By Charlie Brigden
Once again, it’s the year of the superhero. But after several films featuring Marvel* and DC’s finest, it’s time for a different kind of masked avenger. The ultra-violent, swearing-like-a-trooper, teenaged girl type. That’s it, cocksu**er. This is KICK-ASS 2, or more accurately the score of KICK-ASS 2. Warning: This article contains spoilers for the first KICK-ASS and swearing, as well as mild peril and cartoon violence.
Once again we are back with the super-team of Henry Jackman and Matthew Margeson, who worked on Matthew Vaughn’s original movie – along with music from John Murphy and Ilan Eshkeri. As far as I know, it’s a solo effort between Jackman and Margeson this time (at least reflected by the album) although be warned, there is a songtrack album, and it is not pretty. Put it this way: it ends with Jessie J. Thankfully, the score album is a different kettle of monkeys.
KICK-ASS 2 is a score that put a big smile on my face that didn’t turn into a frown until it was over, continuing in the same melodic vein of the original score, with influences from trip-hop to 16-bit video games. And while the Kick-Ass series is known for a fair amount of violence and darkness (admittedly through a Lichtenstein filter), a lot of the music is surprisingly heroic. I guess it’s maybe because Kick-Ass as a character, while an idiot in many ways, is still attempting to be a hero of sorts (at least from the superhero viewpoint), while someone like Frank from SUPER is a tad more deranged and disturbed (probably why the violence in that film is a lot more, well, violent).
KICK-ASS 2 begins with a properly heroic cue, reprising the main theme from the first film in brass before introducing a Skrillex-esque electronic line that segues to a crescendo. It’s a pretty big opening, if short, but sets the perfect tone. It’s pretty broad at times, approaching the material with quite a pop sensibility, which is appropriate given that the film is in part about Dave (Kick-Ass) and Mindy (Hit-Girl) both trying to get along at school while dealing with their alter-egos. There’s a great track – ‘Senior Year’ – which is an upbeat electronically-tinged number that immediately conjures up the image of the crowded school yard on the first day of the semester. It’s really in keeping with the feel of the score as a whole, especially with the quotes of the main theme, but also would work just as well in an unrelated film about high school, with that slightly deliberately-cheesy edge.
That’s not to say it’s all rainbows and lollipops, as some of the fall out Dave and Mindy have to deal with comes from Red Mist wanting to avenge his father’s death (the gangster Dave killed at the end of the first film). He’s now setting up his own crime-fighting team as The Mother Fucker, and there is some emotionally solid material surrounding this, including a beautifully tragic and sad violin solo that would probably make you feel sorry for him if he wasn’t such a twat.
As I mentioned before, there are some interesting musical influences going on here. Both Jackman and Margeson have a lot of experience working with electronics, with Margeson spending a lot of time assisting on scores like THE DARK KNIGHT and Jackman working elements in films like X-MEN: FIRST CLASS and WRECK-IT RALPH, with the latter in particular integrating a lot of synthesised elements. More of this chiptune-esque elements turn up in KA2, such as the excellent electronic rendition of the main theme in ‘Dave’s Field Test’ that pops up amongst more traditional orchestral elements. As well as electronics, Jackman also uses his trusty electric guitar (as heard pretty much throughout GI JOE: RETALIATION), lending a rocky sensibility which can give the score a surprising amount of weight. But it’s really fun, especially when augmented by big strings as in ‘Convenience Store’. And fun is probably the best way to describe the score, it’s just a blast. It never takes itself really seriously, but on the odd occasion it needs to err on the side of drama it does so effortlessly. And when we require it to turn on the hero juice, boy it really does.
I don’t really know how much work Henry Jackman was responsible for and vice versa with Matthew Margeson, although it does bear the stamp of Jackman’s previous scores heavily (although to muddy the waters further, Margeson has worked on his previous scores as well). Maybe the liner notes of the physical CD will shed light on it, but either way, KICK-ASS 2 is a fantastic score. It’s melodic, it can tug at the heart-strings, but overall it’s just a big fucking fun listen. My only question: why the hell didn’t Sony hire these guys for AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2 instead of Hans freaking Zimmer?
KICK-ASS 2 will be released on August 13 by La-La Land Records on CD and digital. La-La Land’s CD release will include music not available digitally.
*okay, so technically KA is a Marvel comic, but do imprints really count?