In advance of today’s release of Kick-Ass on Blu-ray and DVD, the opportunity arose to speak with the comic book series’ co-creator (as well as one of the film’s executive producers) Mark Millar. The writer behind Marvel’s popular 2007 Civil War series (the biggest selling comic of the past decade) and the driving force behind Wanted, itself made into a successful motion picture 2008, the comic icon is quickly becoming one of the industry’s loudest and most recognizable voices.
Aaron Johnson and Chloë Grace Moretz in Kick-Ass
As our time on the phone was brief (he was actually calling me from Scotland, which for me was something of a first as I don’t think I’d ever received an international call before) we jumped right into it, my asking Millar if he was at all surprised that the film’s director Matthew Vaughn was interested in turning Kick-Ass into a feature even before he and series co-writer John Romita, Jr. had finished it. “Not at all,” he responded in a robust and thick accent. “It used to be that there would be some time before studios would approach a writer about turning a comic book into a movie. Now it seems to happen almost immediately. It something of a trend and it’s not just me, it happens with everyone.”
“In this case, Matthew and I were friends anyway and we’d been talking about doing something [together] and he just asked me, ‘What do you have?’ and I responded by saying there were a couple of books I was working on I thought might interest him. He read both of them, and afterwards he said, ‘I’d like to do Kick-Ass,’ and from that point on we were pretty much a go.”
Even though Millar was an executive producer on the film, after Vaughn took the reigns he and co-writer Jane Goldman were virtually forced to take the story of wannabe superhero Dave Lizewski (played by Aaron Johnson) in their own direction as the comics were still being written at the time of filming. The movie and the comic book take very different paths, and although they reach many of the same conclusions how they get there isn’t exactly similar. I ask the comic impresario about these changes and how he feels about them.
“A comic usually has an eight act structure [where] a movie only has a three act structure so change is inevitable,” Millar explains. “One of the big changes occurs between Dave and Katie [his high school crush, played Lyndsy Fonseca]. When I came to write the scene where Dave tells Katie he’s not gay it’s clear in the comic that their relationship is not sexual. However, in a movie, if you don’t have the characters get together the audience might not be okay with that while in a comic you can get away with that. So that’s one place where the movie [differed] a little bit so [Matthew and Jane] could make it work a little bit better in regards to sentiment.”
Of course, no discussion about Kick-Ass would be complete without bringing up the character of Mindy Macready a.k.a. Hit-Girl, ferociously portrayed by young actress Chloë Grace Moretz. She’s sparked countless debate, this 12-year-old hellion slicing, dicing and cursing her way either into viewer’s hearts or sparking their outrage. She’s a controversial character, and I wonder aloud if the man who created her was at all surprised by the reaction, both positive and negative, that met her from critics and audiences alike.
“We were expecting an avalanche of vitriol [in regards to Hit-Girl],” admits Millar candidly. “But the movie was so well made, I think, that people were quietly charmed by her for the most part. The only really negative thing we saw came from Roger Ebert and others from his generation who were upset, but there were those especially here in the [United Kingdom] where went crazy for her.”
“[Matthew and I] were quite surprised about that. We were expecting the worst, that people were going to say she was amoral and we [in turn] were going to get killed for her. But it was much more of a case where people were positive about Hit-Girl even saying she was empowering female character. Some where even saying it was the greatest superhero movie ever made and she was the best character. So we were expecting much worse and people were actually incredibly generous about [her]. That was the biggest surprise.”
My own review made it very clear that the character of Hit-Girl unsettled me, and as great as young Moretz is in the role there was just something about her that made me decidedly uncomfortable. But Kick-Ass is the type of film that works best if seen more than once. That initial reaction, if not vanishing, does give way on subsequent viewing enough that I was able to respect both the character and the craftsmanship behind her creation, giving the film more of a fiery electricity that showcases its many layers.
“It’s very flattering, and I think it is a testament to just how great a job Matthew did on the film,” says Millar. “But that sort of thing, going back and discovering the different layers, is something I think is true of comics in general. [Comics] are where a lot of the good ideas are coming from, and it is because of those layers you talk about. It’s part of the form, part of the pulp nature of comics. There are so many ideas and concepts that are coming at [the reader] they almost have to go back and read it a second time to even begin to grasp them all.”
“Matthew really grasped that fact and I think it makes for exciting viewing. People really seem to get it, going back and watching the film multiple times. Viewers who see it for the first time may not see everything because it can be so shocking, so they have to watch it that second time to lessen the shock value. It’s then they really start to see everything we were going for. We wanted people to identify with it, and I think if they watch it [more than once] they start doing just that.”
The inevitable question comes in regards to a sequel. While Kick-Ass has a devoted fan base, it’s take at the domestic U.S. box office didn’t even reach $50-million. That said, it’s worldwide take pushed the final totals for the film over the$100-million mark, and with massive Blu-ray and DVD sales expected a follow-up certainly isn’t as out of the question as most casual film industry followers would think.
“I think there’s no doubt about it,” answers Millar before I’m even finished asking the question. “You have to put it in perspective, of course, but it made $100-million at the [international] box office and it’s going to do really well on DVD and Blu-ray with the fans. But we also think it’s going to go much wider than that. That people are really going to discover it now that they can watch it at home. We think it will go crazy on DVD and Blu-ray. I think if this first one continues to do [well], then a second one will be created. I know I want to do it and I know Matthew wants to do it so hopefully we’ll get the chance to [make the sequel].”
- Kick-Ass Theatrical Review by Sara Michelle Fetters
- Kick-Ass Blu-ray Review by Mitchell Hattaway
- Kick-Ass Theatrical Trailer