The road to "Kick-Ass 2" has been full of surprises.
The first was that it was happening at all. Two years after the 2010 original walked away with modest box office numbers, hope for a sequel looked bleak. And then — surprise! — Mark Millar in May of 2012 that Universal Pictures picked up the property and was moving forward, hiring director Jeff Wadlow ("Cry Wolf") to make it all happen. Aaron Taylor-Johnson, Chloë Grace Moretz, Christopher Mintz-Plasse were all returning, but what sweetened the deal, even the skeptics, was the recruitment of a newcomer. Surprise! Jim Carrey was joining the movie.
"Kick-Ass 2" filmed in the Fall of 2012 and early footage promised a faithful follow-up. The first trailer put the spotlight directly on Carrey, promising one his most demented roles yet. But on Sunday, June 23, fate decided to deal "Kick-Ass 2" one more twist: Carrey would not be endorising the movie. Surprise.
Per a series of tweets left on Carrey's official account, the actor has withdrawn his support of the film, stating that after the violent shooting in Sandy Hook, CT back in December 2012 — months after the wrap of "Kick-Ass 2," he could not in good conscience "support that level of violence." He went on to apologize to others involved with the film, adding that he was "not ashamed" of the film, but that "recent events have caused a change in my heart."
Since the beginning of his career, Carrey has thrown caution to the wind in favor of a big, loud, and often crass performance style. He'd twist his body in knots in his stand-up act, he'd become the dumbest human being on the planet or emerge from the butthole of a rhinoceros to turn his films into hits, and these days, as an advocate of peaceful living, he'll take to Twitter to unleash hell on the pro-gun crowd. He's managed to balance his full plate of career choices, but in the last 24 hours, he's come under fire for continuing to act boldly. And not just from fans — "Kick-Ass" creator Mark Millar took to the web to respond to Carrey's remarks.
"I'm baffled by this sudden announcement, as nothing seen in this picture wasn't in the screenplay eighteen months ago," Millar says. "Yes, the body-count is very high, but a movie called Kick-Ass 2 really has to do what it says on the tin." Millar makes the obvious clear: "Kick-Ass 2" is fiction, and while blood is shed, the writer likens it to the works of Tarantino and Peckinpah, Scorcese and Eastwood. It has purpose. 'Kick-Ass' avoids the usual bloodless body-count of most big summer pictures and focuses instead of the CONSEQUENCES of violence, whether it's the ramifications for friends and family or, as we saw in the first movie, 'Kick-Ass' spending six months in hospital after his first street altercation."
This is the moment when "Kick-Ass 2" became a movie I want to see. Surprise!
Millar brings up a good point in his rebuttal. Carrey just awakening to the idea that America has a gun problem. Since the movie theater shooting in Aurora, CO, Carrey has been vocal on the Internet about a need for weapon control. Earlier this year, as a way of mixing his comedic talents and political points of view, Carrey released "Cold Dead Hand," a vicious piece of satirical sketch that divided his audience.
Can movie violence go both ways, presenting extreme, Grindhouse-esque violence while showing that those actions have real world ramifications? Millar says "yes," and that the balance is what attracted Carrey to the role of "Colonel Stars and Stripes," a born again Christian who opts for blunt objects and hungry dogs over a standard firearm (the Colonel does back a gun, but it shoots rubber bullets). In March, MTV spoke to Carrey during press rounds for "The Incredible Burt Wonderstone" about his decision to take on a role that at first glance, could promote everything he strove to abolish.
"Well it was a little bit [of a factor], but my character is a guy that came from a violent background who is trying to turn it around and he uses a gun with no bullets in it," he said. "These are things I am considering now because I just feel like we don't cause the problem, but we don't help it much either. Even at that time, how the Sandy Hook shootings affected his work in the film. "I made 'Kick-Ass' before all the things, the unfortunate shootings happened and stuff happened, and so that's kind of a little interesting blast from the past almost. But it's just going to be a great movie. But I'm being careful with choices."
Celebrity culture doesn't allow for ideological mobility. A person with Carrey's level of fame can't be brazen with his/her political views, involve themselves in a film that tests those views, and then backtrack after the fact. Thanks to the Internet, audiences see it and judge it all. Regrets are unacceptable. Yes, Carrey knew what he was doing, having acted out a script chock full of comic book violence, but as he's stated, the line between artful, comedic insanity and gratuitous bloodshed is thin. Sometime in the last year, it dawned on Carrey that what he had performed fell on the wrong side of the line.
One of my major problems with the original "Kick-Ass" was its inability to figure itself out. Was it a comic book movie about regular joes strapping on jet packs and wielding swords to slice their foes in two? Or was it a movie about a kid who dreamed of superheroics who found out the hard way that when a goon shoots you in the arm, it really, really, really hurts? The movie was schizophrenic, and one imagines that if Millar is convinced "Kick-Ass 2" can explode squibs with the staccato and existential consideration that made Sam Peckinpah a master, that the sequel may be equally scatterbrained.
Outraged by Carrey's quiet reconsideration of the movie (misread as a condemnation), the Twitter community immediately called for Carrey to put his money where his mouth was and donate his paycheck to charity. A nice gesture, but the man is still working for a living and his work will still be there in "Kick-Ass 2" when it arrives in theaters this August. And when people see it, they should be as open as Carrey is to role. Arguments are made for and against media having an impact on our violent society. Many are 100% confident that the answer is "no, it doesn't." But "Kick-Ass 2" made Carrey wonder, and he decided that putting the movie out there was a mistake. If the movie is tonally out of whack, he might not be wrong. Absolutes will never apply — not all violent movies spur real world violence. But feeling that one could is acceptable.
Defending the violence, Millar says audiences are "smart enough to know they're all pretending and we should instead just sit back and enjoy the serotonin release of seeing bad guys meeting bad ends as much as we enjoyed seeing the Death Star exploding," but also that it's a "sequel to the picture that gave us HIT-GIRL was always going to have some blood on the floor." So "Kick-Ass 2" will try and eat its cake and have it too. Considering Carrey's departure, we'll be waiting to be surprised if the movie can pull it all off.