19 April 2010

More First Impressions: Kick-Ass

Welcome to Part Dos of Norwegian Morning Wood's coverage of Kick-Ass this weekend. Yesterday I went over some basic stuff concerning the excellent structure of this film, but it's already clear to me this thing signifies much more about our culture than that. There's three big issues floating around here, I'll tackle the least important first:

The Power of New Media:

I've hardly seen another movie like this that really implements the strength of New Media and the rapid dissemination of ideas and memes that the Internet provides. Sure, Funny People (2009) had its share of Facebook jokes, but Kick-Ass far surpasses that. New Media, in fact is vital to the plot in the way that Cell Phones are vital to The Departed (2006). Quite simply, the movie would be impossible even five years ago, or perhaps it's better to say that the rapid rise in fame would be much more of a stretch.

Basically, Kick-Ass earns his fame through YouTube and MySpace. And really with a bit of luck and a hook that's all anyone needs to get fame these days. His video is uploaded via cell phone cameras and his sadistic "unmasking" is streamed live to mass interest. This all provides a sense of intense realism. Peter Parker's rise to prominence in Spider-Man (2002) seems antique and serendipitous by comparison. Kick-Ass continually tends to render the superhero genre silly and outdated, which I'll get to later. Kick-Ass as a hero relies on New Media to fund his career, communicate with other heroes discretely (a good nod to the unreliability of the people you're talking to on MySpace - they could be anyone, baby) and facilitate his popularity and accessibility to the "commoners" (normies). The ease to which this film institutes these factors speaks volumes about our technology-obsessed zeitgeist.

Trends: Fun Gore!

This film along with last fall's Zombieland (2009) are beginning to exhibit a little early-Decade trend here that I'll hopefully be citing in two or three years. I call it Fun Gore. It's the joyful R-Rated Action Comedy full of gory bloody punishments tolled out to all baddies (I might add Hot Fuzz [2007] here too, we're on to something baby! We could add the whole Cornetto Trilogy as precursors). They're some of the best films of the decade and full of blood and a steady line between comedy and drama. More than that, though, both Kick-Ass and Zombieland have this winking attitude towards the audience that never really becomes too obnoxious. They know they're pretty good but don't flaunt their appeal. Both films tend to turn stale genres on their heads, deconstructing them while fulfilling expectations of blood and action. This spin and deconstruction of the Superhero Genre on Kick-Ass' part serves as probably the most important facet of this film. Let's get into it:

Superhero Movies: Killed Off or Revitalized?

There have been a flurry of articles around the InterWebs discussing this subject. While Graeme McMillan at io9 believes this film signifies a culture's tiring of a tired genre, Cole Abaius of Film School Rejects directly counters this sentiment. Go on, read those and come back.

Welcome back. Like I said before, this movie already makes the rapid fame of Spider-Man seem silly. Something like Iron Man's rise isn't as outrageous, but of course, Stark's resources are much more expansive. On the other hand, time may yet make fools of us all. Batman's rise in Batman Begins (2005) may well serve as timeless, that Kick-Ass seems so in our moment may lock the film as just that - always only a 2010 film.

New Media obsession aside, the film assuredly demonstrates a turning point in our treatment of the most successful film genre in the past decade. Keeping with io9, here's a nice little mention of the many ways in which Kick-Ass highlights and makes light of other superhero myths. This film tends to do what Watchmen (2009) tried to do - realistically establish a world with real-life superheros, thus revolutionizing the genre. Watchmen's failure where Kick-Ass succeeded is due to a few different factors. The primary reason is that in all actuality, Watchmen is a pretty bad movie. It's unrelatable from a character-based standpoint, stuck in a now irrelevant time period (with a soundtrack more forced than Hot Tub Time Machine [2010]) and full of elements that are cartoony enough (Think Nixon's wacky portrayal, purposeful or not) to remind the viewer that despite all attempts this is still a Superhero film instead of an anti-Superhero film. Meanwhile Kick-Ass is such a slice of life film, so believable to happen in our world (probably derived from its modest rather than epic scale) that it sits better with audiences to elucidate the silliness of the Superhero formula.

The genre has expanded and become so big, its formula so ingrained in our mindsets, that it was simple for Kick-Ass to blow it up and easily recognizable by audiences that it was deconstructed. It's relative failure at the Box Office however, speaks to the apparent reality that we're not ready for such deconstruction. There are some great ideas at work here though, such as the spin on the Spider-Man catchphrase, "With no power comes no responsibility," as well as Cage basically becoming a Batman with guns. It's funny, the film is more of a mercenary picture, in place of superpowers, the heroes more often utilize firearms over gadgetry (more Comedian than Nite Owl). Cage even relies on the real myth of Batman to strike fear into the hearts of his opponents. It's all pretty interesting.

Whether or not any of this stuff sticks over the next couple years of course is the big question. My guess is that it will all come down to the performance of Iron Man 2 (2010) this summer (which undoubtedly will be astonishing). If the superhero genre is indeed dead (or at least mutated), the ebb and flow of interest for Green Lantern (2011) and all the Avengers films (2011 - 2034) should be up for grabs.

Oh well. Go kick some ass.

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