Since Hollywood really started ramping up sequel production, there have been some legendary dropoffs in quality from first film to second. Freddy Kruger, The Matrix and even Star Wars are tainted by the blatant cash-grabs that came after them. While once in a blue moon the same creative team is retained and they actually understand what made their first movie successful, bad sequels have become a fact of life in American cinema.
I knew all of that going in, but Kick-Ass 2 broke my heart.
The sequel to the 2010 hit picks up where its predecessor left off, with Hit-Girl (Chloë Grace Moretz) training Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) to be a more competent hero while Red Mist (Christopher Mitz-Plasse), now calling himself the Motherfucker after devising a new costume from his mother’s bondage gear, lurks in the background.
Then the plot takes an immediate left turn for no particular reason and focuses on Hit-Girl trying to adjust to normal life and a dejected Kick-Ass joining a group of costumed vigilantes lead by Captain Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey. Jim Carrey does not support the violence in this film). Then it takes another left turn and becomes a pretty standard hero vs. mass murderer movie.
While the first Kick-Ass was about as much fun as it’s possible to have at the movies, Kick-Ass 2 is the opposite of that. This isn’t just a bad sequel. This film is a corruption.
Instead of music that is either hand-picked for its cultural significance or beautifully composed for a specific, important sequence, Kick-Ass 2 frequently features one build-up riff that was used in the first movie and never plays the payoff. Instead of subtly exploring themes of heroism, bravery against stupidity, young sexuality and parental relationships, Kick-Ass 2 breaks out a gong labeled “identity theme” and bangs it for a couple of hours.
Worst of all, while both feature high school aged main characters, Kick-Ass was all about breaking out of the meandering inconsequentiality that looms over that stage of American life and making a real, if fantastic, difference. Kick-Ass 2, the main body of it at least, is about Hit-Girl trying to get a date.
Even on a character-by-character basis, this movie doesn’t miss the point of its predecessor as much as it actively runs in the opposite direction. Motherfucker combines his Superbad-style awkwardness with mass murder, a combination that isn’t as fun as it sounds. Hit-Girl, the supremely confident assassin, learns that she should be unconfident when faced with more trendy fashions. Nicolas Cage’s extended cameo gives way to Jim Carrey’s (Jim Carrey does not support the violence in this film).
All that, and the movie retains the ultra-violence (Jim Carrey does not support the violence in this film) and strange objectification of minors that made the original controversial.
As easy as it is to make fun of Carrey for his about-face and point out that everyone knows it’s not real, he does have a point. The first Kick-Ass was about teenage angst matched up against the drug trade. The story was told through violence, but at least the story was told. In Kick-Ass 2, the violence comes in more of a meaningless barrage that audiences are supposed to laugh at.
It may seem like these criticisms are too relative, but Kick-Ass was everything a movie can and should be. Other, similar films need to do something to stand out, but this one could have built directly on its predecessor’s success and no one would have batted an eye. It doesn’t.
Joshua Knopp is a formerly professional film critic, licensed massage therapist, journalism and film student at the University of North Texas and a senior staff writer for the NT Daily. After a brief hiatus spurred entirely by how awful Kick-Ass 2 is, he’s back! For questions, rebuttals and further guidance about cinema, you can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. At this point, I’d like to remind you that you shouldn’t actually go to movies and form your own opinions. That’s what I’m here for. Be sure to come back tomorrow for a review of You’re Next.