Thursday, October 14, 2010

Some notes on Kick Ass the Movie vs Comic

It's hard sometimes to look at the original material that's been written when you've seen the adaptation and want to take it on its own terms.  The Kick-Ass movie that came out earlier this year is in many ways very faithful to the comic.  And in other ways not at all.  I have to mention that I wasn't a huge fan of the movie when I saw it; Vaughn's style was, at least in the action scenes, like a Tarantino rip-off and not in a good way, and the disturbing element that I was enjoying of Hit Girl and Big Daddy was diluted by Joan Jett and Ennio Morricone blaring on the soundtrack during such scenes.

Coming to the comic, I have to admit I've yet to read a lot of Mark Millar's work, though his reputation as a kind of mainstream-punk-rock comic book writer, if that makes any sense, precedes him and the one book I have read of his- Superman Red Son- is one of the essential books about the Man of Steel.  With this, I kept thinking back to the movie, if in some part because Vaughn was *so* faithful that full lines, scenes and sequences were recreated, if not to Watchmen accuracy then close enough.  Yet I think that overall I found that the Kick-Ass story and writing in the comic was much more suited to that medium than it was to film.

In a comic you can make your own speed with the images, go back and look at something again (or, in this case with the ultra-violence, maybe move along or gawk for an extra few seconds depending on the mood), and in a movie you have to really show what's going on - and give flesh and blood and performances to it.  I felt more connected to Dave/Kick-Ass here than in the movie, and maybe that is because of something I found lacking in Aaron Johnson's portrayal of the character, or just how the writing translated over into the film.

Ironically where I found Dave/Kick-Ass' story really compelling in Millar's writing and in Romita's "cool" artwork (no other word for it), I was less so drawn in to the Big Daddy Hit Girl story.... that is until their issue comes around (#6) and especially a mammoth revelation Big Daddy has near the end before his demise that was unwisely cut out of the film.  The satire here is sharper on Millar's end by giving Big Daddy that dimension.  The only major thing the film improves upon with this is the casting: Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz are so brilliant and conscious of who they are in their roles they make up how they're ultimately only somewhat in-depth characters and more play-things for the director.

But is this comic all the bees-and-ees?  Not quite.  Millar tries to skate a line between doing a raucous, dangerous satire on superheroes and the comic book mythos in the real world and just doing a immature thing for 13 year olds, and sometimes he really slips over into he latter.  Some of the writing I felt like I could've done at an earlier age, and the very last few pages, which is also faithfully recreated in the film, just made me groan - this despite the fact that a lot of the comic ala Tarantino (in a good way) is smart in its referential nature.

Perhaps the film itself was as good as it could be based on the nature of the material and who was directing and cast and how it was recreate it.  Another thing, to momentarily digress into bitching, is how much more funny and insightful into the high school bullshit-relationship realm it is between Dave and Katie, particularly with the resolution in issue #8 when she finds out the whole truth, as Millar doesn't let *anyone* off the hook easy, save for Hit Girl whose final pages bring some much needed emotional resonance.

Kick-Ass does its name service when it works best, and Millar and Romita do their best to take a fresh take on a the "what-if" angle of comic book superheroes as an influence on popular culture and society.  This doesn't mean it lives up to its absurd over-proclamation on the back voer "THE GREATEST SUPERHERO EVER" or whatever the hell.  But it is, I have to say, more entertaining and packs a sharper, visceral punch than the film (which, if you haven't seen, I might suggest doing the opposite of what I did and check out the comic first).  

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