It’s absolutely true that the Kick-Ass franchise is cartoonishly violent, and the plotline in the first movie in which Dave saves a white girl from menacing black drug dealers was downright racially irresponsible. That said, I’m really relieved that there’s at least one franchise out there that’s focused on the problem of escalation between superheroes and supervillains:
In a way, the arms race between superheroes and supervillians is like the real-world cycle in which police forces get more militarized in response to the perception that they’re outgunned by criminals, something that’s been a glancing subtext of pop culture since Hans Gruber took out the LAPD’s armored truck with a rocket launcher. In the end, nobody wins. You just get fireballs. Or two women in a pickup truck getting shot up by the cops, and a police department that then can’t even be bothered to replace their vehicle. Kick-Ass 2, like all superhero movies, will end up shying away from the idea that shutting down this escalatory cycle is a good thing, if only because the entertainment value—or, shall I say, kick-ass value—of it is so high. But more than most other franchises, Kick-Ass is comfortable at least acknowledging that there’s real ugliness there, and testing how comfortable we are embracing that.