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Script Review: Kick-Ass

Written by: Sal Crivelli, Special to CC2K

The script for this new comic-book movie continues the trend of slavish adaptations.

ImageJane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass is pretty much accurate. Adapted from the Mark Millar/John Romita, Jr. mini series (that’s still going on, by the way), this film adapted version is traveling the route so many recent comic adaptations are headed: very close to the chest source material. As we see new releases of costumes and images from production, fans of the series can see only slight derivations from the original images they’re familiar with in the comic.

The story follows comic nerd Dave Lizewski as a below-average high school kid who has very little going for him. Like most teenagers, he is regularly melancholy, masturbates constantly, and has big dreams for the future. The difference between Dave and other teenagers seems to be this big dream of his: to become a real-life superhero.

The narrative is interesting, as we’re treated to a puberty-age teen version of Edward Norton’s narration from Fight Club throughout the script. Every so often we’re treated to Dave’s commentary about a situation or feeling he had at the time. All the while it’s completely believable (and I’m not sure if Vaughn and Goldman have done it purposefully), because Dave tries very hard to sound cool and funny, and winds up sounding like a teenager who thinks he sounds cool and funny. It’s a fresh take on an already-tired film convention.

We’re treated to two stories in this script. The first story we all know, of how puny Dave Lizewski becomes wet-suit wearing, gangster-busting Kick-Ass. The second is the story of Damon and Mindy, a father and daughter super-duo known as Hit-Girl and Big Daddy. Eleven year-old Mindy is a foul-mouthed Tarantino character (think if Tarantino directed The Professional), and Damon is something more akin to the cop-on-the-edge characters from the 80’s like Riggs or McClane. This is the far more interesting story, which winds up carrying the bulk of the action, and the last two acts of the film.

I’m hesitant to talk more about the story, for fear of ruining what could potentially be the end of the series. The reason for my hesitance is chiefly due to how faithfully they’ve stuck to the source. Millar’s characters, brilliantly rendered in all their bloody glory by Romita, Jr. seem to leap off the page. I found myself thoroughly enjoying myself, and wondered if this might make a better film than a comic book series.

I will say that the ending is pure Hollywood convention. Then again, so was the alternative. The story had two places to go by the end, and when it was all over, I wondered just how surprising or relevant it was. Upon further consideration, I found the alternative probably would have been the same level of appropriateness and relevance, and decided to be contented with what was shown. A second read took the edge off the story, allowing me to explore the characters a bit more. The second time around, the ending was definitely Hollywood, but I still wound up enjoying it. I wonder, if there are any deviations from the comic, if any would be found here. I hope not, as I believe the ending is as comical as it is intriguing. It resonated with me, which I very rarely find in most script readings (remember, I’m the one who read Bubba Nosferatu).

Time and production values will tell whether this movie will work. In all honesty, the success or failure of Watchmen may also be a major factor. If Watchmen exceeds people’s expectations, the public will be more amenable to self-referencing superhero movies. If it fails, I predict the public will call Kick-Ass a Watchmen clone, and say that it’s an immature one, at that.

The truth is, Kick-Ass is nothing like Watchmen, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing. As I said, I liken Kick-Ass to movies more than comics, which is why I made the action hero references earlier in the review. This feels more like an homage to action flicks. It takes our American love of the Everyman action hero (like Indiana Jones or John McClane) and uses a relatively new film convention (the superhero genre), combined with dated references cementing it to our time (Myspace, cell phone videos, internet porn) to deliver a new take on the hack-n-slash, popcorn action flick.

If it works, it will find its audience and make for a fun DVD purchase. If it doesn’t, it certainly won’t bury either the action flick, or the superhero genre. For me, Kick-Ass does. Let’s hope in the time between now and its release, it doesn’t Suck-Ass.