SDCC: Matthew Vaughn’s Kick-Ass!

Superhero Hype! is absolutely thrilled to have been present at Comic-Con in Hall H for the debut of footage from Matthew (Layer Cake, Stardust) Vaughn’s movie based on the Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. comic book Kick-Ass. It’s the story of nerdy fanboy Dave Lizewski, played by Aaron Johnson, and what happens when he tries to become a superhero despite having no special powers or abilities. Unlike Vaughn’s last movie, which was based on a fantasy graphic novel by Neil Gaiman and Charles Vess, this is a dark, gritty and very funny look at superhero archetypes and how they influence a particularly influential comic book geek.

As the panel began, Vaughn was introduced and he told the audience that he really hoped to get a thumbs up from the Comic-Con attendees, as it would help him secure a distribution deal for the movie which had been financed and produced independently. Also attending the panel were the film’s writer Jane Goldman (brought over from Stardust), creators Mark Millar and John Romita Jr., Clark Duke who plays Dave’s best friend and Christopher Mintz-Plasse (Superbad), who plays a fellow wanna-be hero called the Red Mist.

If you’re familiar with Mark Millar’s work–maybe from last year’s hit Wanted?–then you know how sick and twisted he can be, and Vaughn seems to have captured that sense of humor and combined it with the type of violent martial arts action that would be appreciated by those who enjoyed Wanted as well as Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill. Like the comic, the movie and the footage shown was also rather R-rated from the amount of obscenities, so fair warning that in this report, we also include a good amount of the racy humor in the footage shown.

Vaughn wanted to start off by sharing some clips from the first act of the movie, starting off with one that could very well be the opening of the movie, starting with a shot of the Empire State Building and a New York with a soaring score that sounds like it was taken right out of Richard Donner’s Superman. The camera pans back to show a guy in a red costume with wings standing at the top of a building looking downwards and a serious voice-over talking about how there are all these comic books, movies and TV shows about superheroes and wondering why no one had ever thought of making themselves a costume. The narrator (our hero) asks “Is everyday life really so exciting that I’m the only one who fantasized about this? Come on, be honest with yourself. At some point in our lives, we all wanted to be a superhero.” The music builds and then the figure dives forward off the building plunging straight downwards with the costume’s wings outstretched. The crowd watching from below cheers and applauds at the sight of this swooping freefall but then the body hits the roof of a cab and smashes it inwards in a huge impact leaving the audience mortified. The voiceover continues, “That’s not me by the way. That’s some Armenian guy with a history of mental health problems. Who am I? I’m Kick-Ass.” (This scene got a lot of laughs and cheers from the audience.) We’re then in an establishing shot of the city, scrolling by a store made to look like Atomic Comics and then we meet Dave and his two geeky friends (one being Duke) as they’re talking about exactly what the narrative asked, why no one has ever tried to be a superhero and help people. A lot of the dialogue seemed to come right from the scene in the comic with them weighing the options and arguing their theories why or why not someone might want to do something like that. One of them asks why thousands of people might want to be Paris Hilton but not Spider-Man, and the other retorts about Hilton “having no tits at all.”

The second clip is a great scene taken directly from “Kick-Ass” #6 from the origin of Big Daddy and Hit-Girl, which is the scene introducing the characters played by Nicolas Cage and Chloe Moretz. Damon Macready aka Big Daddy and his daughter Mindy are standing in a vacant lot with him holding a gun and her telling him how she’s scared, but he urges her on advising her to “be a big girl” and he promises that it will only hurt for a second. They banter back and forth about what he’s about to do and how the force of the bullet will only take her off her feet for a second, and he says, “You’ll be fine, baby doll” and then he shoots her and she falls over backwards. She then opens her eyes and gets up. “How was that? Not so bad,” he says suggesting that she won’t be so scared when some “junkie asshole pulls a glock” and then he tells her that he only has a few more rounds, which she’s not happy with. She negotiates for her father to take her to the bowling alley and for ice cream after they finish their target practice, which he agrees to do as long as there’s no more “wincing, no whining, and then you got yourself a deal, young lady.” She excitedly proclaims, “I want a hot fudge sundae” to which he replies “Good call, baby doll!” and fires the gun at her again. (This whole scene got as many laughs as the earlier one, and it also helped to solidify the tone of the movie.)

The third clip showed Dave’s first outing as Kick-Ass when he spots the guys who mugged him earlier in the film, hoping to get vengeance for them beating him up. Dave walks out of his house and spots them trying to break into a car in a parking lot. They spot him and one of them yells, “What the f*ck are you looking at? Get the f*ck out of here!” He seems hesitant and says “Nothing” then goes back to his house. The voice-over from earlier continues, “Like every serial killer knew eventually fantasizing just doesn’t do it any more. It was time to engage,” and we first see Kick-Ass in his silly looking green jumpsuit costume, and when the thugs see him one declares, “What the f*ck” and they start laughing, and the first guy asks again, “What the f*ck are you looking at?” Kick-Ass declares, “You cheap sh*t losers are trying to steal a car that some poor guy probably worked his ass off to pay for.” They don’t like that one bit, and the first guy heads towards him while the other holds him back, suggesting that the guy in the green costume must be high. The first guy heads towards him and says, “You’re crazy, man! F*ck this sh*t” and the one guy grabs him and the other one stabs in the stomach with a big knife. As he staggers off bleeding away from the two thugs, he is then struck full on by a car, which also got huge laughs. Vaughn talked about how Dave/Kick-Ass is either stupid or tenacious with his drive to be a hero but that he does get better.

