The heavily-hyped and fanboy-heralded Kick-Ass hit theaters this weekend. However, with a domestic gross of $19,750,000 million ($17.4 foreign,) it failed to physically implement what its namesake suggests. In what was, on paper, a relatively weak box-office lineup this weekend; it should have been an easy win for the comic adaptation, despite its surrounding controversy. Wrong. Compounding the defeat, this weekend's champ was the one-month-old children-themed CGI 3D fest, How To Train Your Dragon, which grossed an estimated $20 million. (*See updated info below.) In fact, it seems that a good portion of moviegoers actually went out of their way to not see Kick-Ass. So, what happened? Let's try to break it down.
Firstly, as conventional wisdom dictates, the R-rating is a stigma that is hard to shake. It severely limits a film's potential audience and forces it to market to a specific demographic -- in this case, "fanboys." From that perspective, it was hugely successful when you consider the safe guess that its nearly $20 million weekend was predominantly made-up of that demo. However, while other R-rated films have the obstacle of their ratings, this film had something working against its broad appeal from the get-go: Its title. While some looser parents, if they think their kids can handle it, may allow their kids into R-rated films, they tend to do so cautiously and with a quick exit plan from the theater formulated in their minds. However, a film called "Kick-Ass" is not something that inspires confidence in a cautious parent's plans to be loose. (In fact, the "Ass" in the title was actually censored on my ticket stub!)
Another major factor: A lot of people were just not destined to "get it."
When Roger Ebert threw out the term, "Morally Reprehensible" in his review of the film, his words probably illustrated the unspoken thesis for the generation gap that hit this film like a runaway boulder. The fact is, some people looked at the film's trailer (which was heavily played on television for the past few weeks,) and thought: "I have no desire whatsoever to see this skinny idiot in a green costume or watch an 11-year-old girl murder people." As Ebert eloquently said to fans: "You inhabit a world I am so very not interested in." To that point, this film, much like Watchmen last year, shot itself in the foot since it was, by design, a film destined to be divisive among audiences to a point where it was bad business. While Watchmen's downfall was its pretentiousness, Kick-Ass' may have been its myopic generational irreverence. To paraphrase Chis Rock: I ain't saying he's right -- but I understand.
Personally, I loved the film. While I walked into the theater with a good amount of skepticism, I found it to be a film that, despite its over-the-top nature, truly has heart. While the action is every bit as amazing as you'd think, you also really feel what is happening in the primary characters' souls. Immediately apparent, was the helplessness of Aaron Johnson's main character, Dave Lizewski that quickly became an identifiable quixotic optimism. You also feel the trapped desperation of Christopher Mintz-Plasse's Chris D'Amico and understand why his Red Mist alter-ego is the outlet he desperately needs in his life to prove his worth to his father and himself. And lastly, even the ridiculously caricatured, "Kill-Bill-ish" Chloe Moretz's Hit-Girl comes across as a genuinely relatable character whose life is actually rather tragic. While the film definitely deserves the R-rating it received, it was far from the sign of Western Civilization's decline that some critics made it out to be.
Did you catch Kick-Ass this past weekend? What did you think?
*The updated final tally has put Kick-Ass ahead by a mere $195,367.
Source: Box Office Mojo