Sunday, May 29, 2011

"Mom, a man just died."

There's an old episode of The Simpsons where Bart and Homer are watching a McBain movie and cheering on McBain as he kills one enemy after another. Wanting to join in, Marge quips, after watching McBain snap a man's neck as he hurtles through the sky in a jet, "Now that's what I call breakneck speed!" She is only able to savor her quip momentarily as Bart turns to her and scolds, "Mom, a man just died."

Similarly, in the deleted scenes from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, friends of anonymous henchmen, killed in the movie without a thought, mourn the death of their friends, husbands and fathers.

The joke in both, of course, is that the onscreen death of a faceless, nameless character in an action movie is suddenly given the kind of weight and thoughtful consideration normally reserved for a central character, one in which the audience cares for deeply. And the joke of my movie-watching life, as I grow ever older, is that I give random, nameless and faceless deaths onscreen the same kind of consideration The Simpsons and Austin Powers did as a clever ironic statement, only with me, there's no irony.

It's actually not all that new, having started years ago, but has grown increasingly worse as I get older. It first manifested itself in childhood as I wondered about this or that person being killed by the likes of James Bond and wondering, briefly, fleetingly, "What's his story?"

The first time it ever truly took hold of me was during the viewing of a perfectly wretched catastrophe of a movie, Nothing but Trouble. It was the mid-nineties, I was up late flipping through the channels and on HBO there was this movie, written and directed by Dan Aykroyd, and I quickly realized it was one of the worst movies I had ever seen. Needless to say, I kept watching. Like the driver slowing down to see how bad the carnage is alongside the road after a traffic accident, I wanted to see just how deep into the abyss of badness this movie would plunge.

Early on some hot shots in a sports car get pulled over by the lone police officer in town, John Candy. They're snorting coke and have plenty of drugs and it's implied they deal. They've got two women with them and they're armed. Candy arrests them and brings them before the horrifying town judge/dictator, played by Dan Aykroyd, who summarily executes them. They are sent onto a treadmill/ride into a shredder. This is played as a joke.

Okay, time for some personal background, for both me and Dan. For my part, I have a sister who got heavily involved in drugs in her twenties and thirties. When I say heavily, I don't mean she smoked some pot like you or I did in college or had the occasional hash brownies. No. I mean she was addicted to all manner of drugs, particularly cocaine, and unlike addicts you may have known, my sister married a drug dealer and was pursued, surveilled and eventually arrested by the F.B.I. After turning evidence and being released she sunk into alcoholism and eventually, unable to hold down a job, moved back in with my parents. The drugs she did had severe physical repercussions and now she suffers from brain seizures but there is a plus side to all this: She completely cleaned herself up. She's been sober now for more than eleven years, and while she still lives with my parents thanks to her neurological condition, she is drug-free and helping out my elderly parents as they get older and their health declines.

Now for Dan. He was close friends with John Belushi and despises drug use and drug dealers. Thanks to Cathy Evelyn Smith serving up a too potent speedball, his friend John Belushi lost his life. While she served time for this on manslaughter charges, it can never bring Belushi back. His life is gone, forever. Dan Aykroyd hates dealers. I get that and I sympathize. And I understand, that's where the scene comes from. It comes from the anger and hatred he holds for people who deal in death, at least in some cases.

But when I watched that scene, all I could think of was, "Those two women, why'd they get killed? Because they made the wrong choice? Lots of people make perfectly horrific choices and recover, grow up and turn themselves around. They chose to be with these loser drug dealers, like my sister did. I don't think they deserve to die for that."

Now, I know, it's all a little heavy for a throwaway scene in a perfectly rotten movie and perhaps you're thinking, "Greg, geez, come on, lighten up!" And you're right because I'm saying it too, which is why I'm writing this piece in the first place. Because what started in Nothing but Trouble has continued and I repeatedly find myself asking, even of several supposedly "bad" characters, "That person just died, doesn't anyone care?"

And to be sure this is all perfectly understood, I'm NOT talking about central characters or major supporting characters or even minor supporting characters. That's NOT what I'm talking about. With those you DO feel something and often are meant to. I'm talking about characters that the writer, director and actors want to be nameless and faceless. The characters of whom the audience is completely indifferent. Characters played by actors you will never know and whose credit listings are along the lines of "Man #3." I'm talking about THOSE characters. More often than not, lately, their onscreen deaths really bother me.

