Finally, there comes a film which takes the superhero bull by the horns and shakes it a little. Kick-Ass may just be the film to save the increasingly dull superhero genre: in here, everything superhero meets its combined day of reckoning and day of worship in a delicious cocktail of satire and innovation.
The first clever move filmmaker Matthew Vaughn (the "unson" of Robert Vaughn) makes, is to deconstruct the superhero myth by using ordinary superhero nerds as our protagonists. The genius about this is that these guys make the audience let their guard down and put a smile on instead. Through the introduction of the harmless, amiable anybody Dave Lizewski, and his realistic albeit archetypically American social network and daily life, Kick-Ass tones everything down to the perfect level from which to catapult its eventual action. And when the bumpy character of Kick-Ass starts his seemingly doomed mission in the streets, we're given the chance to witness the birth of a superhero from a realistic point of view - with low-key heroism and Youtube fame creating the myth. This is the second clever move in Kick-Ass, because it means that even the sceptics and realists among the audience are given a reason to trust the realm which is about to be created.
And then, in the midst of the fascinating and realistic but essentially unsafe situation Kick-Ass has put himself in, the brilliant and elusive Hit Girl (Moretz) emerges out of nowhere - to stir up the worldview of both our protagonist, the bad-guys and the audience alike. Suddenly, we find ourselves in a full-blown superhero movie - only one which has given itself the right to exist. Actually, not only the right to exist, but the right to define, innovate and exaggerate in a manner which the superhero genre hasn't come close to since Superman. And here comes the third clever move in Kick-Ass: the effective double-angle where believable nerds and ordinary people live side-by-side with supervillains and amazing superheroes. Within this realm, Matthew Vaughn is fully able to make the action plausible in its implausibility. The energy, pacing and wise-crackery is matched to perfection by the (visual and narrative) creativity and logic.
The ensemble of mostly unknown performers are given the opportunity to flourish as they quite obviously come to realize that the material surrounding them is dynamite. The young brit Aaron Johnson has had quite a remarkable year, first with his breakthrough portraying John Lennon in Nowhere Boy, and then in his charming turn here. His compatibility shines through. Nicolas Cage comes alive too, in what must be his best role in years. He's both funny and heartfelt in his partly stylized performance as Big Daddy. The most remarkable part, however, belongs to young ChloŽ Grace Moretz (about twelve) who fearlessly takes hold of the role as child superhero with a fine combination of crudity and grace. There is little doubt that Big Daddy/Hit Girl is inspired by Luc Besson's Leon and Mathilda, and as was the case with Mathilda, it is good to see a character like Hit Girl pushing boundaries and challenging stereotypes. Some might be offended, but that will be their problem.
Kick-Ass represents not only the revival of the superhero genre, but also a revitalization of the large Hollywood blockbusters. It has been some time since this amount of quality has been able to flourish in a such an obviously commercial frame. Finally there are people in Hollywood who know what's cool again. And finally the talented writers are back in business.