Competing Hollywood studios have the tendency to somehow come up with the same idea at the same time. Who could forget Battle Wisecracking Animated Insects (Antz vs. A Bug’s Life)? What about Battle Mysterious Victorian Magicians Who May Or May Not Use Real Magic (The Illusionist vs. The Prestige)? And don’t forget the upcoming Battle Multiracial Team Of Bad-Ass Ex-Government Muscle Fights Back (The Losers vs. The A-Team vs. The Expendables)!
This summer movie season offers yet another showdown for the ages: Battle Awkward Teens Mumble Their Way Through Hardcore Fight Scenes In A Story Based On A Graphic Novel.
In this corner, we have Kick-Ass, based on the comic by Mark Millar (who also wrote the source material for Wanted) and John Romita, Jr., which opened this weekend in second place, behind How To Train Your Dragon. Kick-Ass had a lot of marketing oomph behind it, along with a controversial talking point in Hit-Girl, the shockingly skilled 11-year-old mercenary who serves as the true hero of the film. Kick-Ass is flashy and bloody and there sure is a lot of cursing, but ultimately, it’s unsatisfying as a movie. The original comic is weak in the story, too; even though the screenplay makes a few changes and takes out a few of the more meandering points, it’s difficult to care about the titular main character, played by poor-man’s-Michael-Cera Aaron Johnson. The direction, from Matthew Vaughan, is flashy, but it mostly seems like a poor man’s version of Edgar Wright’s excellent work on Shaun of the Dead.
Speaking of Mssrs. Cera and Wright: In this corner is Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, to be released August 13. Based on the lauded manga-inspired comic series by Bryan Lee O’Malley, the film stars Cera and all of the practiced awkwardness that implies. However, people who have read the comic tell me that Scott Pilgrim is actually pretty bad-ass – he’d have to be to take down all the characters he’s seen battling in the teaser trailer, played by hipster-nerd-bait actors like Jason Schwartzman, Chris Evans, Brandon Routh and Mae Whitman. We’ve received precious little information about the production, but it’s hard to imagine Wright, who also helmed Hot Fuzz, not having a ball with this material. Kick-Ass also has comic-inspired visuals, particularly “Meanwhile…” and other caption boxes, but Wright seems to be taking the pastiche to its obvious conclusion with full-blown “POW!” graphics, colorful decoration, and slow-mo punches.
I suppose the fundamental question you have to ask yourself is this: a prepubescent girl avenger shooting a bullet through one guy’s cheek in order to kill another guy, or Michael Cera taking down Jason Schwartzman with a flaming sword? I’m in no way a Cera devotee, but I have implicit trust in Wright’s talent and devotion to the source, so if you were going to ask me – skip Kick-Ass and wait for Pilgrim.