I don’t take for granted.

  • Those weren’t sarcastic quotes, just regular quotes. And your explanation makes a bunch of sense, but it still doesn’t seem like it would “annoy” you (regular quotes again) as much as it would infringe on your sense of personal privacy. Which seems like a legit reason to me. I was just questioning the wording MaryAnn used, as I am not really that into trying to make sure we don’t “annoy” anybody. But that’s a different thing than making sure people who have legitimate concerns aren’t kept off the site.

    And you’re right, I don’t care if people can look at all my past posts; that’s what social media is all about. But there is also another good reason for creating an account: it is a simple matter for me to google all posts made by the guest “Bluejay” on this (or any other) site — so, one pro to creating an account is that any and all comments made by “KingNewbs” are, in fact, made by me. I can edit or even delete them if necessary. Whereas I could, for example, do a guest post as “Bluejay” and completely fuck with your reputation on this site (not that I ever would). So that is one counter-argument to be made for having a login, even if you only ever use the “Bluejay” account on this site.

    Likewise, when non-guest commenters behave like trolls, downvoting their comments is an actual consequence; they can be banned and ignored using the built-in tools Disqus provides.

    But I completely understand your reasoning… just something else to consider. :)

  • amanohyo

    You may be confusing theme and tone here. Thematically, the two are similar, that is they have the same underlying idea. Tonally, they are very different as you and others have noted. Your argument is:

    1) Watchmen tried to strike a realistic tone and failed because Dr. Manhattan is too unrealistic.

    2) Kick-Ass does not try to strike a realistic tone. It is solely a goofy, violent action movie and succeeds on those terms.

    I think 2) is debatable as much of the initial humor in Kick-Ass arises from the tension between the worlds of previous less realistic movies about costumed heroes and the more realistic Kick-Ass world in which death and serious injury are possible for the protagonist.

    That aside, your argument boils down to a different set of standards. You were entertained by the tone and didn’t expect any interesting or novel ideas/themes/perspectives to be introduced. MA found the tone inconsistent and determined that this inconsistency was the result of laziness rather than an intentional effort to explore some new theme or perspective.

    This is not yet a solid defense. Why is Kick-Ass a good movie? To strengthen your position, you might describe how and why the “goofy, violent” tone is good and/or entertaining. Was there anything about the plot, script, and/or acting that you think was well done? Perhaps you found the FPS-inspired Hit-Girl rescue scene effective? If you develop a better handle on your own perspective, you’ll be in a position to respond more convincingly to specific points in MA’s reviews.

  • amanohyo

    Your second point is accurate – however, in general, I find the most interesting criticism is written under the assumption that the reader is familiar with the work being discussed.

    Most film “critics” write what I would call reviews (as opposed to criticism). These assume the reader has not watched the film, and tend to build toward a buy/don’t buy conclusion. Many critics (MA included) are forced to straddle the line for practical and historical reasons, but I typically find that to the extent a piece bends more toward the review end of the spectrum, its arguments are weakened. If you haven’t already done so, read some of Walter Chaw’s reviews at filmfreakcentral.net for examples that usually fall closer to the critique end (of course MA’s “reviews” here are also more critical than those of the average movie site).

    Regarding your first point, I agree that questions of intentions can be appropriate, but as I stated, a process that claims to flow from intention down to effect does not have the potential to produce a valuable film critique for me. Taking an extreme case, perhaps the director has published a script that outlines the precise mental, physical, and/or emotional responses she or he wanted to produce in the audience down to the frame. Maybe every actor, editor, musician, lighting specialist, make-up artist, and all of the hundreds of other people involved in making the average movie is completely in sync with the director’s desires. Even then, I would find a critique that primarily compared the written intentions to the actual effect to be a purely academic exercise.

    You cannot ask about a film “what is it for?”as easily or meaningfully as you ask it about a can opener or even something as mysterious, beautiful, and complicated as a space shuttle. The average thirty second pornographic clip is more obscure than the average object that I would call a product.

    The product/art distinction as I am using it is not a spectrum so much as a set of qualities that can be viewed through different lenses. There are many people who find it very useful and “productive” to view everything (including people) mostly through a product lens, marketers and film critics alike. That lens moves in the wrong direction for me. My response to arguments of this type are, “I don’t care what you think they were trying to do, what did they do and how could it have been done better?”

