Kick-Ass: A Violent Tale of Wannabe Superheroes

“How come nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero?” is the question comic book creator Mark Millar asked himself. The same question is then asked by the character he later creates in his comic book Kick-Ass, a violent tale of wannabe superheroes. Yet before the ink was even dry, Hollywood was already getting production underway for the film. The hype and excitement grew for hardcore comic book fans, as this was the film they been waiting for.

Kick-Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson), an ordinary New York teenager, who dons a green and yellow internet-bought wetsuit to become the no-nonsense vigilante Kick-Ass. He soon finds an answer to why nobody’s ever tried to be a superhero, because it hurts. Overcoming all the odds, the overly eager Dave quickly becomes a phenomenon, capturing the imagination of the public. However, he’s not the only superhero out there – the fearless and highly-trained father/daughter crime-fighting duo Big Daddy (Nicolas Cage) and Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) have been slowly but surely taking down the criminal empire of local Mafioso Frank D’Amico. As Kick-Ass gets drawn into their no-holds-barred world of bullets and bloodletting with Frank’s son, Chris, now reborn as Kick-Ass’ arch-nemesis Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), the stage is set for a final showdown between the forces of good and evil in which the DIY hero will have to live up to his name. Or die trying!

Mark Millar is best known for his revolutionary comic books that seem to standout from the rest of the mainstream. From his radical reinvention of Superman’s origin, Red Son, to his re-imagination of Marvel’s premier superhero team The Avengers into The Ultimates, and also Wanted, the villains-as-heroes punk-tinged series that led to a hit film in 2008, starring James McAvoy, Morgan Freeman and Angelina Jolie. With Wanted’s success, Millar decided to explore the possibility of bringing his new baby (Kick-Ass) to the big screen before barely a panel had been drawn.

Millar pitched his idea to Jane Goldman and Matthew Vaughn, the writers of Stardust Once Vaughn had committed to the idea of writing Kick-Ass, he and Goldman got a script together very quickly, with Vaughn writing a first draft focusing on structure and story before Goldman added the dialogue and characterization.

Vaughn decided to fund Kick-Ass independently through his production company Marv. The money was quickly raised, and Kick-Ass started filming in September 2008, at Elstree Studios, London, and various locations in Toronto (doubling for New York). From there, Vaughn labored away at the film as director, finessing it with additional photography, including a beefed-up climax. He brought incredibly crowd-pleasing clips to the San Diego Comic-Con in July of last year and again to Empire magazine’s Movie-Con in London last August, which set chat sites ablaze and fanboys’ tongues wagging.

In many ways, Kick-Ass is the ultimate comic book movie. Like the Millar/Romita Jr. comic, Kick-Ass is stuffed to the gills with references to comic books and other superhero movies. “With no power comes no responsibility” is a play on Spider-Man’s catchphrase, “With great power comes great responsibility”. There are also multiple references to Batman and Superman, and the movie constantly plays with the tropes and conventions of the genre.

“It’s a love letter to comic books,” says Vaughn, echoing a phrase used by both Goldman and Millar. “It’s a post-modern comic book movie, it’s a comic book movie for now. I feel that comic book movies have become creaky. You can’t get away with cookie-cutter superhero movies anymore, and I feel that kids are going to relate to this.” As a result it was important that the tone be cheeky but reverent for Vaughn, and that the subversions of the conventions of the superhero genre be playful. “There is definitely an element of parody in there but it comes from a place of great affection. It’s about paying homage to something that I love rather than holding it up for ridicule.”

Kick-Ass opens in theatres April 16.