Comic-Con ’09 Coverage: Kick-Ass Panel

I may have missed the “Avatar” panel by a good 60 minutes, but I caught all of the “Kick-Ass” panel, and I’m glad I did. This may just end up being the highlight of the con for me, it was that good. Of course it helped that director Matthew Vaughn made the trip to San Diego armed with a pretty awesome Red Band trailer and four clips from the movie, each one more vulgar, more dangerous, and just generally more disturbing than the previous.

My reaction to everything that was shown at the panel? I give the film a 50-50 chance of actually getting picked up by a major distributor. And it has nothing to do with quality, either. From what I saw, this looks like it has the makings of a great, cult comic book movie. One of those crowd-pleasers, especially if you’ve read Millar’s comic books.

But the reason why I doubt it’ll pick up a major distributor? Kept in its current form, without tweaking to “tame it”, “Kick-Ass” movie is hard-core. And when you add the fact that teens (especially tweeners (I’m not sure how old she’s supposed to be, 10 or 11?) Hit girl to the mix, slicing and shooting people like Christian Bale in Kurt Wimmer’s “Equilibrium”) and this is the kind of full-bore violence that’s going to get parents talking — and not necessarily in a positive way. I envision protest signs and cable chatfest fodder.

The truth is, Mark Millar’s comic book is pretty damn violent. From what I’ve seen of the movie, it’s incredibly faithful to the comics. Did I mention it’s got tons of swear words (Hit Girl throws out genital vulgarities (the male and female kind) like you and I breathe) and violence?

Here’s a breakdown of the clips that were shown:

Clip 1) The opening scene from the comic book’s first issue, right down to the wannabe superhero falling to his death in front of some horrified witness and cutting to the three teens in a diner discussing why no one’s tried putting on a costume and fighting crime.

Clip 2) Kick-Ass runs into the street toughs that previously beat him up, who are now boosting a car. Kick-ass, in civilian guise flees, but quickly changes his mind, puts on his costume, and confronts them. He gets in some good shots but then gets a knife in the gut for his troubles. Then he’s run over by a car. Ouch.

Clip 3) Kick-Ass, looking to get laid by doing a girl a favor, goes over to a drug dealer’s pad to tell him to leave the girl, his ex-girlfriend alone. He almost gets killed for his trouble, but is rescued by Hit Girl, who slices and dices the drug dealer and his buddies.

Clip 4) Nicolas Cage, as Big Daddy, teaches Hit Girl how to take a bullet to the chest. Well, three bullets, actually. Yes, that’s right. Cage’s character actually shoots his tween daughter at nearly point blank range because he wants her to know what it feels like (so she can go fight crime and not worry about getting shot, you see). Oh yeah, she’s wearing a vest, but still, he’s shooting his daughter on purpose. Egads.

It’s scenes like #4 that I’m not sure “Kick-Ass” will ever get a major distributor. Listening to Vaughn talk about the film’s distribution, I get the feeling he’s not every confident about it. He did say that he hopes to get it out there by the first quarter of 2010, though. We’ll have to wait and see if that’ll happen. They might have to cut a hell of a lot out of this movie to make it “sellable”, and at that point it probably won’t be “Kick-Ass” anymore.

Other notes from the panel:

Present were Vaughn, writer Jane Goldman, comic book creator Mark Millar, and artist John Romita Jr. Later, castmembers Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Clark Duke, and Hit Girl herself, Chloe Moretz (all 12-years of her) join them onstage. The kids were mostly ignored by the audience, though, and all the questions were directed at Vaughn and Millar.

Of note: Millar states that he always envisioned the movie as a trilogy, and plans to write two more comic book series, even though Romita’s just now finishing up the first series. Vaughn didn’t seem to have any comment about that.

Also, and I’ve mentioned this before, but I think Aaron Johnson is miscast as Kick Ass. He’s too tall, too muscular, and just in general too big for the nerdy, geeky Dave Lizewski, who is supposed to be this skinny kid that you don’t think can beat up a little girl. In the movie, Johnson actually looks pretty imposing in that goofy green costume of his. He’s nearly as tall as all the adult actors, and not to sound perverted or anything, but the kid fills out that costume. I always envisioned Kick Ass as skinnier, less imposing.

The trailer that was shown (twice, actually) gives you the impression that although Kick Ass starts out as the lead in the movie, this film ends up being Hit Girl’s. She’s all over the trailer, shooting her way through buildings and slicing and dicing her way through bad guys. After a while you don’t even see Kick Ass again until the end.

Finally, I’m not certain, but is that Nicolas Cage’s Big Daddy dressed up as Batman going around shooting people like he’s in a John Woo movie???

Definitely one of the best panel of Comic-Con ’09 for me so far. It’ll be hard to top. Then again, I missed out on the “Avatar” panel, so maybe ignorance is bliss in this case.

Below: Hit Girl. She’s a bad, bad, bad girl.