He then introduced the final clip, setting it up by telling how Dave is trying to sleep with a girl he’s in love with named Katie and she has told him that she’s having problems with her ex-boyfriend and asked if Dave can fix the problem, not realizing that he’s also Kick-Ass. The scene opens with Kick-ass walking down the hall towards a large goon guarding the doorway to the flat, and he sees Kick-Ass in costume and asks, “What the f*ck are you supposed to be, The Green Condom?” and suggesting that Halloween isn’t for a few months. He tells the guard that he’s a friend of Katie’s and that seems to be enough to get him in the door where he’s faced with a bunch of dangerous-looking dudes, a couple playing video games. He nervously asks which one of them is Razul, but no one answers, they just look at him in his costume. Some skank in a red dress declares, “I’m Razul… can’t you tell by my big titties?” which she pushes together, but in fact, Razul is the even uglier and angrier looking guy sitting on the couch behind her, who asks what he wants. Kick-Ass says he has a message for Razul from Katie and when he realizes the big guy is Razul, he tells him to stay away from Katie because it’s over between them. “So if you just leave her alone, everything will be fine.” He can’t believe this little punk is talking to him like that, and he asks what this is and Dave declares, “I’m Kick-Ass, look me up… and this is me giving you a message, leave Katie alone.” At which point, the other two guys in the room stand up and approach him, and Razul asks “Or what?” but Kick-Ass is now obviously scared yet he continues his threats and then Razul pulls out a giant knife, grabs him and says, “You’re so f*cking dead.” Kick-Ass then hits Razul in the head with a Tazer which knocks him down but the two goons grab his arms, and pretty soon, Razul has recovered and is back up and upon him, but then a sword plunges through his chest and he falls over to reveal our first look at Mindy (Chloe) as Hit Girl complete with purple wig, and she says, “Okay, c*nts. Let’s see what you can do now. Come on.” And then we see a great full sequence of Hit Girl in action, doing some impressive martial arts swordplay akin to the famous scene in “Kill Bill” (it seemed to be set to the tune of the “Banana Splitz” theme) with limbs being chopped off and her jumping around avoiding their knives and chains. One guy pulls out a switchblade and she says, “Hey, I’ve got one of those” and she pulls out a similar knife and does some fancy moves before throwing it through the guy’s head. The skank we saw earlier is the only one left in the room and she grabs a bottle and smashes it to go after Hit Girl who says “So you want to play” but the skank instead runs towards the door to the flat and then we see the other side where the guard was sitting and two bloody swords jut through from the other side, killing the woman. The crowd loved that scene and cheered when Vaughn introduced actress Chloe Moretz who came out also holding a FLIP cam.

Vaughn then showed a make-shift trailer that included a lot of footage of the characters starting with a scene of the Red Mist, played by Christopher Mintz-Plasse, standing on a trashcan announcing his presence to Kick-Ass in the foreground. The title sign says “Superpowers” and Red Mist tries to jump down heroically only to stumble and crash to the ground, “Don’t Exist” reads the next title sign. “But Don’t Tell These Guys” and we get a lot of quick footage of all of the characters in the movie as well as a lot more of Hit Girl in action, killing thugs, including one guy who gets his jaw shot off with a gun at close range. In another sequence, we see her running up a wall, though the bit that got the most “whoa”s was the one that shows Hit Girl running down a hall shooting bad guys with two hand-held semi-automatics, she runs out of bullets, and in one fluid motion, she flicks out the cartridges and reloads and starts firing again at the rest of the bad guys. The action looked very “Matrix”-like but definitely its own thing from the fact that it’s a pre-teen girl in mask and costume creating all of the carnage. That teaser trailer ends with Hit Girl standing over Kick-Ass telling him that the mayor has a signal he shines in the sky “in the shape of a giant cock,” obviously referring to Kick-Ass being a… well, you can figure it out.

The footage we saw certainly makes it look like the movie is going to be very faithful to the comic book, and it has a strange hyper-real look, which is full of bright and vivid colors despite the gritty nature of the material. To show their appreciation for the fun and twisted footage Vaughn showed, the people in attendance put their thumbs up to show the director that indeed, they want this movie to get distribution so they can see the rest of the movie.

Vaughn promised that the clips shown were from the movie’s first act and that there was a lot better scenes, joking that he “swears on his kids” on that. Later on Vaughn told us that they still have quite a bit of work to do on it, including the music, which would be done with the guy who did music for Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet and Moulin Rouge!, with three big bands already promising to write tunes for the movie, but he doesn’t think it would be ready to premiere at the Toronto Film Festival unless they allow “unfinished films.” The footage of Hit Girl slashing the bad guys with her sword and chopping off limbs still needed to have the blood added using CG and Vaughn wasn’t sure exactly how far they were going to go compared to the comic books. Since they’ve almost definitely going to have an R-rating with the swearing, they might as well let the blood flow as voraciously as it does in the comics.

Mark Millar talked about the origins of the project, that he wrote it for his 9-year-old daughter (!) who had asked her father to write a comic just for her, playing off the idea that everyone who reads comics has at one point fantasized about being a superhero. Having seen the movie twice already, Millar proclaimed it to be the “Ultimate chick flick.” (Ookay…) Romita Jr. talked about wanting to work with Millar, and basically doing the art based on the possibility of getting royalties later rather than getting paid a normal page rate. He mentioned that he’s halfway through drawing the final issue of the first series, but they hope for it to be a trilogy of graphic novels, which would hopefully be turned into movies down the road if the first one is successful.

At this point, there’s no word on when Kick-Ass will come out and who might distribute it as of yet, but Superhero Hype! had a chance to talk to Vaughn, Goldman, Millar and Romita Jr. later that day, interviews we hope to share with you soon.

Source: Edward Douglas