Kick-Ass 2: Fails to Kick-Ass

I’m offended by the title Kick-Ass 2. No, I’m not offended because I’m unsettled by profanity or by its inherent blandness. I’m offended because this movie was a sequel to the 2010 Kick-Ass in name only. The sequel completely departs from what made the original Kick-Ass so exciting. Nobly trying to reinvent itself into a more psychological and philosophical superhero movie, in the end it simply alienates the audience that was so loyal to the original.

Kick-Ass follows Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), a talentless high school student, on his mission to become the world’s first superhero, Kick-Ass. But Dave soon learns what real superheroes look like when he gets in trouble with the mob and meets the father daughter superhero team of Big Daddy and Hit Girl.

Kick-Ass 2 chronicles Kick-Ass’s and Hit Girl’s struggle to balance their superhero identities with their secret identities, while simultaneously fighting Chris D’Amico in his new super villain role as The Mother F**ker. The storyline attempts to build off the original, but takes it in such a different direction that the film almost becomes an alternate origins story. It would not be hard to re-categorize this film as more a reboot of Kick-Ass than the sequel it purports to be.

The most disappointing aspect of Kick-Ass 2 is the drastic decline in the quality of fight sequences. In the original, the cinematography and editing produced what are perhaps the most lucid fight scenes ever in an action movie. In the sequel, the fight scenes are disjointed, dizzying, even nauseating. It is impossible to follow the fight sequences easily when the film’s unnecessarily rapid shot editing leaves the audience confused. And the fight scenes never get any better. The bold choice in the original of Joan Jett’s “Bad Reputation” when Kick-Ass meets Hit Girl became by far the most iconic scene for fans of the franchise, but in this sequel the score is so obscure and uninspiring that any thrill, shock, or awe is conspicuously absent.

The writing and directing are also subpar. One-liners that are so funny and so memorable in the original are here forced, contrived, and at times painful. Not known for great dialogue, the original looks positively Oscar worthy compared to the sequel, which takes itself far too seriously and turns every potential powerful line into a bad joke. Director Jeff Wadlow departs from Matthew Vaughn’s original vision. Vaughn takes a realistic view of a teenager trying to be a superhero and points out the inherent absurdity. Wadlow attempts to create the same type of atmosphere, but instead loses the realistic emotion of Kick-Ass and focuses almost entirely on absurdity, but without the realistic backdrop, the movie loses any sense of irony and sense of humor.

The only redeeming quality of Kick-Ass 2 is Christopher Mintz-Plasse, who reprises his role as the conceited and cowardly Chris D’Amico. While Aaron Taylor-Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz deliver underwhelming performances, Mintz-Plasse actually improves his performance and becomes a villain that everyone will love to hate, if only for his comical parody of the modern American’s obsession with constant tweeting.

Kick-Ass sought to answer the question, “what if an everyday guy tried to be a superhero?” The honest exploration of this hypothetical question thrilled fans. Kick-Ass 2 attempts to delve deeper into the superhero psyche and asks the next logical question: “what is a superhero’s true identity?” The only problem is that, as the movie goes deeper into superhero territory, the audience becomes painfully aware that there is nothing behind the mask. The film is too ambitious in trying to maintain the levity to believability ratio of the original on a grander and more incredible scale. Ultimately, the film loses its identity as a comical superhero movie and at times becomes a parody of itself.

Although Kick-Ass fans are intensely loyal to the franchise, to the point where I am fairly confident in saying a bad review will not keep them out of the theaters, I feel compelled to advise everyone against seeing the sequel. It is always disheartening when a bland and clichéd sequel follows a fantastic and original movie. If there must be a sequel to Kick-Ass, let it be worthy of the name.

Grade: C+