    At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily care if the director was trying to make me laugh/cry and failed. If she or he succeeded in doing something(s) else of note, the film is a good one and worth thinking about. In fact, if he or she simply failed in an interesting way, he film has the potential to be good. Similarly, a product can be viewed through an artistic lens, “I know what this can opener is supposed to be for, but can it do something else as well?” A good critique starts from the response of the critic and works its way upstream to the film, and finally to the supposed intentions of the makers (which are rarely simple and monolithic).

    Trying to go the other route introduces a mostly imaginary middle man where none is needed and often gives one the illusion of being “unbiased” and “objective” when the very structure of the process ensures that the underlying biases of the writer are baked in to every thought.

    I don’t make the claim that questions of intention should never be discussed – I merely claim that in criticism that is useful to me, questions of possible intentions usually bring up the rear of the argument. Criticism that begins with a firm statement of the maker’s intention tends to leave me cold and unconvinced (organized religion suddenly comes to mind , but that’s a different discussion and set of biases).

    Ultimately, we just have different aesthetic philosophies (or different standards for which aesthetic philosophies we find useful if you prefer), neither of which is inherently superior, but each of which works well for us individually, and I think that’s for the best (If you think that’s not for the best, then I think that’s for the best too). I would hate for everyone to think as I do, and I recognize that the product lens and arguments/thoughts starting with questions of intentions are useful and helpful for many people. They just aren’t useful or helpful to me. My own bias has caused me to frame things in a way that implies the artistic lens is far superior to the “mere product” lens, but that’s unavoidable. Ultimately, I hope you understand that I respect your perspective despite being unable to share all of it.

  • OnceJolly

    I wasn’t try to argue that intention is the only way to evaluate and/or critique an artistic work, but rather that it was a legitimate criterion. My main reason for responding was really a reaction to your distinction between “art” and “product,” which I don’t think (with some exceptions) is as stark as you imply.

    Most industrial products, even if they have a fairly pedestrian function, involve industrial design, which has an aesthetic component to it. As an example, most of us recognize that there are aesthetic differences across different makes of cars (and within a particular model, across vintages and variants). Although a Ford Mustang and a Honda Accord might have quite different objective performance features, there are other differences that are important to (at least some) consumers. I don’t think it is a stretch to argue that as a *design*, the Mustang is a work of art. However, I don’t think that an individual car is a work of art, anymore than a print of a painting is, or a DVD of a movie . In replication, all three are consumer products, and are part of what is often characterized as “consumerism.”

    I don’t have any hostility to extending the other considerations you mention to criticism, and think that they have the potential to be valuable, interesting dimensions.

  • 2 cents

    I won’t fault anyone for not liking the movie. I can’t help but disagree with the motivation for not liking it in this review though. Seems the reviewer wants the movie to be something it isn’t, but again, that’s fair enough. I think both the original movie and this sequel where highly enjoyable movies. Their defining trait, “what would happen if people would actually try to be superheroes in the normal world?”, is explored well I think, without trying to be too serious. It’s still an action-comedy after all. Sure, some scenes or dialogue might not be perfect, but show me a movie (especially in this genre, which exists for being over the top basically) that is then…

    One thing I do have to ask: does the author of this review even know what a “reboot” is? Seems not… Also, calling this a Watchmen rip-off… really?

    Again, I don’t mind anyone not liking the movie, but the justification seems a poor attempt at being clever, knowledgeable and analytic.

  • Michael Kruckvich

    Having now seen the film:

    They may both LOOK like “real life superheroes,” but only in the most superficial of ways. Watchmen was a deconstruction of superheroes via an in-depth examination of “what if the development of pulp heroes of the 40’s through the superheroes of the 80’s happened for real, what kind of people would they be, and how would they have been influenced by the politics and social changes of the times? With the most heavy look at the Cold-War 80s in which the comic was written and published.”

    Kick-Ass and its sequel are more like post-irony looks at “what if superhero WANNABES came up against actual criminals, with some actually /slightly/ unrealistic superheroes to compare and contrast against in the same setting?”

    Granted, the films are very uneven in tone and content, with a melange of social commentary, dark humor, spectacle, and shock value that never quite fit together and often makes the films work against themselves. I still found them enjoyable, mostly despite the shock value elements – and I don’t intend to read the comics because from what I understand, the shock value elements were toned down in each film.

