Superhero vs. Reality: The Ultimate Battle (II)

Posted: Sarp Esin Date: 2013-08-29 12:49

Print | Comments

Kick-Ass movie poster © Wikimedia Commons

Dave Lizewski is a typical high school outcast.  He’s a comic book geek, who hangs with a close-knit and small group of likeminded people.  He has a crush on Katie Deuxma, one that he cannot express or hope to have requited.  His comic books provide him with an escape from the grinding tedium of his day-to-day life.  In short, Dave Lizewski is Peter Parker, without the photographic talent and interest in science.

PART TWO: KICK-ASS

One day, a discussion with his friends regarding the absence of costumed superheroes in real life, Dave arrives at an idea.  He promptly purchases and modifies a green bodysuit with yellow accents, complete with mask.  He wraps duct tape around a pair of batons and carries them on his back via a harness.  Filled with conviction, he observes, at first.  At a certain point, of course, Dave decides to intervene.  The result is worlds away from what he has expected however: without much of a fight, Dave gets stabbed.  He blindly stumbles onto the road and becomes a victim of a hit-and-run.  When he recovers, he has several metal plates embedded into his body, and extremely reduced pain response due to nerve damage, what he calls “a slightly elevated capacity to take a kicking.” This leads Dave to undertake his first successful act of crime-fighting, all before the watchful eyes and camera phones of bystanders.  Upon being asked his name in the immediate aftermath, Dave identifies himself as “Kick-Ass.”

While this is going on, Damon Mcready, ex-cop and his 11-year-old daughter, Mindy Mcready are training to take on Frank D’Amico, a powerful mob boss in New York, to get revenge for the death of Mindy’s mother and Damon’s wife.  Ruthlessly effective, merciless, well-trained and well-equipped, the dynamic duo is the epitome of a tight-knit operation.  Upon a chance encounter with Kick-Ass, they seek to recruit him.  Meanwhile, D’Amico himself has gotten wind of Kick-Ass’s activities, which leads his son, Chris, to don the guise of Red Mist, a second, albeit richer amateur superhero, to lure Kick-Ass into a trap, in due time.  However, D’Amico discovering Big Daddy and Hit Girl’s existence, manages to lure ‘them’ into a trap, along with Kick-Ass, during which, Big Daddy is killed.

Kick-Ass and Hit Girl thus undertake a raid on D’Amico’s home, cutting a swath through his security, and while Hit Girl takes on D’Amico, Kick-Ass has a one-on-one with Red Mist.  Kick-Ass and Hit Girl triumph, with Kick-Ass taking D’Amico out with a rocket launcher, and the story seems to end on a bittersweet note of normal life resuming – albeit with more and more amateur superheroes coming out into the world.

kick-ass1

A still from Kick-Ass © dorkshelf.com

Reality is Suspect

Kick-Ass touches upon the core elements of a flat scan would-be superhero.  The first among these is limitations, and/or shortness of a Rule of Cool-based nigh-omnipotence.  Dave assumes that he is in possession of this, seemingly unaware that most characters have contractual immortality (thanks to the comics being titled after characters, not anything else and “The Death and Return of Superman” storyline.) Even in the scenes that he is shown to be practicing for actual action, he believes he will be able to exist as heroes do in comic book panels.  However, in a Superhero versus Reality situation, reality is quickly overwhelms the fiction: Dave learns quickly that sheer determination cannot stop a knife from sliding in between his ribs.  He ups his arsenal in light of this event, but his upgrade consists of “the gayest looking she’s (Hit Girl’s) ever seen.” Sensible, effective to a point, but still not good enough when faced with the kinds of adversaries Dave was setting himself up to face.