The most recent example of this came in the movie Kick-Ass, which came to theatres already swirling in controversy over the language and violence dispensed by the eleven year old character Hit Girl, played by then 13 year-old Chloƫ Moretz. The movie (from the comic book of the same name) deals with ordinary people taking on the personas of super heroes in the real world, a world filled with violence and danger. There is no "cartoon" violence in the movie. Blood flies, guts spill. It is exceptionally violent and while some critics, most notably Roger Ebert, found it morally offensive, I did not, unless you count the death of a certain nameless, faceless character. Then maybe I do but for the reasons I've outlined here, not because Kick-Ass is any different in this respect than any other action movie. It's just that in Kick-Ass, it seems more real and, thus, more impactful.

The death to which I'm referring is particularly troublesome for me because of another important plot line set up by the film. Here's the setup: Dave Lizewski (Aaron Johnson) is a New York teenager who decides to become a superhero named Kick-Ass. Among his first assignments is to help out a girl he long been secretly in love with, Katie Deauxma (Lyndsy Fonseca). She's been mixed up with a guy she wants to stop seeing and asks Kick-Ass to get that message to him. Kick-Ass goes to see the guy, Rasul (Kofi Natei) who is in an apartment with several other unsavory characters and they all appear to be drug-dealers. Kick-Ass is grabbed by them and about to be killed when eleven year old Hit Girl shows up and proceeds to viciously slaughter all of them with a mounted hunting knife. Finally, she turns her attention to the lone female in the apartment who breaks a bottle to try and defend herself before running to the door. She then tries to get it open, terrified, until Hit Girl pulls the knife mount apart, revealing another knife inside, and proceeds to skewer the poor girl before pulling the blades out and casually walking away as her lifeless body falls to the floor.

Ha, ha! She hooked up with the wrong people and now will never have a chance to learn from that and grow as a person because an 11-year-old girl decided it was time for her to die, never to experience life again. Ha, ha! Oh man, that shit is funny, huh?

Okay, it's not that funny but could be depending on your point of view, I guess. The problem with this scene is that the whole reason Kick-Ass is taking on Rasul in the first place is because Katie, the good girl of the movie, was mixed up with him! In other words, the movie is flippantly killing off one girl with Rasul, treating it as a joke that it believes the audience will follow along for the ride because, after all, she's mixed up with a drug dealer, so let her die! But wait! Katie was too! The whole thing feels more like bullshit Hollywood moralizing than anything else.

It's the same bizarre duality Hollywood has exhibited for years: Film folks get mixed up in drugs but portray people mixed up in drugs as evil. Film folks enjoy unimaginable wealth but often portray the wealthy as evil. Film folks sleep with a great many people and... well, you get the picture. There's a lot of projection going on in Hollywood, and not just the kind where reels get changed.

Of course, let's be honest: We've all laughed at people getting killed in films. As referenced earlier, the Bond films have made an artform out of turning a nameless character's death into a joke. One of the more famous examples comes from the beginning of Goldfinger in which Bond electrocutes a man in a bathtub and walks away shaking his head saying, "Shocking." This guy, whoever he was, was clearly in the business of killing people and, frankly, I don't care what happens to him. Likewise for the dealers in Kick-Ass. They are, we can assume, physically dangerous men who have killed and will kill again. It's the girl I have problems killing. The girl who, like Katie, hooked up with someone bad but unlike Katie, wasn't smart enough to unhook herself in time. Had I been the director, I would have had her get the door open and flee. We'd never see her again and leave the theatre thinking, perhaps, she turned her life around after that terrifying incident. Despite all the violence, mayhem and bloodshed in that scene, it is only her death that bothers me and I think it was a mistake to leave it in.

But lest we think this is some new trend in movies or that my dismay is reserved only for the female cohorts of drug dealers, I should say it's been going on since the beginning of cinema. In the film Heaven Can Wait, not the 1978 Warren Beatty film but the 1943 Don Ameche film, the lead character played by Don Ameche is speaking with Satan, played by the great Laird Cregar. As Ameche speaks with an elderly woman (assigned to Hell in the afterlife) Cregar bores of her and presses a button that opens a trap door releasing her to her eternal torment with a blood-curdling scream. After this I couldn't focus on anything else in the movie. All I could think was, "Right now, at this moment, she's being tortured, brutalized and tormented. This will go on forever and why? Because she was a gossip?" That's what's implied: She will be physically tortured for eternity because she was a busybody. And her release into Hell by Cregar is played as a joke. Had Lubitsch made her a rapist or a murderer or a gangster or, fuck, anything but a gossip I would have taken to the joke better. But by making her so innocuous, the joke was given an unfortunate weight, a weight that works against comedy. Well, for weirdos like me who focus on this kind of thing.

