Kick Ass did a good job of building a movie around seven issues of a comic book. It did it by fixing some of the holes and expanding the characters.
Kick Ass 2 tries to do the same thing, but it has one big problem. Chloe Moretz has grown up. Its solution is to stick in a Mean Girls plot that is completely out of place.
Every other second superhero movie follows the pattern of having the hero contemplate hanging up the cape. But there’s usually more at stake than date night.
The high school scenes in Kick Ass told us why someone might want to be a superhero. The high school scenes in Kick Ass 2 don’t tell us anything and belong in a completely different movie.
That’s not the only problem with Kick Ass 2. Moving the showdown from Times Square to a warehouse doesn’t do the ending any favors. Neither does cutting out the dark ending of the comic and trading it for an action movie shark finish and a neat escape.
Kick Ass 2 might have worked if it had stuck to that darker ending where the superheroes are arrested, Kick Ass is a wanted man after killing his nemesis and Hit Girl is on the way to prison. Instead there’s an uplifting moral about how everyone has a hero inside them.
The things that Kick Ass 2 does well are the same things that Kick Ass did well. It develops the villains and makes them a lot more interesting and entertaining than Millar managed to do. And Jim Carrey steals every scene he’s in as Captain Stars and Stripes, even if he’s unrecognizable and decided to take his name out of the credits.
What it fails at is developing the heroes. If Kick Ass 2 had done as much for the development of the heroes as it did in developing Chris and his relationship with his father’s bodyguard and the attention it lavished on Mother Russia, it would be a good movie.
But no such luck.
The heroes get scaled down to dumber costumes. And Insect Man is traded for a guy who is there for comic effect. Hit Girl’s big conflict is wanting to date and be a cheerleader.
Evil has a solid trajectory. Good doesn’t.
Kick Ass 2 thinks the villains are a lot more entertaining than the heroes. But a movie where the villains are solidly developed and the heroine is off doing Mean Girls doesn’t work. The movie straddles this disconnect by not going too dark. The Captain’s dog lives. Katie doesn’t get raped. Kids don’t get shot. And that takes the energy Kick Ass had off the table.
Kick Ass went places you didn’t expect. With Kick Ass 2 you know who’s going to get eaten by the shark long before it happens.
Kick Ass 2’s big mistake is that it gets too comfortable being a comedy that it doesn’t think too much about the superhero stuff. It goes for easy laughs by building up the villains and lowering the stakes. It forgets that there already was a superhero comedy and this isn’t it.
Kick Ass backed out of the some of the comic’s darker moments, but it was smarter about what it replaced them with. Kick Ass 2 has nothing to replace them with.