Expectations weren't exactly booming for the sequel to Kick-Ass. For one thing, the first film barely made any money. Nobody much cared for it, except for a cult(ish) fanbase of people like me. I was as surprised as anyone when they announced that a sequel was in the works. But I kept my expectations moderately low, not because of lack of talent going into the production, but basically because I'd read the sequel comic book, and it's just not as good as the first one.
And that's where the movie actually ended up faulting the most, just in the core story. Because it doesn't have nearly as focused a plot as the first one. Whereas Matthew Vaughn's first film had a clear beginning, middle, and end; Kick-Ass 2 just seems like a lot of middle. So I wouldn't put all of the blame on the fact that it lost its talented director (Vaughn still produced it), or the fact that they make these movies for dirt cheap by Hollywood standards (around $30 million). I would simply just say, again, that there was less of a need to make Kick-Ass 2 than there was to make the first Kick-Ass.
The first film was about the real life consequences of some kid trying to be a superhero. And that's a great story to tell. It's a satire/mockery of the whole superhero/comic book movie genre. It's violent and profane, but it *needs* to be. Kick-Ass 2, on the other hand (even the comic book), is full of a lot of blatant shock value violence. The kind of violence that people who complain about violence would almost seem justifiable in complaining about, had anyone who likes to complain about violence actually had Kick-Ass 2 on their radar as something to look out for, which I don't think anyone did. That might have been a run-on sentence.
I suppose the sequel takes a major shift away the real life consequences of being a superhero, for the hilarious logistics of what would happen if an obnoxiously rich person decided he wanted to be a real life comic book super villain. Christopher Mintz-Plasse is the real star of this one, as The Mother****er (formerly Red Mist). As he slowly starts to lose his mind since the death of his father in the first film, he basically warps into a collection of evil ideas that he's seen in movies or read about in comic books. And his portrayal is pretty great, and for the most part, extremely funny.
Conversely, on the side of the good guys, Mindy (Hit Girl) spends most of the movie trying to fit in with the normal teenage girls at her high school. It's almost a completely unrelated plotline than the one occurring with The Mother****er, only intersecting at the very end when it seemed logical for everyone to be in the same room for a giant battle. Mindy's plot is interesting enough, even if it felt like the middle section of a different movie. But the high school storyline abruptly ends at the end of the second act, when Mindy forces not one, not two, but THREE (!) people to simultaneously projectile vomit and diarrhea their pants in the school cafeteria. There's that classy shock value again.
Though, for all of the shock value that's in the movie, they totally held back from what was originally in the comic book. I'd say there are probably four moments in the comic book that made me go "Whoa..." because they were so intensely graphic and deplorable. One of them (Mother****er machine gunning down some kindergarteners) didn't make it at all into the film, because it probably would have ruined all the effort they put into making him a goofy super villain, instead of a genuinely evil one. Another moment (the death of a supporting character), was put into the film, but it was diluted down and shown very briefly, and much less intensely. Whereas in the comic book, the moment had an entire page dedicated to the singular image, which I stared at for a solid minute, just going "Damn..." The third instance of holding back was taking out a moment of suggested rape in the comic book, and turning it into kind of a silly joke moment instead in the movie. That wasn't really that big of a deal, I actually liked how they handled it in the movie better. It was a more well-executed moment, even if it also, again, took away from The Mother****er's intended evilness. But I suppose if you're trying to make an action comedy for wide release in theaters, cutting out the rape isn't a bad thing.
And lastly, and most questionable of all, is the fate of Colonel Stars-and-Stripes' dog. I've got to say that those panels are the single most disturbing panels in the entire comic book, and I don't know, maybe the most "iconic" series of panels, if anything in there could be deemed iconic (I don't think I'd go that far). The movie not only doesn't go through with it, but it addresses the issue of the dog directly through dialogue. "Should we kill the dog?" asks one of his minions. To which The Mother****er replies, "What? No! I'm not a monster!" and the scenes ends. To someone who has never read the comic, this is just a sub par joke, probably not even worth mentioning. But to anyone who has read the comic, it's basically an confession from the filmmakers that they didn't have the balls to go through with it. That seemed to define the weird approach they took to this film... They wanted it to be edgy and full of shocking moments, but they were too scared to actually show them on camera.
I guess it's a testament to the first movie that they were able to have so much of the original cast return, as well as adding some heavy hitters like Jim Carrey (and John Leguizamo!). Everyone acted like they wanted to be there, and it never felt like anyone in the cast was half-assing it. But having Jeff Wadlow direct it instead of Matthew Vaughn definitely took away from the style of the film. There were some great moments of cinematography and editing in the first film, but in this one, I couldn't really pinpoint anything particularly mind blowing in the technical departments.
As much as I've sort of completely bashed this film in this review, I'd just like to add that I *did* in fact enjoy it overall. I think I'm just in a grumpy mood today. And I'm taking it out on Kick-Ass 2. But I wouldn't exactly recommend it to people, either. I liked it, but you have to take into account these four things:
1) I loved the first movie. Like, *really* loved it.
2) I'm a fan of both of the comic books.
3) I'm down with over-the-top R-rated violence and immature humor.
4) I have a morbid curiosity to investigate everything Jim Carrey decides to star in nowadays (hey, remember Burt Wonderstone?).
And DESPITE all of that, I still thought Kick-Ass 2 was only kind of good...
7 out of 10