Oops, Maybe Jim Carrey Was Right
Kick-Ass 2 asks the question: what do you get when you take a wry satire of superhero movies like Kick-Ass and remove all of the satire? Well, mostly you just get a weird shitty superhero movie that kind of feels like it might’ve been shitty on purpose. Congratulations?
Kick-Ass 2 is kitschy, over-the-top, and by turns mildly amusing, obnoxious, nice to look at, stupid, and possibly offensive, but mostly it’s just pointless. I don’t know if something can be “more” or “really” pointless, but if so, Kick-Ass 2 is really really a lot pointless. Like infinity plus one pointlessness. Now I know, “Pointless” is often an unfair charge to level against a movie, because if the movie’s entertaining, no one worries about what the “point” was. What’s the point of a strip club? You go to see a show and they give you a show. And that’s fine. But “pointless” has scarcely applied so perfectly as it does to Kick-Ass 2, a movie that does nothing so effectively as make you wonder why you’re watching it.
Now, you don’t wonder “why am I watching this?” when you’re engrossed in a story. You wonder it when you’re watching something set in a confusing, heightened unreality where it always feels like someone’s trying to make a statement, but no statement exists. Imagine if Jonathan Swift had penned a sequel to A Modest Proposal where you couldn’t tell if he was serious about cannibalism. That’s Kick-Ass 2, a weird, fake satire. LET THEM EAT BABIES. I THINK.
The sad thing is, a lot of talent went into making this movie. It has some of the prettiest cinematography and set design I’ve seen, a fantastic cast valiantly committed to the material, and even a decent sense of language and comedic timing. But none of that matters because the movie isn’t about anything. It’s like Bob Saget’s last stand-up special – a mildly funny throwaway joke followed by ten contradictory taglines. It feels like it’s just flailing around trying to find a reason for existing in the first place.
Whereas Kick-Ass felt wildly self-aware, Kick-Ass 2 feels like it’s trying really hard to disguise its complete lack of a unifying point of view by making everything over the top and deliberately provocative – shhh, let’s see if we can trick them with fake symbolism. Now it’s posing on a crucifix! Now it’s tearing up a picture of the pope! Now it’s drawing a portrait of Lindsay Lohan in bear poop! It spews just enough motor-mouthed, zeitgeisty, faux-relevant horseshit to get through a scene, and then moves onto something else entirely with no through-line.
One scene is about finding solace in make believe! Another scene is about being yourself! One scene is about how you don’t have to be strong to be a superhero! Another scene is about getting stronger to become a superhero! A couple scenes are about how high school girls are weird and slutty and shallow and mean! The movie is about… I don’t know, capes!
Jim Carrey plays the kind of taking-it-too-seriously character that Nic Cage played in the first movie. Only this time, he doesn’t represent anything. He just sort of shows up for a while, gives a couple hints at a backstory and then goes away. Hit Girl tries to fit in at high school. Kick-Ass joins a team of wannabe superheroes. The villain formerly known as Red Mist (Chris Mintz-Plasse) becomes The Motherf*cker in the funniest sequence of the movie. But then the rest of his story just goes to campy theater fairyland, where nothing really makes sense, but THE VOLUME IS REALLY LOUD! Lots of people die, but none represent any turning point or consequence. And the first movie was all about real consequences.
The first Kick-Ass, directed by Matthew Vaughn, did a brilliant job creating a tongue-in-cheek world that mirrored the plot points of superhero movies, while heightening some of the inherent wrongness of it – the punitive, fascistic sense of morality; the weird, pedophilic sexuality. It followed the idea of the “dark, gritty, realistic” superhero movie to its logical conclusion. That it was so upfront about the inherent twistedness of the genre allowed you to enjoy the chop-socky and gleeful gore that much more. By deconstructing the superhero gesture, it allowed you to revel in its tropes. You can’t hope to understand or fully enjoy your perversions until you admit to them.
Kick-Ass 2, on the other hand, feels like it just copied superficial features of Kick-Ass with no real understanding of what it was about.
- High School Stuff!
- Social Media!
- All the women are hot and slutty!
- Chris Mintz-Plasse is funny!
- Aaron Johnson wears lots of layers of shirts!
The highlight is all of the actors, who I’d love to see in… uh… not this movie.
With no edge or critique or point of view, there’s no sense of rebellion, and you can’t enjoy any of the camp. It’s just kitch on top of kitch on top of nothing, with no purpose except fashion, like a Macy’s mannequin flipping you the bird.