  • Yes, it’s possible. And I did turn it off. It didn’t keep the idiots out, and it annoyed regular well-behaved and interesting and intelligent commenters. So I turned guest posting back on again.

    If I could make commenting open only to subscribers, I would do that.

  • Hmmm.. I wish I knew more about how TinyPass works… I do see that if I’m not logged in with my subscriber account then premium stories have a limited viewing number… is it possible to wall off a section of a page entirely to non-logged-in viewers, rather than just a limited number of views? If so, you can put the comments section inside tinypass code, perhaps?

  • It does look like there is tinypass code that completely disables content unless a user is logged in… perhaps this is a solution for you. The comments code would be on a separate include page, and the tinypass API only displays that code if a user is logged in.

    source: http://blogwhatdesign.com/wordpress-and-tinypass-custom-integration/

    Of course, yelling at guests is kinda fun, but it does get tedious… not tedious enough to keep me away though! :D

  • LaSargenta

    Both of you have just given me a fascinating read. Thank you.

  • LaSargenta

    Sorry to be repetitive; but, both of you have just given me a fascinating read. Thank you.

  • ginnarr

    kick ass one was a fun movie to watch. good acting by all, typhical high aciton, wipe out the bad guy, but all in all a lot of fun based on a 11 year old bad guy killer .. all i can say for kick ass 2, is both starts kick ass and hit girl can hang up thier costume.. poor acting, bad script, stupid plot..
    all in all it sucked big time. two bad, didnt expect anything to great but did figure it would be up to sequal par….

  • ginnarr

    the movie was a fanasty, base on comic book character… nothing more.. as for real super heros, we all ready have those, audie murphy, maj bong us army airforce, sgt york, any medal of honor winner is a super hero, and in the civilion, just ordianry people who see someting bad and wead in and aciive a victory in a bad conflict..
    super heors are out their, just plain people who do extronary things whtn the chips are down..

  • Someone132

    Not sure there’s still a point in commenting on a 2-year old review, but anyway, I disagree on the whole. In many ways, Kick-Ass 2 is a film about how initially silly ideas grow and mature within the society, getting both the outside recognition and the inevitable push-back. Yes, Watchmen (the comic; haven’t seen the film) indisputably did it better, but Watchmen was also uniquely tied to its setting, being an excellent analysis of how actual history might’ve changed with superheroic presence, and how they would then inevitably get co-opted into upholding the current order. The panel where original superheroes consider black civil rights to be a threat they must guard against is one of the many hard-hitting elements of that work. This wouldn’t have worked in Kick-Ass, and so it tracks the impact of modern technology and social mores instead.

    Then, of course, Kick-Ass himself is a typical look on a confused teenage protagonist no better or worse than most (although Taylor-Johnson’s acting is weak here like it always is). Then, there’s the ever-present air of fatalism around Hit-Girl, while the villain’s idiocy is fun to watch and has enough real-world parallels (4chan’s founder, for instance, or the LulzSec + Gamergate). The rest of the “glossed-over edges” are interesting enough in their own right; more so than a typical superhero film.

    In particular, the scene with Carry and the dog was intentional, and showed how a person can easily dehumanise others and enjoy their suffering when they believe themselves to be above them and on the right side of things. It’s entirely consistent with his back-story (former Mafia, now born-again Christian), especially when viewed in context to how the Puritan, Manifest Destiny ideals led to general perversion of forgiveness ethos in the American Christian culture.

    Speaking of American culture, I’m not quite sure why so many took an issue with the policemen getting wiped out, at least with the benefit of hindsight. After Ferguson, Garner, Walter Scott, Freddie Gray, unarmed man shot in the head in L.A. recently and a plethora of such cases, there’s a reasonable chance that those policemen were no less deserving of death (to the extent you can say that, of course) than, say, Star Wars’ stormtroopers and the like.

    Of course, it has issues. Yes, some of the high-school scenes are shoehorned in, but no more so than the awkward, and occasionally laughable romance in Avengers 2. Plenty of other scenes could’ve been done better as well. On the whole, though it captures the contradictions of what being a superhero in a modern world would mena pretty well, and DOES in fact suggest the heroes would’ve been better off in soup kitchens and such. It’s no coincidence that the last line is “Did we leave the world a better place than when we started?”

    In all, I would give it about 7/10. Still better than most of Marvel’s output, though, let alone that horrific dreck Man of Steel.

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