Three years ago, we got a stunning answer to the question "what if there were real-life superheroes?". Now, in 2013, we get the follow-up question: "What if there were real-life supervillains?"
This is the question examined in Kick-Ass 2, the sequel to the darkly amusing, action-packed film based on Mark Millar's cult graphic novel. While other sequels have disappointed or merely matched pace with their predecessors, Kick-Ass 2 takes it to a brand new level.
Dave Lizewski (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) has hung up his costume and retired from crime-fighting, thinking he can get back to living a normal life. That is, until he meets Colonel Stars and Stripes (Jim Carrey), who has formed Justice Forever, a group of vigilantes who work toward helping their fellow man -- whether it be simply helping at a soup kitchen or breaking up random street violence. However, lurking in the shadows is Chris D'Amico (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), still hell-bent on exacting his revenge on Kick-Ass, creates his own band of supervillains, causing not only Dave to step out of retirement, but asking for the aid of Hit-Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz), who has been forced into retirement by her guardian Marcus (Morris Chestnut).
Writer/director Jeff Wadlow (Never Back Down) takes the reigns from previous installment director Matthew Vaughn (who stays on as producer), and does not disappoint. Wadlow's grasp of Millar's source material is amazing, keeping all the jokes seeming fresh, the suspense taut, and action thrilling. While the original film seemed a bit more satirical, Wadlow brings the film to a darker, more serious place, which is exactly what this film needed.
From the many deaths to the gripping emotional issues the characters struggle with, Kick-Ass 2 is certainly a lot more grown up. Yes, Chris D'Amico has his little tantrums, often leading to some of the film's more hilarious moments, but, when Dave and Mindy begin struggling with their respective identities while trying to do the right thing, it shows how far these characters have really come. The film is much darker than the first installment, though thankfully it doesn't go as far as the comics do (I'm not sure gang rapes and pre-teen sex is something that needed to be here), but the humor still reaches the true belly laughs you've come to expect from the franchise. True, things do get a little more over-the-top than usual here, but it never detracts how amazing this film is.
**PARENTAL NOTE: If you're thinking of taking your children (as in under 15) to see this movie, don't. There's a reason why Burger King is not giving out Kick-Ass toys in their kids' meals -- it's not an appropriate film for young children, superhero or not. Unless you want to have lengthy conversations about what Chris D'Amico's new character name means and what the strange objects in his mother's purse were, hire a babysitter. It'll be easier.
FINAL VERDICT: While bringing the laughs and ridiculous costumes you've come to expect, Kick-Ass 2 manages to mature in tone, taking the emotional twists to a new level. Becoming emotionally invested in the characters of a comic book movie may not be something you would expect, but it certainly makes Kick-Ass 2 stand out among its peers.