The following article contains spoilers for “Kick-Ass.”
At a convention with thousands of people dressed in superhero costumes (such as Comic-Con International), there seems no place more appropriate to premiere clips from a movie like “Kick-Ass.” For those unfamiliar with the comic, “Kick-Ass” is about a boy named Dave Lizewski who spends a lot of time reading comic books and dreaming of being a superhero. One day, he finally decides to stop dreaming, creates a costume of his own, and goes out to fight crime…which leads to him being beaten senseless.
Like all good heroes, however, Dave doesn’t give up. He heals, trains some more, and goes out to try again. This time, he succeeds but is captured on a video that is then uploaded to YouTube. He becomes an internet sensation, is given the moniker “Kick-Ass,” and starts up a MySpace page where people can contact the hero for help. This leads him to a confrontation with a bunch of violent low-lifes, which is then interrupted by a young girl in costume wielding a sword. Calling herself Hit-Girl, she makes short and bloody work of the villains.
Kick-Ass eventually meets Hit-Girl’s boss (and father) – a costumed vigilante who goes by the name of “Big Daddy.” It turns out he is an ex-cop with an axe to grind. Big Daddy plans on taking down a local drug baron by working outside of the law, and this semi-sane “hero” wants Kick-Ass’ help to make this happen.
Unfortunately, Dave’s personal life is just as complicated as his costumed one. His father is worried about all the bruises that he finds covering his son, and the girl he has a crush on thinks he’s gay. Basically, the Dave’s life makes Peter Parker’s teenage period seem simple by comparison. This isn’t your typical superhero story, so just imagine trying to turn this into a feature film.
Created by writer Mark Millar and artist John Romita Jr. (and published through Marvel Comics‘ Icon imprint), this violent and bloody story doesn’t exactly lend itself to the kind of “family-friendly” superhero fare that studios typically seek from comic properties. Only one solution seemed clear to the book’s creators – adapt the material as written. Fortunately, they found a filmmaker who could do just that in Matthew Vaughn (“Layer Cake,” “Stardust”).
The director was present at the movie’s panel in Hall H, along with screenwriter Jane Goldman, comic creators Millar and Romita Jr., actors Christopher Mintz-Plasse (who plays the Red Mist) and Clark Duke (“Marty” from the film), and Hit-Girl herself, actress Chloe Moretz. Actor Aaron Johnson (who plays Kick-Ass) couldn’t be in attendance due to production on another film.
The director (who hails from England) seemed happy and perhaps a tad nervous to be showing clips of “Kick-Arse” (as he put it) for the first time. He said, “I feel a bit like Maximus in ‘Gladiator’ because if you do this [held his thumb up] at the end of this we may get a distribution deal. If you do this [thumbs down], I’m fucked.”
He then introduced his first clip of the movie, which is the opening from the comic book. The “Superman” movie theme music kicks in and we see a man dressed as a hero standing on the edge of a tall building in New York. He jumps off, and…splat!
The film then cuts to Lizewski in his favorite comics shop (the famed “Atomic Comics,” transported to New York in the film) asking his friends why everyone wants to be Paris Hilton but not Spider-Man. One of his friends pointed out that Spidey needs a porno – “One Night In Spider-Man.”
The next clip showed Kick-Ass out fighting crime for the first time. As in the comics (and as mentioned above), it goes poorly and ends with Lizewski heading for a hospital bed.
Following that, we witnessed a scene with Big Daddy (played by Nicolas Cage) training Hit-Girl in how it feels to be hit by a bullet while wearing a bullet-proof vest. He does this by shooting her. She’s knocked over, but recovers. Cage then explains he needs to do this two more times, so Hit-Girl negotiates for some ice cream and bowling. Her Dad happily agrees…right before shooting her again.
The final clip we were treated to was the scene where Kick-Ass meets Hit-Girl for the first time (also described above). It was fast, frenetic, and hilarious! Take the moves of Jackie Chan and mix it with Samurai Sword club scene from “Kill Bill” (all done by an eleven year old girl), and you can understand why the audience gave the clip a standing ovation when it was over.
After this, a makeshift trailer was shown giving fans a sense of the rest of the movie. It was bloody, over-the-top funny with fantastically choreographed action, and once again, Hit-Girl was the “hit” of the whole thing. Her closing quote of the trailer will likely be forever etched into audience’s minds:
KICK-ASS (nervously): How do I get a hold of you?
HIT-GIRL: Just contact the mayor’s office. He has a giant signal that shines a light in the sky…it’s in the shape of a cock.
With this, the panel opened itself to questions from the crowd. The first person to the microphone wanted to know where Millar came up with the crazy idea for this story. The creator explained, “I actually had this plan – a friend and I, when we were about 14 or 15, we went to karate and went to the gym. We actually designed costumes. We came so close, and then my balls dropped.”
Millar also mentioned another motive in telling this story – his daughter. He said that he felt bad when he went to the movie premiere of “Wanted” (based on another of Millar’s comics) last year and his daughter couldn’t get in because she was only ten. She was naturally upset and asked her dad when he was going to create something for her – “something nice.” Millar then told her he’d create “a little superhero girlie” for her…but, unfortunately, she won’t be able to see “Kick-Ass” either it appears (not right away, at least).
While they still haven’t locked in a distributor for the film, Vaughn told the audience he hopes the film will be out in the first quarter of 2010. He said the film is 90% locked, and they’re currently working on getting music rights. A fan was concerned about a studio trying to force changes on this bloody masterpiece, but Vaughn assured everyone that he wouldn’t let a studio muck with his cut.
Another question concerned the process the filmmaking team used to convert Millar’s comic to a screenplay. Millar said that Vaughn and Goldman simply “took out the shitty bits.” And although it was strange they completed the screenplay before the comic story is complete, Millar said he was happy because he could now “nick” the good stuff from the script.
In addition to doing the comic book art, it was revealed that Romita also contributed to an animation sequence in the film. He said it was surprisingly easy – he just did the art as he would’ve done it for the book because Vaughn wanted the look to reflect that of the comic.
Finally, for comic fans, an audience member asked Millar and Romita when they might see the comic series wrap up. Millar explained that he envisioned “Kick-Ass” as a trilogy of graphic novels, and that this was just the first story. Romita then jumped in and said he was halfway through with the art for the final issue, and hopes it’s out soon.
With that, the crowd was shown the trailer one more time, and then walked out into the night to go look for that funny-shaped signal in the sky.