Sunday, September 5, 2010

Waiting for the Kick Ass to kick in... A kick ass film review and hopefully not too cheesy theological reflection

I watched a DVD of ‘Kick-Ass’ (2010) over the weekend. ‘Kick-Ass’ is the Michael Vaughn directed movie version of the Mark Millar comic book. It tells the story of an anonymous everyday high school student, Dave Lizewski, who one day decides that he no longer wants to be a victim of crime or a casual bystander but will don a mask and costume and become a super hero crime fighter even though he does not have super powers.

It’s an interesting movie but like some other movies I’ve been watching recently it’s a hard watch; the violence level and the almost sciocopathic disregard for human life meant (in my humble opinion) that it earned its New Zealand rating of R18. The saturated colours, quick editing and framing that give it a comic book aesthetic did little for me in removing the violence from reality enough to be consumed as entertainment. Crazy costumes, stereotypical villains and the definite improbability of the plot did not remove the impact of brutal stabbings, gun shots, beatings and a torture scene.

The film did leave me thinking about two things however. The myth perpetrated by Hollywood and such mediums as super hero comic books that the only way to overcome violence is through violence. ‘Lizewski’ becomes Kick Ass to defend the weak but to do that resorts to using two clubs or batons and finally graduates to a rocket pack armed with duel Gatling guns. There is heroism as he does not have any super powers and is rather a scrawny guy. He gets more than he gives ( and as a result of his first outing as Kick-Ass is beaten to the point that he has to have his bones reinforced with steel and has major nerve damage, making him almost impervious to pain). Perhaps this violence begets violence narrative is personified most by the main female lead Mindy Macready aka ‘Hit Girl’ who, because her mother was killed by the arch villain Frank D’Amico, has been trained to wreck vengeance on the mob. Her father Damon Macready aka ‘Big Daddy’ is so obsessed with vengeance, so stuck in the anger stage of grief, that he is willing to sacrifice his daughters childhood to turn her into a killing machine.

So the film leaves me asking is there any alternative to violence in solving the issues of crime and urban decay? Katie Deauxma, Lizewski’s girl friend, does offer an alternative narrative to a point, as her response to the evils in the world is to volunteer and to care and to collect the damaged and outcast people.

The second thing I thought about from the film, in a hopefully not too cheesy theological way, is that in the basic premise of the movie and comic book is a real challenge and possibility for making a difference. The whole premise of the movie is based on the question after 70 years of super hero comic books what if someone actually decided they would don a costume and go out and try and make a difference? Not that they were bitten by a radioactive spider or had the benefit of alien blood coursing round their veins, or even a vigilante who has been traumatised by crime, but just an ordinary citizen stepped out of the posture of being a bystander and did something heroic? There is a scene where Lizewski/Kick Ass is lying over the victim of a gang attack taking kicks and hits from three gang bangers where he is told by the victim to go and get away to which he responds ‘I won’t leave you”. A call for people to be willing to side with the oppressed and poor and side with them perhaps? Maybe the comic book and the super hero are not the right narrative to inspire people to step up and try and make a difference. But after two thousand years of the gospel narrative you have to wonder what if?... What if we took Jesus teaching seriously enough to step out of our comfort zones and to step out, not heroically, but with service and a willingness to stand with and alongside and to bring change? I wonder what would happen if more and more of us simply stopped reading the page and stepped out of the pages? We forget perhaps that we are called to incarnate and embody the gospel we read and the one who was gospel “good news”. The good thing is we don’t need a costume to do it ( I wouldn't look good in tights), or a strange name but we do have the assurance of Jesus that ‘Lo I am with you to the end of the world’. Hopefully Christians can be seen as more than just comic relief.

Paul summarises Jesus teaching in Romans 12

9Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13Share with God's people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

14Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse. 15Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. 16Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but be willing to associate with people of low position. Do not be conceited.

17Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. 18If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. 19Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God's wrath, for it is written: "It is mine to avenge; I will repay," says the Lord. 20On the contrary:

"If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.

In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head." 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good

1 comment:

  1. It's interesting isn't it how often vengeance is the motivation for some superhero figures? Then we see such a thing thinly disguised as Christian commitment being offered as the rationale for the death penalty, and even, heaven help us, the Sensible Sentencing Trust.
    Rom 12 definitely offers a radical model for heroic interaction with a world of violence and sickness. requires a whole different response to provocation, even in our ordinary interpersonal dramas day-to-day.