Mark Millar’s Kick Ass: Review of the Movie Script

(Yes, I know. I mentioned the JLA script, reviewed the JMS World War Z script and then said I’d do Thor. Well, this was handier, so Thor will be later in the week)

Kick Ass is, if I recall from an interview I read a while ago, Mark Millar’s updated look at the classic teen super-hero origin (like Spider-Man and others had), but with a little twist or two – it’s set in the modern day and the kid doesn’t actually get any powers.

It’s done decent business as a comic book and is set to be a film. Indeed filming, with Nick Cage, has already begun under the keen eye of director Matthew Vaughan.

As far as I can tell, there’s three issues of the series out with, judging by the Jane Goldman-written script, another three to go, so anyone reading the comic may want to be wary from here on in as there may be some spoilers.

The basic starting point for Kick Ass is that, in a world like ours, Dave Lizewski decides to try and become a superhero – or at least a vigilante like that of Batman – and then promptly gets his ass kicked instead of the other way about. However, his actions inspire others and, thanks to a YouTube video (Millar actually did a viral, which was quite clever) suddenly there’s all sorts of people coming out of the woodwork as superheroes. Dave, of course, recovers from his first beating to try again at the hero business…

It’s a simple enough story and works OK. I can’t say much more than that because the story – in the comic or the 103-page script – really grabbed me. Dave Lizewski seemed like a whiny teen and at the end, thanks to some luck more than anything else, he’s a whiny teen with a hot girlfriend.

But the other problem is that extra characters are introduced in the film and the comic – Big Daddy (sadly not the wrestler) and Hit Girl – and the amount of time they get, it’s almost as if the comic/script doesn’t have the confidence to just stick with the main character (see Batman and Robin for an example of how well that can work out) or find enough of a story for him.

In fact, it seems to me that in the film Big Daddy and Hit Girl are introduced a lot earlier. In the comic they turn up in the last pages of issues 3 and the start of 4. In the film they appear in the first 15 minutes with new scenes and details, but I suppose that’s what happens when you have Nick Cage in a role…

Secondly, the ending, while positively restrained for a Mark Millar comic (see the last page of Wanted or the near end of Chosen for examples), it really doesn’t make much long-term sense when you think about it.

Note – next up is a spoiler placed in white text between two images from the comic. The spoiler deals with the end of the film, so don’t say you haven’t been warned.

 

SPOILER AHEAD (HIGHLIGHT TO READ)

By the end of the film, one of the main characters has decided that if the world has super-heroes, then it must also have super-villians and he will be the first. Now, let’s look at the ludicrousness of that idea from the logic of the story – he has no powers and lives in a world which is more or less identical with ours. There are already enough ways to amass power, money and influence – and none involve dressing up.

Also, dressing up for evil when you have no powers is pretty bloody ridiculous because the first time they attempt a serious crime, odds are they’ll be shot. And the first time they’re in jail? Hosed.

And that’s before pointing out that the idea seems very similar to that of Unbreakable – that if there has to be a good guy there has to be a bad guy.

It may be that with the creation of the villian at the end coming about because of Dave deciding he wanted to be a superhero, Millar is updating the classic idea of ‘with great power comes great responsibility’ as Dave’s actions lead to a negative and that’s fair enough, but it still rings hollow.

SPOILER END

As I said though, the comic’s first three issues never did much for me, so perhaps it’s just not my thing – I was far happier with Millar’s recent ending to his 1985 mini-series, which in itself was an average read, but had quite possibly the most emotionally satisfying ending not just of any Mark Millar comic, but of any Marvel comic ever published.

Back to Kick Ass though. If you’ve enjoyed the comic so far, odds are you’ll enjoy the movie (or the script) as it seems incredibly faithful to the work (as opposed to the massive changes made to Millar’s WANTED, which bore little resemblance to the original in many parts) but I’ll skip.

Anyhoo, Kick Ass the movie comes out in 2009. The end of the comic probably will as well.

World War Z Movie Script Review

A couple of people have emailed me after I posted that I had read the movie script adaption of Max Brooks’ World War Z and asked me to provide a bit more depth to it, so in order to please…

It follows the same idea as the book – which is basically interviews with people who survived when the zombies rose and the ten-year ‘war’ that followed. What it adds to it though, is more of a story to the actual narrator.

Where the script works well is that it runs as an accompaniment to the book. It tells a few of the same stories – including the Chinese outbreak, the Jewish solution, the interview with the drug seller and the Battle of Yonkers – but a lot of it isn’t the same as the book (and some of what is, is tweaked around). Sadly, that means the South African and Chinese submarine chapters are gone.

But that’s the beauty of this topic: both are presenting tales from the war. There’s scope for both (and plenty sequels if Brooks decided to spin it out).

If anything, that may be the main criticism of the script: it’s a chopped down-version of the book. That may sound like a strange comment but given that we live in an age where a film like Wanted bares next to no relation to Mark Millar’s original, this is very much the other tact.

What I did like was that there’s a lot more about the narrator, but again it doesn’t contradict the book. There’s a nice metacommentary to the script that could have you believe the book we have is the book from the film (if that sort of thing suits you).

Also, the narrator’s tale has a nice twist to it, going one way and then spinning on it at the last minute in the most poignant way.

The biggest thing that may upset some is that there’s no real scientific explanation for what kicks off the zombie invasion. No mentions of a passing comet, Hell being full or even Solanum. We’re just presented very matter-of-factly with the fact that there was a war with zombies. (it also never answers the question that stuck in my mind reading it: does it mean that everyone who dies now becomes a zombie?)

