This article is part of our One Perfect Archive project, a series of deep dives that explore the filmmaking craft behind some of our favorite shots. In this entry, we discuss how Kick-Ass let a regular kid be the superhero.
Not every superhero needs a superpower, a tragic backstory, and an unlimited amount of funds. And according to the 2010 film Kick-Ass directed by Matthew Vaughn (Kingsman: The Secret Service), not even a driver’s license is necessary for becoming a crime fighter in tights.
The film begins with average teenager Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) wanting to live in a world where superheroes exist. He decides to make this idea a reality by becoming Kick-Ass, a self-proclaimed superhero armed with nothing but a green scuba suit and a persistent attitude. Although the film gives off the impression that Kick-Ass is the first superhero in this world, that is not the case.
While Dave’s reasons for becoming a crime-fighting vigilante are mostly selfish, for 11-year old Mindy Macready (Chloë Grace Moretz), better known as Hit-Girl, it was all about family duty. With her father — Damon Macready (Nicolas Cage), also known as Big Daddy — obsessed with avenging his dead wife, Mindy was raised to be tough enough to take a bullet (literally).
When comparing the two characters, the differences are obvious. For example, Mindy has been ruthlessly training since her father was released from prison while Dave’s training consists of a few sit-ups and any prior knowledge he learned from the comics he obsessed over with his friends. Dave was given a normal childhood while Mindy was given butterfly knives for her birthday. Perhaps the most distinctive element that separates the two is their level of maturity. Dave is a teenager with a childlike naivete about the world, and Mindy is mentally mature for her age but is still a literal child.
Even though Dave and Mindy appear to be complete opposites, they share one commonality: neither should have been fighting crime. To them, being a superhero is a game they play. Mindy grew up with her father’s heavily biased stories about Frank D’Amico (Mark Strong), making all of the action a violent game of pretending. For Dave, the entire creation of Kick-Ass was a way for him to live out his fantasy of trading reality for the world of his comic books.
Neither Kick-Ass nor Hit-Girl fight for a cause they believe in and therefore cannot be working for any sense of greater good. With Dave, his Kick-Ass website was a way to gain popularity and self-validation that other people had the same fantasy as him. He often receives emails asking for help, and he ignores all but the one relating to his crush, Katie (Lyndsy Fonseca). Most interpretations of being a superhero involve fighting crime, which Dave seems to avoid at all costs. On the other hand, Mindy never runs from a fight but has no reason for why the fight started in the first place. Mindy doesn’t believe in any righteous cause or have a desire to avenge the mother she never met. Her main goal is supporting and trusting her father.
However their differences, both characters become heroic when they team up to avenge Big Daddy. This act is the closest they ever get to becoming a superhero because they understand the consequences and are fighting for something greater than themselves. Mindy realizes she needs to fight to complete her father’s mission and Dave understands he needs to accept the responsibility for his actions if he wants to be the superhero he dreamed of.
Kick-Ass is the story of children becoming the heroes they’ve always wanted to be, whether their role models be fictional or paternal. Although neither of the characters organically became superheroes by being ridiculously wealthy or an alien, Mindy and Dave discover that the only way to be a superhero is to fight for something they believe in.