Movies You Don’t Need to See: Kick-Ass (2010, Vaughn)

September 3, 2010

In my mind I was in love with Kick-Ass before I’d even seen the film. I love superhero films and I love awkward, black comedies, and this movie sounded like a perfect marriage between the two. Sadly Kick-Ass has an amazing premise, but fails miserably to capitalize on it.

Kick-Ass (played by Aaron Johnson) is in reality just a geeky, relatively normal kid who one day asks the question, “why doesn’t anyone try to become a super-hero?” He receives his answer very quickly after he gets knifed and then run over by a car on his first outing as a masked avenger. The scene itself and really any scene involving Kick-Ass trying to become a hero is fantastic. The film pulls no punches for the first 30 or so minutes and really had me captivated as Kick-Ass trained and fought to become a real live superhero. I really thought that this film might be something special. That is until Hit Girl and Big Daddy are introduced. The basic story behind Big Daddy is that he has become a vigilante because something terrible happened to him in his past that ruined his life and his daughter’s life as well. Hit Girl (10 years old), who is the daughter whose life was ruined, is just an awful character (as is Big Daddy). She basically was brainwashed by Big Daddy at an early age to become a killer and do his bidding. Now I’d be okay with this if the film didn’t treat the two of them as really cool characters who deserve recognition for their good deeds aka committing mass murder. As soon as these two characters are introduced the film goes off the rails. The intriguing premise is totally abandoned as Hit Girl and Big Daddy mow their way through villains with more ease than any Marvel superhero. Kick-Ass himself becomes embroiled in teenage angst and falls by the wayside as he pretends to be gay to woo the woman of his dreams in a fairly laughable romantic sub plot.

So what started off as a really funny and interesting film about one nerdy kid fulfilling a childhood fantasy all of a sudden turns into the very thing that I assumed Matthew Vaughn was lampooning. An over the top, violent, and ridiculous superhero film. While Kick-Ass, who I assumed was the main character, falls by the wayside we end up seeing more and more of Big Daddy and Hit Girl. I honestly wished Hit Girl would die. She’s a little girl, shouldn’t she be playing at the playground or attending elementary school? Instead she’s killing guys because her dad is telling her to. This is also where another one of my biggest issues with the movie occurs. Kick-Ass is a movie that acts like it doesn’t care. It has a 10 year old girl mowing people down, swearing, and has it’s main character graphically beaten to a pulp in the first 20 minutes. However, when push comes to shove, it’s really a tame movie. Yes it has a 10 year old killing people and swearing, yes it has some very graphic scenes of violence with a lot of CGI blood, but in the end it’s just as predictable as any Pg-13 superhero film. The good guys win, the little girl survives, the hero gets the girl.

While all this sounds satisfying it ultimately rings hollow. We see Kick-Ass try to become a superhero and fail in a very realistic way in the first 30 or so minutes of the film. Then, all of a sudden the film tosses anything realistic away in favor of a schlocky, over the top, and epic tone that fails to convey anything new or interesting about the genre. Add in the fact that Hit Girl and Big Daddy are awful characters with no morals or redeeming values and yet are revered as heroes in the film and what do you have? A run of the mill, over the top action film, that is offensive just for the sake of being offensive. It wastes an awesome premise and just falls back on old cliche’s and idolizes terrible people. Honestly just re-watch Spiderman or the Dark Knight.



Movies You Don’t Need to See: Funny Games (2007, Haneke)

September 1, 2010

Let me preface this review by saying that this is without a doubt the worst film I have ever seen. It has little to no redeeming value and the question of whether it can even be called a “film” is open for debate. Now I still must recommend that everyone see this movie, just for the fact that I want everyone to see how bad it is.

Now imagine you’re in a classroom, it’s a lot smaller than an average classroom, and you are the only student in it. It’s your first day in this room and you are mildly eager and excited to see what occurs and what subject you will learn about. You’ve never met your teacher before, but you’ve heard good things about him from other people. So class starts and in walks this rather normal looking German guy. He begins his lecture by looking you in the eyes and telling you that you are a horrible human being and that you need to change your ways. The obvious question that comes to your mind is, “what ways”. In response to this question your teacher tells you to listen. So you listen and you hear the sound of a dog yelping in pain outside the classroom door as someone does something awful to it. Like most normal human beings you feel shocked and upset, you ask the teacher to explain himself. With a grin of supremacy the teacher looks at you and tells you that you wanted to see the dog getting tortured because you love violence. Now you begin to get upset. Who is this guy? Why does he think I’m a horrible person? And why is he torturing dogs?

Now imagine this scene being repeated over and over and over again for two and a half hours, with your teacher becoming increasingly more smug and self-righteous as the time goes on. Congratulations, you’ve just seen Funny Games, where Michael Haneke repeatedly bashes the same idea into the viewer with the force of a freight train.

In Funny Games we have a perfect suburban family going off to the country to their beach house. You have the cheery father (Tim Roth) and beautiful mother (Naomi Watts), and their two kids and pet dog. Their trip, however, is soon ruined by the appearance of two well to do young men named Peter and Paul who proceed to lock the family inside their house and slowly kill them off one by one. Now this may sound like a run of the mill horror film or drama, but it is far from either genre. Funny Games is filled with violence, however, all the violence takes place offscreen. We never see a murder committed on camera. The reasoning for this is that Funny Games is a social commentary on violence in America and how we as a culture have become obsessed with it and have begun to enjoy it even. Now I don’t have a problem with that. I’d  be very interested in seeing a reasonable film about violence in America. However, with this film Haneke brutally attacks the viewer by making a sweeping generalization about their views on violence. His reason for having deaths occur offscreen is to upset the viewer. When a murder occurs offscreen the viewer is supposed to feel disappointed that they didn’t get to see the blood and gore. What Haneke views as a clever way of making a viewer come to terms with their obsession with violence is really just a cheap ploy to get people riled up. The film fails because it really isn’t a film. It’s basically a condescending lecture on violence and how Americans are addicted to it.

The problem I have with that is that not one moment in Funny Games did I wish for something more violent to occur on screen or for something terrible to happen to someone and I really don’t think anyone else who watches this film will either. At it’s core all Funny Games is, is a series of set ups designed to upset the viewer and if a film is only made to upset the viewer then what’s the point?

Funny Games is a failed experiment. What could have been an interesting idea if some subtlety and grace were applied to it ended up being a really blunt, obvious, smug, boring, and condescending film about how the viewer (you) is a terrible person. To end this review I’ll point out something in the IMDB trivia section of the Funny Games page. “Tim Roth has said making this film abused him, and he’ll never watch it”. I think that sums up this “film”.