Is Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar an ass and potentially dangerous for thinking rape is no big deal and refusing to consider the ramifications of rape in his own work? You betcha Red Rider! At the preview screening of Kick-Ass 2 (adapted by director Jeff Wadlow, from Millar’s own graphic novels) though, I found I had even more than that to worry about.
I haven’t read Millar’s comics, so I can’t tell you if he decided, as Wadlow did, to leave the rape unseen. I can tell you that between this movie and the first one, I lost all ability to laugh and cheer at the concept of real-life superheroes. Or at least the ones I watched here.
Maybe it’s the rise of the real thing. The characters in Kick-Ass 2 keep talking about how life isn’t a comic book, but life for them is a construction, and after two-three go-rounds it gets harder to laugh at the already-thin joke. Gets harder with the introduction of several real-life real-life superheroes, before the beginning of this 103-minute construction.
For those outside the Seattle area, Phoenix Jones, the superhero name of one Benjamin John Francis Fodor, goes around town in his superhero outfit getting into fights and breaking up fights. Sometimes I think he’s right, and sometimes I think he’s wrong. On the whole I don’t (see below) approve of vigilante justice. On this night of 103 minutes, Jones and his Rain City Superhero movement were supposed to be the enforcers inside the theater. That’s right: they were supposed to turn out anyone who turned on a cell phone.
And people love the posse. Women queued up to get photos with the masked badasses. I have nothing against photo ops. I have something against the loss of questioning irony, of questioning at all, the question of the masked vigilante. Which brings me back to the film at hand.
A friend of mine called Nicolas Cage’s performance in the first film “the best Batman ever.” And I’m inclined to agree because for all of that film’s problems with violence and vigilante-boosting, Cage’s “Big Daddy” looked a lot like Batman would look in real life–in other words, low-budget, desperate, sweating, Ahab-obsessed with his “mission,” fundamentally insane. He died in fire, leaving behind his daughter Hit-Girl, whom he’d driven insane to create his own “Robin.”
This time nobody talks “insane” except, ironically enough, ironically. Hit-Girl becomes a ward (another Batman nod) to a cop, but she keeps a secret hideout (ditto) and her father’s empty Big Daddy suit in a big display case in the corner, its eyeless hooded eyeholes impassively judging her workouts.
(Here I’m reminded of the 1962 Hara-kiri, directed by Kobayashi Masaki, more recently remade by Miike Takashi. In the original, at least, the point of the samurai clan’s veneration of a ceremonial suit of armor was that suit’s very emptiness, proof positive that adherence to ancient ways had left compassion out in the rain to rust. Big Daddy’s duds make sense as a monument to his single-minded insanity, but within the new movie everybody treats his legacy as a guiding spirit.)
So for the record, no, I’m no good in a fight. I took beatings from my father, schoolyard bullies, neighborhood bullies, and even one or two so-called friends. I’m a wussy pussy wimp geek dork spaz nerd pimple on the face of respectable society, and sure, I dreamed of revenge. Still do sometimes.
But such pollution-swirl dreams don’t help anything except temporary release.
And no, I’m not real happy with the police at times. A car parked the wrong way on a side street seems to matter more than a vagrant crashed out on some rocks, or a man walking back and forth chanting and frothing (a man who, we found out later after he’d left, after repeated 911 calls failed to bring a patrol car, was brandishing a pair of scissors).
But I still say, let’s improve the police, and let’s improve ourselves. Let’s improve community relations in all possible ways. Let’s have some lasting sense instead of vigilante dreams, instead of scenarios promising misguided amateurs that they, too, can become the “real thing” if they only sweat like Bruce Wayne. Who was never real to begin with.
Hasn’t Iraq, after all, taught us the perils of outsourcing? Keep your friends close. Keep your community closer.