Therein lays the second layer of limitations.  Dave is a high school student getting by on pocket money, his perception of an actual fight is to either be on the receiving end or from comic books.  He has no knowledge of martial arts, or even basic street fighting.  He’s not exceptionally strong (to his credit, he tries to rectify this somewhat, having the sense to maintain that his thin fame would break easily) and/or has any athletic ability.  He is a normal human being whose idea of an altercation is something he doesn’t take part in.  By contrast, Big Daddy and Hit Girl are the polar opposite.  They have martial arts training, they are armed to the teeth (with actual firearms, knives, the works) they wear, inasmuch as it counts, armor that actually might stop a knife or a bullet: one of the famous scenes of the movie is when Big Daddy is teaching Hit Girl to take a bullet to her bulletproof vest – by shooting her at more or less point-blank range.  But Big Daddy is an ex-cop, who has had experience in the matter, and Hit Girl is a well-trained assassin (who reminds me of Damian Wayne, actually.) This is why that Kick-Ass’s first stint results in a failure that almost costs him his life: he’s not prepared, he’s not ready.  In fact, even when he is, he is shown to largely get by with Hit Girl doing the heavy lifting.

1351721-kick_ass26

A still from Kick-Ass © giantbomb.com

Identity Crisis

Like almost all superheroes, Dave maintains a secret identity.  He comments on how having this secret, unlike his comic book counterparts, is actually exciting – nobody knows.  As it has been the case with many superheroes, he finds his alter ego, Kick-Ass, empowering.  This is a common theme in heroes with tragic origin stories (Peter Parker and Batman being two prime examples) because it relies upon a person attempting to seize control and ease the everyday chaos of their civilian lives.  Whereas Peter Parker armed himself with an unwavering sense of responsibility due to having his powers, Dave simply does it to counteract his low standing in the world.  However, the movie makes a subtle, but good case for amateurism of such an undertaking by a high school student: after Kick-Ass becomes a YouTube sensation, Dave sets up a myspace page for Kick-Ass, from his home computer, which is how Big Daddy locates him.

“With great power, comes great responsibility,” was Ben Parker’s motto, one that stuck with Peter, because he did not grasp what he had the potential of doing beyond self-aggrandizement.  While preparing for the final push, Dave comments that “with no power, comes no responsibility” but states that he did not completely grasp what he was implying when he set out to be Kick-Ass.  These points towards another aspect of the superhero mentioned: a responsibility towards those unable to, or unwilling to step up.  Whereas a regular superhero’s responsibility, as mentioned, comes from power, in the absence of it, one can expect the same thing from a hero’s convictions.  Dave, initially attempting to escape the confines of his life, discovers in his exploits that he is willing to step up to the plate, in fact, he’s more than willing – he’s one of the only two.

The movie is adamant about this particular part: that even nut jobs in weird costumes can make a difference, precisely because a hero isn’t one because of any special abilities, but instead, is one that is willing to take it upon him to right what he has observed to be wrong.  While this’ll be a bit of a hyperbole, this can be seen in the Superman/Batman dichotomy.  The former is given his powers and was raised to feel a certain responsibility towards those he is, arguably, superior to.  The latter, despite his admitted genius, is a flat scan, whose parents were killed in front of him, which led him to take up the cape and cowl, because he felt the need to do something about it.  To this respect, Hit-Girl is Batman; Kick-Ass begins as the caricatured version of Booster Gold, after a fashion, but gradually learns that it is the will to act that makes a hero, not the ability to fly.

Disbelief Unsuspended

Kick-Ass is a bit of honest speculation; however, the movie experiences a break from its own realism at a certain point and initiates a reconstruction of every element that it had thus far attempted to deconstruct.  Kick-Ass appears in the final charge against D’Amico with a jetpack, armed with dual barrels on both sides.  While some such breaks (such as Dave’s metal plates rendering him more or less impervious to pain) are acceptable, as per the Willing Suspension of Disbelief, that particular appearance breaks it.  The movie slips from being a more than semi-realistic take on the concept of amateur vigilantes to a comic book adaptation: which is an interesting irony, since the actual comic that Kick-Ass was based on has Kick-Ass and Hit Girl almost dying at the hands of Frank D’Amico.

As such, while a well-meaning venture, Kick-Ass does its realism halfway, but is still an interesting take on the subject.