A good sequel builds on the original. It takes the characters it developed and gave a compelling arc in the first movie, and finds new ways for them to develop more, continue their arc, maybe follow a new one, or just grow in some interesting, entertaining way. A lazy sequel finds the quickest possible way to undo every lesson learned, every piece of character evolution and every consequence of the first movie as quickly as possible, so it can get to its job of being a re-hash of the original, hitting all the right beats and playing all the right notes at all the right times. Using that as my definition of a good sequel, Kick-Ass 2 is less The Empire Strikes Back and more, Revenge of the Nerds 2: Nerds in Paradise, or Speed 2: Cruise Control, or Teen Wolf Too, or The Hangover Part II, or City Slickers 2: The Legend of Curly’s Gold.
At the end of Kick-Ass, the titular hero learned that he didn’t need a super alter ego to be a somebody. He already was a somebody as regular old Dave Lizewski. He even got the girl. And movie stealer Chloe Grace Moretz was finally free to live the life of a regular teenage girl as Mindy Macready that she had always been denied as adorable sociopath, Hit Girl. So how does Kick-Ass 2 move forward from there? By totally dismissing all of it within the first couple of scenes.
Dave is bored as regular old Dave and a nobody again. In a piece of exposition forced so hard and so quickly into this thing you can you can feel the movie almost fall apart under the pressure, mild mannered Mindy Macready was never mild mannered, she’s secretly been training as Hit Girl in her old hideout ever since the end credits of the first movie. And the love of Dave’s life from the first movie has been banging some other dude. That’s the quickest act of in between movie back stabbing bitchery from a soul mate since the unseen Elizabeth Shue in the opening scene of The Karate Kid Part II.
So, now that the closing moments of Kick-Ass have been so expertly swept under the rug, Kick-Ass 2 can get to the business of copying it note for note. Nicolas Cage as Big Daddy dies in the first one. No worries, replace him with Jim Carrey playing basically the same psychopathic good guy, under the moniker Colonel Stars and Stripes. Hey, wasn’t it funny when Kick Ass would hang out with the equally goofy McLovin as the Red Mist in the first movie? It sure was, but you know what would be even funnier? Dozens of goofy super heroes and goofy super villains, all with their own ironic names and cheap costumes. Hilarious.
It also tries to find room to give Dave / Kick Ass a new love interest in the form of the mid riff baring lady super hero, Night Bitch (the kind of rough trade who seems just a little bit scary and threatening in all the right ways). But as quickly as she’s established, the movie finds a way to get her out of the way. It’s almost as if writer / director Jeff Wadlow suddenly realised he had a heap of balls in the air but had forgotten to take juggling lessons.
Like the original, Chloe Grace Moretz is this movie’s MVP as Hit Girl. But even she delivers diminishing returns. A 15 year old girl who looks like butter wouldn’t melt in her mouth mercilessly breaking bones, stabbing bad guys, severing limbs and straight up shooting dudes in the head should pack a real punch. The only problem is, it looks boring and played out since we already saw her do it as an 11 year old in the first movie. And while Kick-Ass 2 has nothing that comes anywhere near the visceral insanity of her hallway slaughter in the original, it does take the time and make the effort to give her a legitimate and threatening nemesis in the form of super villain, Mother Russia (imagine Ivan Drago from Rocky IV, but as a woman, and with bigger testicles).
If all that sounds like I hated this movie and think that it’s terrible, that’s not the case at all. Kick-Ass 2 isn’t bad, it’s just in no way necessary. To paraphrase all of our mums, I’m not angry with Kick-Ass 2, I’m just disappointed.