Kick-Ass 2 ran into one controversy after another before it even opened. One of its co-stars, Jim Carrey, denounced it for being too violent, a claim that for some seemed like good news. Then Mark Millar, writer of the comic the franchise is based on, added to his own personal infamy by making some blasé comments about the inclusion of rape in his books. Having covered both of the controversies at length, some our staff’s enthusiasm for the sequel was admittedly withering, despite their love of the first movie with its go-for-the-jugular violence and demented humor.
But even if the sequel was grossly violent, and even if Millar is a clueless misogynist, we still had high hopes for Hit-Girl, a character so cool that Kristy and Eric were hopeful Kick-Ass 2 would overcome the bad hype that preceded it. You can read Eric’s review here, but below the two discuss Hit-Girl in particular, a character whose arc in this film shocked us more than her foul-mouth did in the first movie. Did Kick-Ass 2 destroy Hit-Girl? Below we break it down while avoiding major spoilers.
Eric: So I think we should actually start off this conversation by talking about the first movie, because I think both you and I agree that Hit-Girl was definitely the best part.
Kristy: Yeah. I'm actually a big fan of the first movie, so I see a lot of good in it. But Hit-Girl was this transgressive ball of fire who played out exactly why kids dream of being superheroes, which is essentially because they get to do whatever they want. Including--apparently--cursing like a sailor and devastating bad guys.
Eric: I'm actually right there with you, as I enjoyed the hell out of the first Kick-Ass too. Hit-Girl is such a strange character because on paper you'd think there's a possibility that she would just come across as a cheap gimmick - kind of like a rapping grandma - but the first movie actually made her into a fun, full character - which I also think the sequel totally deflates.
Kristy: Yeah. The danger of any sequel is that it will shows us a new look at the characters we loved the first time around, and it may not be what we'd imagined or hoped for. Here, we see this bad-ass little girl who could take on the world become a self-conscious teenager. And while that could have been interesting, it's handled so sloppily here that I left the movie liking Hit-Girl a lot less. And frankly, I'm pissed about that.
Eric: The biggest thing that I'm still trying to wrap my mind around fully is the way in which the movie takes her out of the action completely and saddles her with a plot that is far less interesting than what is going on with Kick-Ass. I understand taking her out of the costume, but why waste her talents on a Mean Girls rip-off?
Kristy: Exactly. The movie makes a lazy effort to compare mean teen girls to supervillains--they wear tight clothes and do whatever they want!--but that plot feels so unimportant when people are dying left and right in Kick-Ass and Red Mist's feud. The stakes are laughably low in her plotline.
Eric: And I think it's also weirdly placating to the wrong audience. I don't think comic book fans want to see Hit-Girl's greatest foe be the queen bitch at a high school. You're 100% right about the stakes - it means NOTHING.
Kristy: And if it's meant to reach out to female audience members, I think it misfires there too. From Mindy’s inexplicable entrance into the Mean Girl group to her inevitable ousting, the approach is totally color-by-numbers. But when it comes to the point where Mindy, who has been publically embarrassed by a queen bee of course, decides to stand up for herself, the result is disturbing not satisfying. Without giving away major spoilers, she decides to reject the mind game tactics that are such a standard trope of teen girl on teen girl attack, and instead lashes out at them violently. This makes some sense—she is a super violent vigilante after all—but considering the stakes of the other plot, this whole venture seems too petty. It just makes Mindy a bully, no better than they are, but maybe worse. This Hit-Girl isn't one I want to be vicariously.
Eric: All in all it's a stupid way of having the character turn a corner and it actually does make Hit-Girl seem like a worse person. It's still wrong, but we accept the character's violence in the first movie because she's doing it to killers and serious criminals - if she's willing to now physically assault people just for being mean to her it's crossing a line.
And I hate saying this because I think Chloe Moretz is a talented actress and really brought the character to life in the first movie, but to a certain degree I think she's aged out of the character in Kick-Ass 2.
Kristy: Exactly. It's not like it's Carrie--which funny enough also stars Moretz--these mean girls aren't evil enough to deserve the wrath of Hit-Girl, and the fact that Hit-Girl basically recognizes that and then seeks vengeance anyway made me turn on her.
To your second point, I think the character has aged out of the character. By making Hit-Girl a 15-year-old, her whole shtick is less transgressive and more petulant teen. It's grating more than it is boundary-pushing.
Eric: And it's strange to say, but there's an innocence factor that's removed as well. If it was a 13-year-old Hit-Girl that was going up against those same teenage mean girls I probably would have had been cheering her on.
Kristy: Yeah, there's definitely a sense Mindy should know better because she seemed so ahead of the game in the first film. Here, when she makes racist or homophobic remarks, it made me cringe because she should know better, right? She's not just some snarky, insulated teen, she's a hero who knows about evil in a way most kids can't imagine.
Eric: It's definitely a disappointing and steep step down from the awesome character we got to see in the first movie. Let's wrap this up - any final thoughts?
Kristy: I would go so far as to say if Hit-Girl is your favorite part of Kick-Ass you should skip Kick-Ass 2. Its version of Mindy is so devastating and lame that it made me actively dislike the character, and has cast a shadow over the first movie I enjoyed so much. If you love Hit-Girl, pretend this movie didn't happen.
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