Sunday, February 7, 2010
The dread names of Zac Efron and Robert Pattinson have been bandied about without much conviction, but I'd be surprised to see the role go to such famous faces. Efron was pretty decent in Me and Orson Welles, but the series doesn't need a big name to pull in the box office dollars – just a great storyline and a return to the smooth yet zippy execution of the first two films. Pattinson? Well I think we already had emo Spidey in the third instalment, which didn't exactly work out. Besides, the idea of a swaggering, narcissistic Peter Parker makes my blood run cold, and I've seen little evidence that the British actor is capable of much more than that.
It would be premature to suggest that Spider-Man has run its course: with all his emotional tics and neuroses, Peter Parker is such a hugely sympathetic, engaging character that there will always be a place for him in the hearts of comic-book fans. Yet I do sort of wonder whether we're looking in the wrong place for our next fix of this kind of bright and breezy all-American fare. I was fortunate enough to catch an early screening of Kick-Ass, Matthew Vaughan's forthcoming adaptation of the little-known John Romita Jr comic book, last month, a movie which could well make Sony's series redundant when it arrives in April. It is, to all intents and purposes, the indie Spidey.
While I can't say too much about the film, which is still under embargo, I can tell you that it's a snappy, ebullient blend of the best bits from Spider-Man, Watchmen and Superbad. And it really is that good. Check out the latest trailer, although to be frank, it doesn't really do the movie justice.
Fortunately, you don't have to have caught Kick-Ass to be able to see that Vaughan is aiming for a hyper-modern take on the same territory as Spider-Man 4. The new film updates an aesthetic which is stuck firmly in the relatively conservative early 1960s, Spider-Man's heyday.
Both comic books centre on a geeky teen who finds himself becoming a hero, yet Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) doesn't have the ability to climb walls, swing through skyscrapers or shoot sticky material from his forearms. In fact he doesn't have any powers at all. The first time he heads out to fight crime he winds up in hospital for several weeks following a severe beating by a group of thugs. When he eventually gets out, rumours begin to circulate at school that all those bruises are the result of his regular forays into male prostitution. He is subsequently adopted by the school hottie as the gay BFF she has always wanted.
There are more contemporary touches. After finding fame on YouTube, Dave sets up a MySpace account in order to make contact with people that need help, and the toughest hero in this universe is a 12-year-old girl trained by her father to take on criminals, who she removes from the picture with a bloodthirsty glee while swearing like a trooper. Frankly, this is not the sort of material Marvel Comics' Stan Lee would ever have been likely to put his name to. The movie version is going to make Spider-Man look like an antiquated relic of a bygone era.
Of course, there's a danger that with so many anachronistic flavours, Kick-Ass could look extremely dated in 15 years' time, but it right now it looks fresher than anything else out there, wouldn't you agree?