Kick Ass 2’s creative process, though not totally unique, was certainly an interesting one. After the runaway, and deserved success of the plucky original film, the author of the original comic book, Mark Millar, decided there was more to come, and wrote two more books, Kick Ass 2 and Hit Girl. Meanwhile, as he did so, the studios decided a sequel was worthwhile in film form as well, and approached him to work in tandem with Jeff Wadlow on this project. The film now released is one which amalgamates plot and character development from both of those graphic novels, written as it was at the same time as those books. However, the streamlining and density which might come with it by assumption are not that evident; while the film is fairly simple in its story, the sophistication is at a painfully low level, leaving the sequel feeling rather unnecessary and cynical.
As the movie opens, we get an update on the respective lives of Dave, Kick Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson), and Mindy, Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz). The prior has given up the life of crime-fighting to enjoy his teenage years as best he can, but feels jealous of those costumed heroes he’s inspired, while Hit Girl is conversely unable to give up her training, obsessed by the heritage she perceives as hers. The two come together to form a slapdash partnership, but Kick Ass finds Mindy’s joy in violence as off-putting as it was in the first film, and leaves to find a more welcoming cadre. He is guided by Donald Faison’s Dr Gravity to the open arms of ‘Justice Forever’, a super-group led by a menacing Jim Carrey as Colonel Stars and Stripes. If the first film was a satirical take on the newly popular superhero franchises evolving, this feels like an attempt to show up the ensemble movies of which The Avengers is the ludicrously successful first. Unfortunately, the method used is simply the same idea multiplied – they’re all distinctly normal people with very little aptitude for their chosen path.
This half of the film, of the misguided but earnest group’s exploits, is the more rewarding, but the picture is unable to focus on it enough; instead, Hit Girl’s attempts to become a normal teenager and be popular at school feature heavily. Here, rather than The Avengers, the influence seems to be films like Mean Girls and Easy A – but again, the homage does not make up for seriously lacklustre scripting and boring, predictable scenes and twists. The technique of using Mindy’s foul mouth as the punch line to a sequence becomes tiring and unimpressive very quickly, and several scenes are overlong. If boy band Union J did not pay for the advertising they receive in one section, it is a travesty, and if they did, it becomes depressing in an entirely new light.
Another poor aspect of the sequel is its villain, Christopher Mintz-Plasse as ‘The Motherf***er’, a leather-clad joke. That the film wants him to be a joke is no excuse, as this increasingly typecast actor mumbles his way through his lines and screams others bizarrely, providing little to no sense of dread. The film seems to be unaware of the power that Mark Strong held in the first picture because he was not a superhero – unafraid to simply shoot someone to get rid of them. The action sequences still feature the occasionally satisfying piece of ultraviolence, but the film’s tone detracts even here – it is a comedy, but a try-hard and unsuccessful one. Fart noises and vomit gags are plentiful, all carefully sound-mixed to be the dominant sounds when wanted, to drill the simplicity of the script and gags home.
If George R. R. Martin is showing how working together with studios as you continue to write a series can result in terrific television, Kick Ass 2 shows how the same process can produce a thoroughly disappointing film. Any sequel needs to feel necessary, and while this movie occasionally summons a ghost of its predecessor’s fun success, for the most part it fails to achieve this standard.