Longtime comic fan Nicolas Cage was deadset on playing a superhero, but he didn’t get to do so satisfactorily until he played Big Daddy in Kick-Ass.
Looking back on 2010’s Kick-Ass, it is apparent that it provided Nicolas cage with the superhero vehicle he truly deserved. Directed by Matthew Vaughn and adapted from the comic book by Mark Millar—who also wrote the source comics for Logan, Kingsman, Wanted, and Captain America: Civil War—the hyper violent and crudely witty film was well-received and has been hailed as a unique staple of the contemporary superhero genre. Some were offended by the unbridled savagery of the action sequences and the over-the-top profanity that riddles the movie, but in the decade following its release, Kick-Ass has developed something of a cult following.
The film stars Aaron Taylor-Johnson as the titular superhero, a teenager vastly unprepared for a life of vigilante justice. His life changes when he meets Big Daddy (played with perfect panache by Nicolas Cage), a former cop turned vigilante who has trained his brash eleven-year-old daughter (Chloe Grace Moretz) to be a ruthless vigilante herself: Hit-Girl. The three heroes work together to bring down a crime boss (Mark Strong) and his young son Red Mist (Christopher Mintz-Plasse), though Big Daddy is tragically burned to death before they succeed.
Kick-Ass is a full-throttle ride of comic book absurdity that perfectly suits Nicolas Cage and finally utilized him properly in a superhero movie. Cage, a noted comic fan who actively worked to land a superhero role, has a history of being misused by the genre. In the late 90s, he was set to play Superman in Superman Lives, directed by Tim Burton, but the film was unceremoniously canceled just three weeks before filming began. Although the planned details of the film are admittedly ridiculous—Superman was not going to fly, and the climax of the film was to be a fight with a giant spider—it may have given Cage a campy platform for success as a superhero.
Nearly ten years later, Cage did finally get to play a beloved comic character in Johnny Blaze, a.k.a. Ghost Rider. Unfortunately, the 2007 adaptation was reviled by critics and audiences alike. Rather than leaning into the dark tone of the Ghost Rider comics, the film was a cheesy, melodramatic mess of a story featuring Wes Bentley as Blackheart, Marvel’s worst movie villain by a longshot. Cage’s performance is fun in a so-bad-it’s-good way, but that is despite the film and not because of it. An even worse sequel was released in 2011 with laughable CGI and writing. While Cage once again delivers a fun, bizarre performance, he is wasted in the flaming mess of a franchise.
Kick-Ass is ultimately a much better fit for Nicolas Cage, as it leans into the ostentatious wackiness of the comic book world and complements Cage’s performance style perfectly. The film uses him superbly, an ideal foil for his two young mentees, Kick-Ass and Hit-Girl. Cage’s character gets meta quickly, as Big Daddy was a comic book superfan himself. Even without knowing the real-life details of Cage’s comic book obsession though, Kick-Ass is a clear love letter to the superhero genre, highlighted by one of Cage’s most fun performances. If a reboot of the Kick-Ass franchise were greenlit, it is difficult to imagine replacing him as the outrageously vengeful Big Daddy.
Despite the cancellation of Superman Lives and the total failure of the Ghost Rider movies, Nicolas cage was finally able to land the perfect superhero role. His performance in Kick-Ass is a standout more than ten years later, giving the actor the long-overdue credit he deserves. Looking ahead, as the MCU and DCEU continue to expand, surely it’s about time Mr. Cage is given a chance to shine again in the perfect superhero vehicle.
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Kick-Ass Finally Gave Nicolas Cage The Superhero Movie He Deserved