(First published in The New Indian Express)
Three years ago we had a blazing film that moved the superhero saga from the comic world to the real world and made skull smashers out of regular people. There was lot of action. It had great humor. And to go with the whole concept, it had gratuitous violence now that the action isn’t on a pretend universe anymore. With a regular guy Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and a larger than life Hit-Girl – with a casting masterstroke to boot – the film was etched as cult.
This Jeff Wadlow directed sequel tells the story of their teenaged selves with more superheroes joining in the fray and some supervillains added to the mix. It starts on a great note with the opening scene harking back to our introduction to the plain versions of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl in the previous film. Hit-Girl aka Mindy Macready (Chloe Grace Moretz), a grown up version of the same cheeky, precocious superhero albeit a bit subdued in the circumstances of the sequel. Part of the charm of the first film was this characterization, the real star of the film, elevating a not so uncommon material with both the writing and the performance of the actor. It’s all mostly still there, but what happens when you give the irreverent Hit-Girl a swear jar?
Not many great things apparently. The film loses its original essence, as sequels tend to do – the ability to laugh at itself. The only evidence of that is in Jim Carrey’s Colonel Stars and Stripes repeatedly warning the members of his superhero club Justice Forever about language and taking the lord’s name in vain undoubtedly a tongue-in-cheek nod to the criticisms the first movie garnered for making minors mouth profanities and engage in showy violence. The rest of the film takes itself too seriously and at one point morphs into high school movie with overdone toilet humor. There are even attempts at social commentary on homosexuality and racism but they come across more in your face than necessary.
Hit-Girl is the face and heart and lifeline of the film. Irony sheds blood as Kick-Ass 2 has her dealing with much less violence compared to her younger version in the first film but the results are just as cathartic as intended. The aptly middle-named Chloe Grace Moretz plays her with such bewitching chutzpah that it is confounding whether Hit-Girl is all about the performance or the writing. Such a character deserved a better villain but sadly the only interesting thing about Christopher Mintz-Plasse’s role is his unprintable moniker.
Kick-Ass 2 fails to follow the Colonel’s dictum as he mouths, “I try to have fun. Otherwise, what’s the point?”. Even the action is found wanting and it leaves you wondering about that line from Hit-Girl – “Robin wishes he was me.” This film wishes it was more about you.
Biographical drama is within a genre by itself and there are great films. Add to it the misunderstood, temperamental entrepreneur genius biography. Now that’s a genre by itself mainly because of that masterpiece of a film called The Social Network. Aaron Sorkin and David Fincher set the bar so high that it is impossible to think of a film about technological innovation and power struggles in them without harking back to their supreme work of art.
Jobs directed by Joshua Michael Stern and starring Ashton Kutcher in the titular role is more like a film made out of the Wikipedia entry of Steve Jobs. It begins with an impressively shot scene though, set in 2001 during the unveiling of the iPod, the moment captured from Jobs’ eye-view at first and getting reactions from staff and a nerdy audience. But I really wonder what Jonathan Ive makes of his portrayal in the film. It is an awkward representation full of buzz words on design with the only catchy quality being the English accent. That’s not saying much.
The film is a series of pep talks from Steve Jobs and his allies. Of course, thanks to his nature, they move away from him one by one and it all comes a full circle with this return to Apple just before the iMac design and his collaboration with Ive. There are lectures upon lectures on what Apple stands for, what design should be, what companies must focus on, people vs products debates and some liberal name calling of Bill Gates during the Apple-Microsoft GUI fiasco. If that’s not the focus, it is casual dropping of facts like Wozniak’s Polish roots with some Polish jokes (old ones but good ones!) or about Jobs’ fruitarianism. The montage after his drop-out from college and just before starting his life as an entrepreneur is confusing and pointless, aims for some misplaced high art but falls too low with a loud thud.
If there is any redemption it comes in the form of Ashton Kutcher’s performance. You read that right. It was surprisingly good played at a note out of tune with the film. It is not a restrained performance – far from it – but it is sincere despite the slightly overdone mannerisms, especially the walk. It hits its apotheosis when Ive talks about his fascination for Jobs’ principles and how he is a fan. Kutcher gives that reaction as if he’s at home, he deserves all of it but at the same time registers a tinge of embarrassment as he distracts himself by picking up a random object and seeing right through it. Well done.
This Jobs biography is more perfunctory than anything in recent times. There is a lot of one on one communication and interaction possibility in this film and it really makes you wonder what someone like Sorkin would have done with it.