Ever since Matthew Vaughn showed those first snippets of footage at Comic Con last summer, Kick-Ass had seemed destined to become a monster hit. In the months and weeks leading up to its release, fan anticipation reached a fever pitch, with Kick-Ass lauded on blogs and message boards around the internet as the one 2010 movie everyone couldn’t wait to see above any other. The amount of excitement over the movie, before its release, was of the type we haven’t seen since Joss Whedon's Serenity or, well, Snakes on a Plane. And like that much talked about, utterly ridiculous, ultimately failed Samuel L. Jackson movie, Kick-Ass is now officially a box office disappointment.
The box office results are in here and not only did Kick-Ass fail to break $20 million it was beaten on its opening weekend by a cartoon that’s already been in theaters for more than a month. You’re going to hear a lot of excuses over the next few days, from the studio which funded it, to the bloggers who supported it, all of whom will claim Kick-Ass as a rousing success because it will in all likelihood at some point make its money back whether it’s on DVD or through On Demand dollars. But excuses is exactly what these are. Probably Kick-Ass will make its money back, that’s not hard to do when your movie only cost $28 million, but after months of constant internet hype anything less than a $30 million opening weekend is an utter failure and in fact most predicted the film would make at least that much.
So where did it all go wrong? We’ll never know for sure, but I have a few ideas. Five guesses which I think explain why Kick-Ass is the new Serenity.
Muddled Marketing: Outside of a few very vocal nerds on the internet, I’m not sure most people really had any idea what the movie was supposed to be. It’s not that they had no awareness of it, Lionsgate’s marketing campaign was huge, it’s just that it never made any sense. The trailers were full of bright colors and snappy one-liners. It seemed kind of like a cartoon, some of the TV spots even made it look like a family movie. But the movie was rated-R, the title contains a borderline curse-word, and most of the talk around the project centered on how violent it is. The film’s title and rating never seemed to fit the bright, friendly looking images and poppy music playing through the ads. To the average moviegoer, none of this really made any sense.
2002 Called, It Wants Its Movie Back: Another side effect of all those bright colors was that Kick-Ass looked dated. To anyone without an existing familiarity with the comics the movie looked bright and silly, almost like The Fantastic Four. That style of superhero movie is so out of vogue that Sony killed its entire Spider-Man franchise just to get more dark and gritty like The Dark Knight. Of course the big secret of Kick-Ass is that it is dark and gritty, but to anyone who knows nothing about the movie all they see are bright, neon colors and a bunch of kids running around acting like Peter Parker. They’ve seen that movie and it’s now so out of sync with what people are looking for in a superhero movie, that audiences ignored it.
Aaron Whathisname Can’t Carry A Movie: One look at the posters for Kick-Ass should tell you where they went wrong. The movie only has one legitimate star and on the posters he’s hidden behind some sort of silly Batman mask. Nic Cage didn’t even bother to show up to some of the film’s bigger events and I strongly suspect a lot of people didn’t even realize he was in it. For instance, he wasn't with the rest of the cast for the film's premiere at SXSW. Instead it’s the kids of Kick-Ass who got all the attention and, no matter how good they were or weren’t, nobody’s showing up to see a movie for Aaron Johnson or Chloe Moretz.
What Happened To My 3D Glasses: Like it or not audiences seem absolutely addicted to 3D. As Clash of the Titans proved, they don’t even care of its good, as long as they have to pay extra for glasses. That’s especially true of action movies. Nobody expects Date Night to be in 3D but right now moviegoers expect nothing less from a superhero flick. Ticket-buyers show up to the theater looking for an experience, and right now they’re convinced that buying 3D is the way to get that experience. It should be no surprise then that How to Train Your Dragon, almost inarguably the best 3D release still in theaters, would steal most of Kick-Ass’s thunder.
It Never Had An Audience: Kick-Ass creator Mark Millar made it pretty clear from the start that most of his motivation for coming up with the thing in the first place, was to shock people. Normally controversy can help carry a movie, increase interest, and get bodies in seats. And while there’s plenty in Kick-Ass that might be shocking, none of the people who might have been shocked by it were paying any attention because they had no interest in it. They'd already dismissed it as the domain of a few, lonely, comic book lovers. It's the same way Anime gets away with tentacle porn and schoolgirl fetish fantasies. It's so far outside the norm that anyone who'd be offended by it simply pretends it doesn't exist.
The thing is, Kick-Ass never had an audience outside of those who were already predisposed to love it. Its appeal, from the start, was tremendously limited. You can’t have controversy unless someone bothers to see the movie, but the only people who were ever going to see this movie were hardcore geeks who embrace what it's doing. No one else cared, they were never going to care, and advertising it was both a waste of money and time. Kick-Ass didn’t really fail, Hollywood simply expected too much from it.
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