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BUCKINGHAMSHIRE - I will never stop being excited about visiting Pinewood Studios outside of London. It is one of my favorite places on Earth, and it's always great when they've got several films on the lot at the same time. I walked past Chris Pine, in costume as Jack Ryan and on his way to the set, as I made my way across the lot on the first of two days I spent visiting "Kick-Ass 2."
I walked onto Stage F, one of several at the legendary Pinewood Studios currently in use by this film. I'm sure I've been here before, and I even think it was for a Matthew Vaughn film. I'm pretty sure this was the interior of the inn owned by Michelle Pfeiffer's character in "Stardust." As I enter, there on a set designed to look like the top of a building, Christopher Mintz-Plasse and Aaron Taylor-Johnson are in the middle of shooting one of the main emotional beats for the climax of the film.
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"What's the point of wearing a mask if you can't do what you want?" Mintz-Plasse says, just before he takes another shot at Taylor-Johnson, whose costume from the first film has been updated with a few pieces that directly recall Big Daddy, the character that Nicolas Cage played in the first film. Incorporating that suit into his own carries an emotional weight this time around, and that's no accident.
If "Kick-Ass 2" is about any one big idea, it's about consequence. The events of the first movie set into motion everything you see happen in this film. This is not just another adventure with the same cast. This is what happens to them because of the first film, and for the most part, this film makes the case that consequences suck.
When Chris delivers his final monologue, most of it yelled at Aaron in between brutal kicks and punches, it's heartbroken. He is not playing Red Mist this time around, and I'd argue he's not really playing Chris D'Amico anymore, either. His character was broken by the first film. He was torn in totally different directions regarding his loyalties to his father, to his friends, to his own sense of right and wrong. He never really stood a chance. And while the first film ended with a direct reference to Tim Burton's original "Batman," meant to imply that there was a villain turn ahead for the character, it seems to me that they have gone much further than that scene implied.
Now would be a good point to warn you that there may be some strong language and imagery in the set visit material we're sharing with you for this film. That's because the sequel promises to be fairly profane, as is the Mark Millar/John Romita Jr. comic that the films are based on. Some people enjoy that, others see it as proof that the series is no good.
I think it's just part of the world that these kids are growing up in, which is a far more profane world than I grew up in, and I grew up in the 1970's, for pissakes. I grew up in an era where Richard Pryor was a cultural hero and Archie Bunker was on TV and people actually paid to go see porno movies in the theater. I grew up in what must have seemed like The Last Days Of Sodom to my grandparents, and yet it all seems sort of innocent and quaint compared to the pool of blistering filth that is mainstream pop culture at this point. I don't know what it's going to be that robs my kids of their innocence, but I know it's out there, some Great White Shark of graphic something that they're going to encounter that is going to send them to me with questions that will change their lives. Being shocked by Millar's sensibility is pointless; he's accurately painting the way the modern mainstream speaks and sounds and what they laugh at, and maybe it is nihilistic and scary but it's genuine.
Case in point: Chris Mintz-Plasse and his rebirth as The Motherfucker. When I see him for the first time, he's in the final full version of the outfit, and he looks like the guy who would win a particularly disturbing fetish ball's costume contest. He looks like he would be unpleasant to touch, pretty much head to toe. At this point, Chris looks like he has gotten rid of any hint of baby fat he may have had. He's whip thin, so he looks like an X-rated Jack Skellington as he runs through the fight.
Almost in contrast, Aaron Taylor-Johnson is about twice the size he was in the first film. He looks like he has spent the time since that film doing nothing but training. His shoulders and his upper torso are both wider and way more dense with muscle than on the first film. It's a reinvention for him as well.
This fight between them is about the core ideas that define their positions in this film, and it's very ugly. It's up close and it's just about hurting one another, even as they defend their totally different approaches to life in a mask. Aaron insists that he does this because he wants to do good.
It's like it makes The Motherfucker crazy to hear this. He starts kicking Kick-Ass, furious. "No. No. People WANT to win the lottery." KICK. "People WANT to fuck Scarlett Johansson." KICK. "No one WANTS to risk their life so some moron can walk through the projects at night." KICK.