Is Kick-Ass Becoming Just Another Superhero Franchise?

Brow Beat
Slate's Culture Blog
March 13 2013 3:55 PM

Trailer Critic: Kick-Ass 2

Aaron Johnson and Jim Carrey in Kick-Ass 2
Aaron Johnson and Jim Carrey play "the good guys" in Kick-Ass 2

Still from the trailer

The first Kick-Ass was one of a small wave of movies to take on a relatively fresh premise: What if a regular guy decided to put on a mask and try to be a superhero? Derived from Mark Millar’s comic of the same name, the result was a new twist on the tired old superhero genre, and director Matthew Vaughn delivered his own take with a measure of Tarantino-esque style.

But now that Kick-Ass and Super and Defendor have each offered their own answers to that question—mostly, it turns out, the “heroes” would get their asses kicked—I’m not sure where Kick-Ass has to go. This first trailer for Kick-Ass 2 doesn’t seem to know either. In fact, if there’s one theme running through it, it’s that Aaron Johnsons’ Kick-Ass is not just a fraud parading around in a scuba suit anymore; he’s a real hero. “They may wear costumes, but it isn’t Halloween: They’re real-life superheroes,” explains a newscaster. Kick-Ass, in voice-over, agrees, “There’s no room for punks in suits—just real heroes.”

It’s true that our heroes don’t look like punks in suits anymore. Aaron Johnson—who’s gone on to make a name for himself playing studly hunks in Savages and Anna Karenina—is  bulked up once again here, taking the main scrawny-guy-fighting-crime gag of the first off the table.  Actress Chloë Grace Moretz, who’s now 16, doesn’t look like a little girl anymore, either. This means her infamous potty mouth—which caused a full-blown controversy around the release of the original—doesn’t really shock this time around. Add in one of the oldest superhero movie plots of all—outlawing the mask—and all of a sudden Kick-Ass looks less like a send-up of superhero movies and more like… just another superhero movie. It also doesn’t help that Matthew Vaughn did not return to direct this sequel (though he is on board as a producer).

There is at least one man who might save this movie, though: Jim Carrey, who plays Colonel Stars and Stripes, a violent G.I. Joe-esque superhero and a born-again Christian. For the first Kick-Ass, Nicolas Cage gave one of his most nuanced and inventive performances in years as the Batman-like Big Daddy, and it’s exciting to see a grizzled Carrey transforming himself for what looks to be a similarly twisted performance. His demented hero also seems to have the one key trait—unlikeability—that helped keep the first installment from being just as escapist as the movies it was sending up. Here’s hoping Kick-Ass 2 has a few other twists up its sleeve.

More from the Trailer Critic
Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha
Pedro Almodóvar’s I’m So Excited
The Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis
Spring Breakers
Pacific Rim
Man of Steel
Star Trek Into Darkness
World War Z
The Lone Ranger

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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