You couldn't ask for a more obvious set-up for a sequel than the end of Kick-Ass. Yet director Matthew Vaughn--who cannily set out to make a $50-million commercial hit--won't count his chickens until the movie opens on 3000 screens April 16. Lionsgate wants to talk sequel--they have first-look rights. But Vaughn, who has plenty of ideas for how to go about reforming his pint-size killer Hit Girl (Chloe Moretz)--think Terminator 2, with Schwarzenegger's cyborg assassin shooting folks in the knees--isn't ready to sit down and make a deal. (See two-part flip-cam interview below.)
Why? Remember the guy's a producer-turned-director. If your movie opens big, you have more leverage.
And believe me, Vaughn's entertaining comic-book action spoof--which Lionsgate acquired after footage played well at Comic-Con-- will do great box office. Nic Cage, Chloe Moretz, Aaron Johnson, Christopher Mintz-Platz and a surprisingly comedic Mark Strong all carry the movie. But while the SXSW male demo and fanboys love it, critics will be mixed. Lionsgate wants to encourage women to see the film--they say that it tests well for them--but there's a difference between showing someone a movie and getting them to show up.
It's unusual that this movie got made independently, in such close collaboration with the comic book authors, John Romita Jr. and Mark Millar, who says he started out writing for his little girl, "but it all went horribly wrong." (It looks like Millar and Vaughn may collaborate again.)
Vaughn manages to navigate most of the tricky turns in tone between intimate boy-girl relationship and super-hero fantasy. (He did ten days of reshoots to fix some of the second-unit stuff he didn't like--only the Craig Ferguson show was added post-Lionsgate.) But he fails to address the central issue of the movie: the psychological impact of Hit Girl's training and vengeful killing spree. (This movie has odd parallels with Greek SXSW entry Dogtooth.)
Yes, Kick-Ass inhabits a comic book universe. But the film still invites viewers to get off on an 11-year-old girl assassin's kills, video-game style. (La Femme Nikita was a flop. Later on, TV's Alias was a hit.) It took movie audiences a long time to deal with women with guns. So some folks are going to have trouble with that.
"It's unique and fresh," says Lionsgate exec Joe Drake, who bought it as an R-rated movie and had no trouble with the ratings board. "It's a theatrical experience they haven't had before. It's a fictional comic-book movie."