For the most part, this is all reserved for moments where a person's death is played off as a joke in a reasonably realistic way. That is, Rowan Atkinson backing off of the cliff in Hot Shots, Part Deux is played so ridiculously that the only thing to do is laugh since no one in the movie feels real in any way, and isn't meant to. But when the guy with the fancy swordwork gets casually shot by Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark, I think, "Damn, it's over for him now. He's dead." Of course, I laugh at the scene anyway, just like I'm supposed to, probably because Spielberg is skilled enough to keep just enough distance from it to make it work. The death isn't terrifying (like the woman sucked down to her torment screaming in Heaven Can Wait) or bloodthirsty (like the drug moll in Kick-Ass) and the swordsman isn't in closeup when it happens. But it doesn't mean I still don't think about it, if only for a moment.

A part of me is utterly annoyed with myself for these new found feelings of empathy for faceless extras in the movies but another part of me thinks it's perfectly normal and I'm happy I don't have a cold, mechanical reaction to anyone's death onscreen. I'm well into middle-age, have children on their way out the door and into their own lives and a lovely wife with whom I look forward to growing old. If that means I spend a little more time thinking about life in a way that makes casual onscreen death seem unnerving, so be it. It's not going to kill me.


Pat said...

Greg -

I really like this post, and I feel better knowing that I'm not the only one who laughs just a little uneasily when Harrison Ford shoots the swordsman in "Raiders of the Lost Ark." I've always felt uneasy watching people get blown away randomly in the few action films I actually watch.

Besides all that, this post really struck a chord with me today, as I just finished reading a glowing review of Chaplin's "Monsieur Verdoux" on another blog, and wondering why I'm the only one who feels so uneasy with that film. Don't get me wrong, it's a great movie and I admire Chaplin's audacity in addressing warmongers and munitions-makers in that final courtroom speech. But when I'm watching it, I can't help thinking "Why is it a barrel of laughs as long as he's knocking off unattractive, middle-aged women?" The young female characters The female characters are idealized as beautiful and noble, and the middle-aged women are all presneted as vulgar, annoying and we're . I find it troubling.

Pat said...

Looks like I inadvertently deleted a phrase in that comment.

Should have been: "...the middle-aged women are all presneted as vulgar, annoying and we're encourage to laugh when Chaplin does them in."

Pax Romano said...


Thanks for putting so succinctly, a feeling that I sometimes get when watching films.

Well done. Well said.

I don't think it's a weakness or a sign of getting older - I think it's that some of us can not help but empathize with other, even if they are just linear characters in film.

Greg said...

The female characters are idealized as beautiful and noble, and the middle-aged women are all presented as vulgar, annoying and we're encourage to laugh when Chaplin does them in. I find it troubling.

Me too! I didn't even think of Monsieur Verdoux but I never found/find that kind of humor funny. I watched the scene of the woman in Heaven Can Wait again (it's on Netflix Instant) before writing this and had the same horrified reaction. They portray her as old, dumpy, unattractive and bothersome. It's as if because she's old and unattractive, it's now funny to watch her suffer horribly. And I don't think it is.

When you start to appreciate how precious life is and how short our time is here on earth, you have a harder time finding jokes centered around killing people very funny.

Greg said...

I don't think it's a weakness or a sign of getting older - I think it's that some of us can not help but empathize with other, even if they are just linear characters in film.

Probably right. It's probably not a sign of getting older but it has definitely increased as I've gotten older. I think it's sad and tragic to see a life taken away but sometimes I do wish I could turn it off for a movie. Instead, I lose focus for the rest of the movie because I keep thinking about the person who died that no one cared about. Geez, I just want to enjoy the damn movie but my stupid brain won't let me.

JR said...

I almost stopped watching Kick-Ass after that scene. The woman and even one of the men characters seemed to just be sitting there in terror and were killed for no reason. I don't know why their deaths were supposed to be funny.

Greg said...

Yeah, the idea that it's funny because it's a little kid doesn't really work for me, either. I thought the movie/comic book had a lot of good parodic riffs on superhero conventions, including having this super physically trained little girl hopping about, but the slaughter became too senseless to keep it going. I understand the urge to go over the top, thinking it will be ballsy, but sometimes it just ruins the good idea you had going.

