Lionsgate is about to look very, very smart.

Earlier this year, when "Kick-Ass" was being shopped to American distributors, several people I know saw a rough cut of the film.  One of them works for a studio who did not end up with the rights to the movie, and even so, when I saw this person at a film festival months afterwards, all he could talk about was "Kick-Ass."  He was positively evangelical about it.  This is a film that they lost out on, keep in a mind, a film he had no stake in and that was now going to be the competition, and still... all he could do was rave.

Last week, there were a few screenings in the UK, and this week, there have been several screenings in the US, including one last night at the Arclight in Hollywood.  And again... everyone who I'm talking to after they see the film seems to be reading from a script.  "Amazing.  Hilarious.  Hit Girl is the greatest thing I've ever seen.  What an amazing superhero movie."

I had long talks with two people in particular last night who saw it, and both of them reported the same insane crowd reactions at the screening, and the thing I find interesting is how little most people know ahead of time, and how much that seems to be a factor in them flipping out for the film.  They walk in cold, not sure what to expect , and they practically stagger out.  At last night's screening, several people reportedly turned to each other after the film ended and said, "Is it just me, or was that better than 'The Dark Knight'?"  High praise, indeed, but certainly not impossible.

I know that Nolan's Batman sequel is thought of by many as the greatest superhero film so far, and I love the film, but I don't think that's the best the genre will ever produce.  It's easy to forget because of the ubiquity of the superhero right now, but it's really only been about 12 years that the modern superhero film has been around, since "Blade" and "X-Men" helped kick things off.  12 years is nothing, relatively speaking, and the way we keep seeing minor variations on the same basic structure is a sign that the genre is still fairly nascent, with plenty of room to grow.

Will "Kick-Ass" be a step forward?  I know that Matthew Vaughn's got a huge affection for the genre, and his plans for "X-Men 3" were pretty great.  He came close to making "Thor," too, but maybe it's for the best that both of his flirtations with giant-budget studio superhero movies ended in frustration, because it pushed him to make "Kick-Ass" outside the system, on his own terms.  The reactions I'm hearing are in love with the way the film violates every rule of what you think movies are allowed to do, and that never would have happened if Vaughn had been working for corporate overlords on the film.

Lionsgate has never paid as much to acquire a film for release as they paid for "Kick-Ass," and it's an important investment for them.  They have to turn this into not just a hit, but a mega-hit, and I've been curious to see what sort of campaign they were planning.  I know that both Matthew and his co-writer Jane Goldman had very strong ideas on-set about how to market the film, and I'm guessing they'll be very hands on, which may well have been part of how they decided who to work with as a distributor.

IGN.com scored the exclusive debut of the posters yesterday, and the greatest thing about them is the way they all work together as one big image.  You can see them now in our very own image gallery.

No, I take that back.  The best thing is actually the way they use the character names and not the actor's names.  I love that they're selling the concept and the characters first.  That's a really smart way of handling what is essentially an unknown cast.  Yes, Chris Mintz-Plasse is "McLovin," and Nic Cage is Nic Cage, but they're still part of the underdog identity to the film.  For Mintz-Plasse, this is his chance to shake off a character that could easily be the thing that defines him forever, and Cage's filmography has been such a nightmare lately that audiences seem to have lost faith in him.  Word is that Big Daddy, Cage's character, is one of the things that audiences were flipping out about last night, and that Mintz-Plasse was a huge success as well, particularly towards the end of the film.

The next step a trailer, and according to the just-launched official site, we'll see that in 8 days as a MySpace launch.  Makes sense we're starting to see these materials now.  After all, this is an April release.

We'll certainly keep you informed of any and all "Kick-Ass" developments in the months ahead.

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