Every so often in the entertainment industry, someone stumbles across a really great premise. An idea so great that no matter what else transpires, from writer to director to actors, you want to see it. A world where there are no super powers, but people try to be heroes. A normal, every day father declares war against a criminal empire. Sure, that last one has been done a million times, but it’s always an interesting start.
Though, like nearly everything in the world, and especially Hollywood, good ideas don’t stay unmolested. Things change. Ideas get warped. The creators, in their excitement, lose sight of what made their idea great in the first place. They don’t stay on target.
Kick-Ass, both as a comic and a movie, is probably the best example of this, and the most recent. How fucking great is that idea? A normal world, with normal rules, and someone tries to be a superhero. The source material even lays down the rules – no super powers, no super Batman technology. Just. People. Awesome.
It’s a shame that neither the book nor the comic stick to that. I’ll focus more on the movie in this article because this is a film site. First – no super powers. That kind of goes out the window 30 minutes in. Our hero has most of his bones fitted with bits of metal. This doesn’t make you a superhero, it makes it hard and painful to walk. We’ll let it go. What I won’t let go is his nerve damage, which makes him pain resistant. Yes. This is a real thing, but it’s a rare condition and it’s exaggerated. Plus, not feeling pain doesn’t mean your bones stop breaking or your brain stops bleeding. It just means you don’t register pain the same way, which can be dangerous. People with this condition in real life can burn their throats with hot coffee and not know it. They could lean against a hot stove and catch fire and be oblivious until they catch the smell. So that is a super power. You know what else is? Being 11 years old and not dying when a black belt kicks you full force in the face. Or expertly handling weapons. Anyone can be taught to shoot a weapon, at any age, but I don’t care how great your teacher was, you have to be physically strong to control recoil on many weapons.
Paragraph break, same topic. Super back flips. Wall running. All that crazy wire-fu. That’s super-powered. These aren’t normal people. They’re not even super well trained athletes. They’re beyond all that. It ruins the idea.
Next – technology. Jetpacks do exist in real life. They’re shitty. They don’t work very well, they can’t carry too much weight, and the military is dismissive of them, meaning they have little place in combat (at least for now). So adding more than one hundred pounds of firearms to one isn’t going to be a great idea. Also, using two miniguns has a ton of “equal and opposite reaction” pushing you back. You don’t just float there. So, while Kick-Ass was entertaining, ultimately it was just a crude superhero movie rather than a crude movie about normal people being superheroes.
As for the standard revenge movie, they suffer from the same lack of focus. Our hero undoubtedly starts out a normal guy. He’s an architect, or maybe an insurance salesman. A tragedy happens. He pulls off a kill, maybe two. He’s struggling with it. Then, by the last half-hour, he’s a Goddamn superman. Leaping off buildings, jumping off moving cars, firing pistols one-handed and nailing headshots, mowing his way past a dozen gang bangers or hired guns with ease.
Don’t buy it. Normal people don’t go superhero overnight. If the guy has some military background, great, he’s not normal. I believe that a former SpecOps soldier like Frank Castle could pull this off. Hell, I’ll even let slide a regular detective going bad ass (Steven Seagal or Mel Gibson movies) or a firefighter (Arnold Schwarzenegger in Collateral Damage or Jean Claude Van Damme in Sudden Death) because they have a great deal of physical conditioning. That doesn’t explain weapons proficiency or spinning jump kicks, but fuck it.
But check out Death Wish or Death Sentence (two-sides of the same author) and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Guys with no violent background are suddenly, by movies end, highly efficient, ruthless killers.
I’d be much more interested in seeing this films stay on target. What would a real superhero be able to accomplish? I think he’d operate more like Big Daddy than anything. Bullet proof vests are a great idea if you plan on fighting crime. That would be interesting if approached seriously. Same with the revenge flick. Let the guy ride it out. How does a normal guy do all this? Someone who can’t materialize his inner bad-ass but keeps hunting for revenge anyways? These films are ultimately entertaining, but not what they promised us they’d be. And while I do dig this kind of stuff on one level, I’d rather have what you promised me. Whenever a film falls off target and deviates from the plan, I go past my boiling point.