Saturday, 1 May 2010

Man and Superman

The Greek gods were strange beasts: petulant and childish, their immortality rendering every one of their actions futile. It's all been pre-ordained, anyway. All that the lesser gods can do is stall for time; when Zeus wakes up he'll see what's gone awry and sort everything out with a nod of his shaggy head. In Christian literature, God is often rather dull (just dip into Paradise Lost); as is heaven (singing all day in praise of God? Hmmmm.). Goodies are usually much more boring in literature than baddies. Such is the glamour of evil. In the Morte Darthur you'd much rather hang out with the complicated, sprightly, adulterous Lancelot than with prim, pious Galahad (something T H White picks up on in his marvellous The Once and Future King.)

This is true for superheroes, too. That's why Clark Kent's Superman makes my eyes droop, whilst the twisted Batman makes me raise a cheer. And that's why I absolutely loved Kickass. It's a loopy, lovely, weird cartoon, a joyful paean to adolescence as much as it is stuffed with Kill Billesque violence. Though discomfiting, there is no mistaking the two-dimensional quality of the world in which Kickass takes place, so the violence becomes part of the film's expected texture. Mr Sam Taylor-Wood, otherwise known as Aaron Johnson, is sweet and tender and sympathetic. He plays a dorky, speccy teen who puts on a wetsuit and calls himself Kickass - a real life superhero. Johnson is as thin and rubbery as his suit. As he twirls around his room trying out moves, you can't help but like him and admire him for overcoming his vulnerability. The real star of the movie, though, is the eleven year old Hit Girl. Born into revenge, she can run up walls, slice up bad guys and plan military operations with the finesse of the most brilliant general. She is like a malevolent demon, but is also curiously loveable: twisted by her father into an avenging machine, she has never had a chance to have a childhood.

These superheroes made me feel a lot better about the world than Superman or even the brooding Wingedrodentman: when calamities occur, there is no point hanging around waiting for a deus ex machina who may or may not deign to help. Kickass reminds us that self-reliance and resilience are the greatest qualities that anybody can have. I heartily recommend it, to anyone.

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