Sorry to be a contrarian, folks, but I am anything but excited about Kick-Ass. In fact, I hated just about everything about the comic series it's based on, which I felt totally missed the point of superheroes in its ham-fisted attempt at satirizing the genre and its fans. I feel so strongly about it that I wrote a lengthy essay on the story's many, many failings, which you can read as a guest post at SF Signal. An excerpt:
The problem is that Kick-Ass wants to be a superhero, but his conception of heroism is all wrong. “We only get one life,” he says, “and I wanted mine to be exciting.” He sees the thrills, the violence, but not the underlying sense of moral mission. He says himself that he has no real origin, that “It didn't take a trauma to make you wear a mask... Just the perfect combination of loneliness and despair.” But Spider-Man or Batman's trauma isn’t just a throwaway aspect of their stories; it’s the guiding force behind their every action. A hero who begins with nothing but “loneliness and despair,” not an all-consuming moral imperative to improve the world, is by definition a nihilistic figure. Dave Lizewski is really not a superhero at all—in genre classic terms, he’s Peter Parker after the radioactive spider-bite but before the death of Uncle Ben. His actions aren’t altruistic in the least—he continues putting on the costume because he likes to ride the ego wave that comes from his Youtube fame... In a recent interview Millar stated that Kick-Ass dons his costume “because it's the right thing to do. In a weird way, if you push past all the blood and the swearing, it's quite a moral tale.” But because the character lacks a complete origin, a reason to think that what he’s doing is the right thing, it’s not a moral tale—in fact, it’s a decidedly amoral one. And without the sense of a moral mission, he’s simply not a superhero. Without murdered parents, Batman wouldn’t be a hero; he’d just be a guy who dresses up and punch people—which is basically what Kick-Ass is. In short, the book simply doesn’t understand the genre it purports to be commenting on. Superheroes work in large part because of the heroic myth at their core. In throwing out this central, defining trait of that myth, Kick-Ass loses any resonance it might have otherwise had.
Read the full essay at SF Signal.
While researching this essay, I learned that Mark Millar, writer of the comic and executive producer of the film, is a Catholic who attends mass every week. Given my interpretation of Kick-Ass as an amoral, nihilistic, Ennisian mess, I don't know what to make of that fact. Any thoughts? Share 'em below.