Script Review: Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass Adaptation
by Nick Valentine
October 23, 2008
You've heard about all the casting and seen photos from Kick-Ass, now let's take a closer look at the script thanks to Nick Valentine's second exciting delivery in one week. I have to admit before we start that I haven't read any of Mark Millar's Kick-Ass comics. However, I have heard some pretty amazing things about them from some excited people whose opinion I hold in high regard. So I was intrigued to take a look at the script of the upcoming adaptation and see if I could get as excited as the fans of the comic books. The verdict? Yes and no. The script, written by Matthew Vaughn (who wrote and directed Stardust and directed Layer Cake) and Jane Goldman, has all the pieces there, but something just doesn't quite click.
The entire movie is filled with narration from our main character and the script starts with his narrative questioning the prosaic world we live in and why no eccentric loner hadn't already made themselves a costume. After all, didn't we all want to be superheroes at some point in our lives? We close in on a very heroic figure standing on a Manhattan rooftop. Spreading his arms and revealing mechanized wings, he jumps from the rooftop and dives into the night sky. His majestic flight quickly turns into disaster as it becomes clear that he isn't flying at all, he's just falling. He slams into the roof of a parked car, and as the camera zooms in to prove to all that he's really, really dead, our narrator smugly states that our winged hero isn't him, just some Armenian with a history of mental illness who heard about him in the newspaper. We then get to meet our actual hero for this story, Dave Lizewski (played in the film by Aaron Johnson).
Dave is just an average high school kid in Jersey. He's not a jock, he's not a nerd, he's not the class clown, he just has the dream of becoming a superhero. He is an only child whose mother died of an aneurysm and now he lives alone with his father. His crush, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca), is an attractive girl in his school that he can never quite be cool around and, in a very "Spider-Man-esque" social miscue, Katie waves in Dave's direction. After he responds loudly and awkwardly, it's revealed that she was waving at one of her friends standing right behind him. We are then introduced to Dave's closest friends, Todd and Marty. They are comic book fans and we get to see what kind of stuff they're made of when they are mugged by some bullies outside of their usual hangout and casually hand over their money and cell phones without a fight or a word of protest. We also briefly meet Chris D'Amico (played by Christopher "McLovin" Mintz-Plasse) the son of Frank D'Amico (rumored to be Mark Strong), a crime lord and the films main antagonist.
Filling out the rest of the cast is Damon McCready (Nicolas Cage) and his young but tough as nails daughter, Mindy (Chloe Moretz). The scene which introduces them is both horrifying and touching. Damon is attempting to train his daughter about the pain of being shot while wearing a bulletproof vest. So in a rather disturbing demonstration of love, the father shoots his daughter square in the chest, and promises that he'll take her out for ice cream if she can take two more bullets without wincing or whining.
Back to Dave, who has decided to take his dreams of being a superhero and turn it into a reality. He has gotten himself a costume and ski mask, and, in a fun moment, we get to see him doodling heroic pictures of himself while he contemplates aliases. He goes through names like Night Walker, Bad Night, and Bad Ass, before settling on Kick-Ass. He begins his training as a superhero by working out, working on jumping further, and hanging out on rooftops at night. It isn't long before Kick-Ass decides to finally stop fooling around and jump into real crime fighting. However, his first encounter ends very poorly. He gets stabbed in the stomach and is hit by a car. He emerges from the hospital, months later, with a metal plate in his head, pins and rods in his arms and legs. However, Dave is undaunted in his desire to be a superhero. And after once again donning his Kick-Ass costume, He ends up performing one heroic act that gets recorded by an onlooker via cell phone. The video gets posted on YouTube and Kick-Ass is thrust into the media spotlight. However it's not long before Dave gets mixed up with Frank D'Amico's crime ring as well as with two other costumed heroes, Big Daddy and Hit Girl (Damon and Mindy MacCready).
Matthew Vaughn's script is fast paced and extremely entertaining; what I found myself most intrigued by was how engaging and relatable he manages to make Dave. Dave is a witty guy with a dream and it's great to see how he reacts when that dream hits the grittiness of reality. His character is what is truly going to be the best part of the film. However, it's not just Dave that's the heart of this movie. The characters of Chris D'Amico, Damon MacCready, and Mindy MacCready are so well written, that each decision, reaction, and emotion become extremely real, believable, and personal, despite the often surreal events in which they find themselves. Character is hands down the driving force of this movie. Hopefully the actors chosen will, under Vaughn's direction, do the script justice.
The screenplay also manages to balance out the fantastic characters with some good drama and some exciting action, as well as some gut-wrenching violence. The scene with Damon shooting his daughter in the chest is certainly violent and the most chilling moment of the movie, but we also get to see a man explode in an industrial sized microwave, as well as gruesome bullet wounds, decapitations, and blood, lots of blood.
However, it's the juxtaposition of the realism of Dave and his good intentioned superhero antics with the entertaining, martial arts and weapon-filled fantasy world of Damon and Mindy that had me scratching my head. Each of these characters is so real, the dialogue so down to earth and relatable, that the superhuman actions of Damon and Mindy threw off the entire script. This all came to a point when Dave performs some truly unrealistic superhero antics after teaming up with Damon and Mindy near the end of the story. It seems as if this is trying to reinvent the superhero genre, but isn't completely sure that it can without some of the genre's traditions. I loved the character of Dave and his internal and external struggles, and I loved the tragic story of Damon and Mindy and their superhuman actions, but these pieces just didn't seem to fit together. I can only hope that with Vaughn behind the camera, he can address this dichotomy and either bring some realism to Damon and Mindy's story, or some fantasy into Dave's.
After reading the script, I certainly am anxious to see a trailer and some footage, but I'm even more excited for the actual release date. There is plenty in this script that will be a great treat for audiences, far more than explosions and fight sequences. The characters in Kick-Ass are what is going to truly make this a great film. If Vaughn can find a way to make each character fit together, we'll be in for a real treat.