This was an adaptation that was passed round a lot of decent writers and quite a few pitched for it. I’ve heard of one other take on it – though I’m sworn to secrecy on it – but I think J. Michael Straczynski has done a decent job here. His strength is in monologues and people believing in higher truths and noble goals, tinged with hope and that all plays out well here.

The real challenge is going to be in seeing who can bring this to life (pardon the pun). I’d go for someone like Paul Greengrass as director and Clive Owen as the lead because it needs someone with those sunken eyes – the look of someone who has been to Hell, came back and discovered something even worse (having said that, if Brad Pitt’s two new babies give him a lot of sleepless nights he might be perfect).

Would it be worth going to see? Oh definitely, but fans looking for a massive reinvention of the book would probably come away disappointed as it may not have their favourite scene in it. For other people, it could still be worth a watch.

Where this film would be a total gift though is for the marketing team. You could have outrage by religions, ARG’s, YouTube videos pretending to be public safety announcements in how to deal with a zombie, Googlemaps of outbreaks, community websites and wikis set up showing rebuilding, a rebranded version of Urban Dead… (though I’d love to see a zombie version of The Sims) the possibilities are endless.

One thing we wouldn’t need is a Twitter from the zombie apocalypse as it’s already been done…

Some films you may see in two years or so…

(AKA here’s one for fans of zombies, Brad Pitt, Thor or the Justice League of America)

One of the perks of trying to write a Grant Morrison biog and being the reporter who broke the news to the world about David Tennant being the 10th Doctor Who is that I have some decent contacts – who seem more happy to share stuff when I’m not a reporter bizarrely enough – who pass on the odd gem.

In this case, imagine my surprise the other morning when my inbox had not one, but three movie scripts – for Marvel Comics’ Thor, DC Comics/Warner Bros’ Justice League of America and the adaptation of Max Brooks’ World War Z novel.

Without trying to out-AICN AICN, here’s a little rundown of the three of them, starting with the last one (and isn’t it a nice change for the blog to be talking about something except media?)…

Max Brooks has done incredibly well from two zombie books and this script, written by Babylon 5 creator J. Michael Straczynsk should see a nice little franchise develop.

World War Z is actually quite a tricky book to adapt to a movie. As it’s mostly a bunch of vignettes, it’s hard to build up concern for one character. And while the book makes you care for a huge amount of them, that’s a harder task for a two hour movie and something more suited to a TV miniseries.

But JMS takes the overall idea and adds in more from the narrator collating all these stories, adding in ideas on the the nature of duty and truth, but constantly building it around a human story that has a nice little tweak (twist would be pushing it) at the end.

One thing that JMS is often criticised for is his dialogue, yet I think when he nails conversation, there are few better at it (it was one of the strong points of his Spider-Man run) and he gets it right here.

Brad Pitt is said to be interested in this and if he is – and there’s a decent director on board – this could be a fantastic hit, especially as I think the zeitgeist over the next few years is going to be for survival under extreme conditions and the breakdown of society (if you look around, you’ll see that popular fiction has already been going that way for the last year or so).

Well worth a watch when it comes out.

Then there’s Thor – Marvel’s take on the Norse Gods. I’ve never been a big fan of the comic or the character, but he has his fans, though I wonder how they’ll take to this version because there’s next to nothing that comes from the comic – it isn’t set on Earth and there’s none of the alter-ego nonsense – this is very much tapping into the Lord of the Rings/Hobbit audience.

It’s a decent enough script and origin story – it’s the tale of Thor v Loki, the hero is banished and then discovers his purpose in life before coming back to save the day. One thing it will also be is either expensive or shot with a lot of blue and green screen as it’s more or less all set in Asgard. Rumour has it that Marvel has said Matthew Vaughan can direct it if he’s able to bring the budget down to $150million, to which I say good luck to him.

If you know your Loki from your Odin then this is your thing, but it’s not for me. Neil Gaiman’s Sandman and American Gods were enough norseness for me.

So then, finally, what about the oft-ballyhooed JLA film, starring many of DC Comics’ top heroes – Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and so on. It’s a decent stab at a superhero teamup, ripping shamelessly from Mark Waid’s Tower of Babel storyline from earlier in the 2000s, but it’s the exact opposite of the Thor movie: while that has gone for an almost non-comic book feel, this script feels like it’s full of fanboy moments and marketing plugs (for example: for a funeral all of the superheroes wear black versions of their outfits).

It’s a decent script, but for something like this, decent isn’t good enough. This – to nick how Grant Morrison used to describe the JLA during his run – is a pantheon of the Gods and the threats and disasters they face should be equally epic, while reminding us why we love them.

And this script doesn’t do that. To be fair, neither did the Superman Returns script. At the end of that film, a near dead Superman lifts an entire continent into space and throws it out of Earth orbit and there was no sense of majesty, no grandeur, no awe (apart from ‘awe for God’s sake is this film nearly over?’).

DC may make the better comics, but Marvel seem to be whupping them at the box office – and you can’t use this year’s films as an indicator because there will be a lot of ghoulish attention over The Dark Knight.

So if this lot all came out on the one Friday night, what should you go and see? World War Z without a doubt. After that, it depends on your preferences. I’d just hit the pub.

Thanks to those who sent me these scripts – sorry I can’t name you for a credit, but I’m sure you would rather stay in jobs…