Could the sequel to the enormously successful Kick-Ass reach the heights of its predecessor? Ryan Pollard finds it comes up well short…
The original Kick-Ass shook up the superhero genre when it hit screens back in 2010. It was unlike any comic-book movie that had ever come before: the tone was anarchic, the language was outrageous and the violence brutal. In the hands of co-writer/director Matthew Vaughn, and co-writer, Jane Goldman, it was an absolute blast from start to finish. Exciting, funny and hugely entertaining, an instant cult-classic and became my favourite film of all time. Set three years after the first instalment, Kick-Ass 2 begins with Kick-Ass/Dave Lizewski having hung up his mask and Hit-Girl/Mindy Macready coming to terms with the loss of her father. But both have to return to their crime-fighting ways when Chris D’Amico, hero-turned-villain in the first movie, grows increasingly troubled following the sight of his crime-boss-father’s murder at the hands of Kick-Ass. Hungry for revenge, he adopts an S&M ‘emo’ look, builds an evil empire and changes his identity from Red-Mist to The Motherf*cker.
Expectations were set high for Kick-Ass 2, mostly from me, because of how utterly fantastic the first film was, but ultimately, the sequel was very disappointing. The entire production team that worked on the first Kick-Ass (actors, designers, composers, etc.) all return to make the sequel, however Jane Goldman has vacated the scriptwriting chair and Matthew Vaughn now only takes a producing credit, with Jeff Wadlow (the only person that’s new to the team) taking over as both writer and director, and he’s very much the main reason why the sequel doesn’t work. What made the first film fantastic was how shocking, provocative, edgy, twisted and fun it was, and both Matthew and Jane never forgot how to produce big, bold and gutsy filmmaking in a way that had both style and panache, and that is crucially what’s missing here.
While there is a few tiny moments peppered throughout that sparks – mainly the climactic battle – the rest of the film fails to explode, and it certainly lacks the wit and surprise of the original. As with great tradition, a sequel will often lack the freshness and originality of its predecessor and Kick-Ass 2 never manages to escape the long, overcasting shadow of the original. Everything felt really contrived, and most of the jokes fell flat, most notably, the scene where The Motherf*cker attempts to rape Night-Bitch produced groans and sighs rather than huge laughter. Also, the swearing and verbal obscenity isn’t anything like as funny and snappy as in the first film. There are ways of using swearing and obscenity in films in a way that is witty, sharp, and almost, Shakespearean but with Kick-Ass 2, it was just used in a juvenile, playground way. For example, when the villainous Red-Mist changes his name to The Motherf*cker, it was like Wadlow and Mark Millar (creator of Kick-Ass) were trying to find the rudest word to call their villain, and it just felt imbecilic.
If there’s anything positive to say about the sequel, it’s to do with the returning team. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is still likeable and charming as the titular hero, and Christopher Mintz-Plasse is an absolute storm as the chief villain as he creates a new spin on the character that’ll make you both abhor and sympathize with, however it’s Chloe Grace Moretz that still shines and steals the show as Hit-Girl. Her combination of fierceness and vulnerability as she goes on her unhinged coming-of-age story is excellent. Jim Carrey is on scenery-chewing form as Colonel Stars & Stripes, leader of the rag-tag superhero group, Justice Forever. In spite of his clear insanity, he brings heart and soul to the film, despite being on-screen for only 15 minutes. The production team that have returned to make the second film have certainly done a great job, trying to replicate the feel of the original, from the design work to the pulse-pounding music. Unfortunately, all of what’s positive about Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t add up to very much.
So in the end, Jeff Wadlow is absolutely no Matthew Vaughn. Kick-Ass 2 is both very disappointing and cynical, which was a shame when the first film felt anything but. That’s not to say the film is a total failure, because with those three characters, there is going to be at least some stuff in there that works. However, because of where it’s coming from, and because it is the sequel to a film that has a personal resonance with me, Kick-Ass 2 was ultimately a major disappointment.