‘Kick-Ass’ Shows What Director Would Have Done With ‘Thor,’ ‘X-Men’

'This is my love letter to superhero movies,' says Matthew Vaughn, who was lined up to direct those other comic adaptations.

HOLLYWOOD — Just for a moment, consider the Internet frenzy that surrounded this week’s revelation that Joss Whedon might direct “The Avengers.” Now, imagine that it’s 2005, substitute “X-Men” for “Avengers,” and pretend that Whedon walked off the project and was suddenly replaced by Brett Ratner .

That should give you some idea of the insanity that surrounded “X-Men 3″ back in the day. But for everyone out there who has ever wondered what Matthew Vaughn’s version of that movie — as well as “Thor” — would have been like, he finally has an answer: It would have been “Kick-Ass.”

“This is my love letter to superhero movies,” Vaughn told MTV News of “Kick-Ass,” which hits theaters Friday. “And I tried to put all the ideas that ‘X-Men’ gave me into it and then working on ‘Thor’ [as well].”

Yup, that’s right — in addition to the “X-Men” threequel, the “Layer Cake” filmmaker was also briefly in charge of the “Thor” film now being directed by Kenneth Branagh but left that project as well. After a half-decade of teasing comic fans, many have speculated about what he would have done with those films. And if this weekend’s buzzed-about “Kick-Ass” is any indication, they would have been something special.

“I’ve been thinking about doing a comic book movie for a long, long time,” the British filmmaker said. “And I was just bored of nearly doing it and not doing it. ['Kick-Ass'] is like an explosion of everything coming together.”

As geeks know all too well, “X-Men: The Last Stand” turned out to be, well, the last straw for many. Vaughn told us at the “Kick-Ass” premiere on Tuesday that if he hadn’t been forced to leave the film, he would have made it with more emotion and less gimmicky.

“No offense to Ratner, but I just felt that it needed more heart,” Vaughn said of the finished product. “That’s what I thought was missing. I was a little bit shocked when I saw it.”

According to Vaughn, “heart” is one of the key elements he was sure to inject throughout “Kick-Ass.” And if the audience’s reaction to the fates of Big Daddy, Hit-Girl, Red Mist and the other heroes in the new film is any indication, Vaughn clearly has a legitimate beef with the “Last Stand” shortcomings.

“That sort of thing makes an audience really fall in love with the characters,” Vaughn said of the importance of building an emotional stake, rather than just throwing people in tights on the screen.

Another thing that doesn’t hurt, he added, is that when most people walk into “Kick-Ass” this weekend, they’ll have no idea who the characters are beforehand. “[It helps] when you don’t know who they are, and the first time you meet them is on the screen and you have no preconceptions about what they should be,” he said, admitting that it might have ultimately been better for him to direct “Kick-Ass” instead of either of those two films with better-known heroes. “The rawer the process is, the better it can become.”

Check out everything we’ve got on “Kick-Ass.”

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