Hollywood got a short preview of Comic-Con madness last night at an advance screening of Lionsgate's kinetic comic book adaptation Kick-Ass at the Mann Chinese 6. Fanboys (and a few fangirls) lined up for hours beforehand, hoping to grab the good seats for the film and the lengthy, raucous Q&A moderated by the LAT's Geoff Boucher. On hand were Aaron Johnson and co-stars Clark Duke, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Chloe Grace Moretz, plus co-writer Jane Goldman and the comic's co-creator John Romita Jr.
Judging from the positive crowd response, geeks will line up for Kick-Ass, but larger audiences may be turned off by what may appear to be just another superhero movie, especially one with such bone-crunching violence. Kick-Ass is basically a cheaper, jokier Watchmen. What happens when real people don costumes and try to fight real criminals? As the tagline says, "I can't see through walls...but I can kick your ass."
"This is a superhero movie that didn't need superheroes," explained Avengers artist Romita. "It just needed kids to dress up as superheroes, so you don't have to rely on superheroes doing something spectacular. Real people do something spectacular."
Added Duke: "I think every superhero genre picture after this will have to be kind of reactionary. I don't see how you can make Spider-Man 3 or Fantastic Four after you see this. I'm not badmouthing anybody's movies. I'm also not defending the Fantastic Four movie."
"It's a post-modern deconstruction of the superhero movie," Duke offered (accurately) to some audience tittering. Duke persisted. "It is!"
Already sparking debate is the pre-pubescent Hit Girl (Moretz), who kicks, stabs and shoots her way through baddies. Like the other comic book conventions the movie skewers, the character is a send-up of familiar teen sidekicks cracking wise while being placed in dangerous situations (Nicolas Cage's character Big Daddy is the Batman to Moretz's Robin). Some moviegoers will simply see a wide-eyed kid on a shooting spree. Audience reactions should be interesting to watch.
To prep for the physically demanding role, eleven-year-old Moretz (next seen in Let Me In) did six months of training with gymnasts and the Jackie Chan stunt crew. "They put me in a circus school," she said. "That's pretty awesome, right? Who gets that chance?"
"Clowns," deadpanned Duke. "Clowns get that chance."
After taking a spill on the set, Moretz recalled that the stunt men told her: "'If you ever fall, stay down! That way they might be able to finish the scene...' So I just kind of stayed down and people thought I had broken my neck or something."
"Health comes second on Kick-Ass," added Mintz-Plasse, who was hilarious throughout the Q&A.
Regarding the film's hyper-violence, creative profanity and audacious tonal shifts, Goldman (who co-wrote the screenplay with director Matthew Vaughn) explained: "We tried to avoid looking like we were deliberately trying to be provocative. I think that everything that happens in the film was true to the characters and that's really what we were going for. I think you can probably tell there weren't really any lines we didn't cross!"
Judge for yourselves on April 16th.