Before the rise of R-rated comic book movies, there was one little movie that came out in 2010 called Kick-Ass, a film about a high school nerd with hopes and aspirations of becoming a superhero.
One day, this guy decides to become a superhero and accidentally gets tied into a gang war. At the time, Kick-Ass achieved a feat that seemed impossible in the CBM genre. With the likes of Watchmen and Blade, more comic book movies didn’t dare to take the R rating.
And then came Kick-Ass.
I am certain 90% of CBM fans wouldn’t include Kick-Ass in their list of the most underrated CBMs, but I have slated this post to outline why I believe Kick-Ass is the most underrated comic book movie. Ever.
In short, Kick-Ass walked so Deadpool could run.
Characters and Their Costumes
The main character, David Lizewski (played by Aaron Taylor-Johnson), is one of the most relatable characters ever put to screen. It is brilliant how the main character is a comic-book nerd, which is the majority of the film’s audience. It goes hand-and-hand, peanut butter and jelly, Snyder Cut and conspiracy, The Last Jedi and butthurt entitled fans.
Most of us would do exactly Dave Lizewski did if we had a legit superhero costume. Or, have at least thought about it endlessly. Having that guy make those things engages the audience into the character and creates empathy for him.
From Aaron Taylor Johnson’s naive Kick-Ass to Nicholas Cage’s courageous Big Daddy and his murderous vigilante daughter Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). These characters blend so well, without the use of exposition throughout the movie. Big-Daddy is criminally underrated and deserves more recognition for this role. Even the villain of the film Frank D’Amico, played by Mark Strong, is a great antagonist for the film.
Also, can we all take a moment and appreciate how accurate the costumes are to the comics? Everyone’s costumes are spot on from the comic and this is an underrated feature about the movie. Many comic book movies fail at costume design and replicating the feel from the comics. Kick-Ass does just that and even more.
Real World Aspect
Kick-Ass is one of the most real-life comic book movies released as it resembles how the world is like today. Throughout the film, there are many comic books and superhero movie references, such as Spider-Man 2, Batman Begins, and Wolverine. Comic books exist in this movie’s world as pop culture artifacts replicating how we view them in today’s world.
The characters go name drop many comic books, superhero movies, and characters. The universe of Kick-Ass resembles people act today. Yes, Kick-Ass has a very small scale story but the reality of it is phenomenal. There are stakes, consequences, and depicted as something that could really happen.
What struck me most was the entire film how the storyline adds more reality to the film and makes it relatable for the audience and easier to connect from a fan’s point-of-view.
At the time we had movies out like Iron Man, Watchmen, The Dark Knight, and The Incredible Hulk, it was a standard time for comic book movies due to a lack of diversity on the superhero side of cinema.
None of the comic book movies at the time were rated R. And many of them poked fun at superhero cliches and the idea of gruesome action scenes. Ten years ago, Kick-Ass was nothing like any comic book movie — a fact still evident to this day.
Kick-Ass was way ahead of its time. Coming out in the same year (2010) Kick-Ass and Scott Pilgrim vs The World could be viewed as brothers-in-film. Both were released in the same year and parodied superhero tropes before Deadpool released. Many people complain about the over-saturation of comic book movies and how they “all feel the same.”
Kick-Ass is masterful at balancing tone. Sometimes, the film is light-hearted and joyful but it’s also brutal and dark when it has to be. Kick-Ass perfectly encapsulates how to juggle tone in a movie. What I liked most was the tone is never misplaced in scenes. In the first 20 minutes of the first act, the movie feels like the beginning of Spider-Man.
A geeky kid likes a girl out of her league having difficulty dealing with insecurities. Then minutes later, the audience is thrown onto the opposite side of the coin with a dark tone. Each tone being juggled around perfectly captures its scene.
Kick-Ass, at heart, is a love letter to comic fans. It is shaped like a living comic book. Thanks to the immersive color pallet each shot is visually stunning and offers some of the best cinematography CBMs ever seen. Watching Kick-Ass each time for me is an eye-opening experience, thanks to the cinematography.
I wish more comic book movies today went this route for cinematography. A plethora of superhero movies today have stale cinematography, lighting, or a typical dull grey color pallet. While some superhero movie needs a grey color pallet, a handful suffers from the use of it. To many, it comes off as unimaginative, incredibly rundown, and adds nothing new to the genre.
Kick-Ass does the opposite of its peers with an extravagant color pallet that doesn’t get tiresome. Lighting can express the subtleties of character, plot, and setting. Kick-Ass excels exactly at this. If you’re making a comic book movie you may as well try your best to make each scene feel like a comic (Kick-Ass). It adds more style to the overall film and gives the audience something to latch on too.
At the end of the day, Kick-Ass pulled off an amazing feat which mainly comes down to the directing. It’s glaringly obvious the director knew exactly what he wanted and brought his vision to life. The directing in Kick-Ass is phenomenal and it goes hand in hand with the editing of the film. \
Aspiring film editors should take notes because the editing in this film is a work of art truly. The transitions between scenes are swiftly smooth and it emulates the comic book feel. Kick-Ass, at heart, is a love letter to comic fans in the shape of a living breathing comic book.