Mini-Reviews: Kick-Ass 2, Jobs
The first Kick-Ass was rooted in a fascinating premise: if superheroes existed in the real world, wouldn’t they be psychotics who’d likely get themselves killed quickly? There was plenty of interesting subversive stuff at the beginning, yet once we reached the climax, it gave way to what it knew the common audience really wanted: typically unrealistic comic book action, undercutting the initial premise. The unnecessary and unpleasant sequel Kick-Ass 2 only follows the premise of the first in that it repeats ceaselessly that this “is not a movie, it’s the real world.” However, from the start, it embraces comic book violence, one-note characters, and an utter lack of subversive realism, making it both a pointless endeavor and an awfully nasty one. Aaron Taylor-Johnson is the blandest hero of the summer (Charlie Hunnam thanks you, sir), Christopher Mintz-Plasse is never credible as the wannabe super-villain, and Chloe Moretz and Jim Carrey desperately deserve better material. The action is serviceable albeit antithetical to its alleged real world setting, a B-plot about high school girls is unquestionably the most gross and misogynistic B-plot we’ll see all year, and a joke about a botched rape comes off as arbitrary poor taste. Additionally, in a post-George Zimmerman verdict world, Kick-Ass 2 had a real opportunity to say something interesting about vigilantism. Instead, it settled for being an ugly comic book film, whose message can be boiled down to “violence rules and women are monolithically bitchy sex objects.” What a shame.
If anyone deserves a fascinating biopic, it’s Steve Jobs, an unquestionably complex character of boundless ambition, great success, and plentiful personality problems. The problem with Jobs isn’t its lead, Ashton Kutcher, who does an admirable job morphing into such a well-known figure. The problem is the film never gets us into his head, letting us know what really makes him tick. Like plenty of bland biopics, it seems content to exist as a laundry list of accomplishments, rises, and falls. Toward the beginning, it seems to approach complexity, as we watch Jobs bed a young woman, accept drugs from her, and ask if he can take some extra for his girlfriend. The film never forms an opinion, though, on why Jobs behaves this way. Same for his refusal to see his first child– we see him once or twice angry that he has a child, and then around the third act, we see him with the child at his house. Where was the reconciliation? Why did it happen? This sort of drama is a hundred times more interesting than what Apple’s stock was doing in any given year. Director Joshua Michael Stern is far more interested in showcasing Jobs’ grandstanding and speechifying, giving us at least a dozen lectures on the importance of never letting anyone stand in the way of your dreams. I wondered if the reason they never dove into Jobs’ complex personal life is because it would stand in the way of the otherwise basic deification treatment. The film is pleasant to look at, with plenty of fine supporting turns from Matthew Modine, Ron Eldard, and especially Josh Gad as Steve Wozniak. It’s just disappointing how far short it comes from its potential. Consider the ending, in which we see Steve Jobs lecturing that one should never do the same thing, one should make one’s own path and do something different. It felt so bizarre to use that speech to end Jobs, a biopic that follows in the footsteps of many bland biopics before it.