Kevin Deany said...

Greg, this was a real interesting post, offering much food for thought.

I can remember two instances of unnecessary deaths that really upset me, while my friends who were with me at the time thought I was over-reacting.

The first was "Blue Thunder" and the scene where Roy Scheider is trying to elude Malcolm McDowell in their respective high-tech helicopters. Scheider positions his hovering helicopter by an office building window that is causing a huge glare. McDowell's heat-seeking missile hones in on Scheider's helicopter and as its coming, he flies away, leaving the missile to slam into the building and cause a huge explosion.

All I could think of was the poor people in that office building, many likely killed. All because the hero elected to sacrifice them to save his own hide. I never could get into the film after that, it always left a bad taste in my mouth.

The other was the 007 film "Tomorrow Never Dies" where Bond, using a remote-control device, sends a car full of hitmen through a parking garage guardrail, over a river and crashing into a shop on the other side of the river.

Again, all I could think of those poor people sitting in that shop minding their own business. If he had sent the car into the river that's one thing, but not into the store. I remained angry the rest of the movie.

Marilyn said...

I think anyone who struggles with depression has had these kinds of moments. It's impossible to ignore pain when you're in it.

As for mindless death and destruction in films and on television, I don't take it to heart unless it happens to an animal or there is any torture/violence porn associated with it. I know the people who are being killed aren't real, so the random ensign with the red shirt on Star Trek doesn't bother me - it's funny to know that he's there to be cannon fodder to further a plot point. But I know that in an obscene show like Law and Order: SVU the intention is to titillate and degrade, and that I cannot abide.

bill r. said...

Well, I don't like KICK-ASS very much, but in its (sort of) defense I believe that death was supposed to be a bit troublesome. I don't think anyone involved in the making of the film had a clue about how to handle it, but I felt like that was their version on the moral twist of the knife. Again, I don't think it worked out that way, but that's the sense I got from it.

PS - That's one of my favorite SIMPSONS jokes.

Greg said...

Kevin, I never actually saw Blue Thunder (I remember catching parts here and there on cable back in the eighties) but that's exactly the kind of thing I think too in scenes like that. I mean, I wonder what the director and writer are thinking when they create a situation like that, or the one on Tomorrow Never Dies, where it seems so easy to set the scene differently by having the car go into a river.

It's like they don't think anyone watching the film could possibly have empathy for their fellow human beings.

Greg said...

I don't take it to heart unless it happens to an animal or there is any torture/violence porn associated with it.

And that's how it is here. The redshirts don't bother me either because the situation, even if cartoonish in nature, is serious in presentation. It's when there's a sadistic pleasure involved and, importantly, a pleasure the audience is supposed to take part in. Hence the two examples where the violent deaths are intended to be funny. We're supposed to laugh at their sudden, violent death.

And you're also right about depression and feeling that kind of pain. Dealing with a sister for decades with the ins and outs of these problems makes it impossible for me to laugh at the death of anyone, but particularly a female, mixed up in drugs.

Greg said...

Well, I don't like KICK-ASS very much, but in its (sort of) defense I believe that death was supposed to be a bit troublesome.

You may be right. The problem I have, and I think you do too from what you wrote, is that I really don't know what exactly they're going for. Your explanation sounds as good as any though but since they never have Mindy deal with any feelings of remorse or even just acknowledgement that she's taken lives it kind of makes the scenes of murder stand on their own, outside any moral statement. They're just sort of there. She kills and we never get anything about that afterwards.

Jandy Stone said...

This usually doesn't bother me because the characters getting killed are usually in some way implicated with the "bad guys" and I'm okay with them being cannon fodder, but one that's recently started to bother me is The Matrix. Never used to, but I rewatched the lobby scene a few days ago, and instead of "wow, what freaking cool camera work and sweet kills" like I always did before, I thought "hold on, these are just random people who don't know they're in the matrix, aren't involved with the bad guy agents at all, and are just doing their jobs." And then I couldn't enjoy the scene anymore, for better or worse.

Greg said...

I think about that a lot in any movie where cops are killed by the cool characters and The Matrix is one of them. The worst one for me occurs in the 1976 remake of King Kong. Kong ascends the Twin Towers and when he gets to the top there are three SWAT team members who try to stop him with flame throwers. He throws a fuel tank at them and they blow up. When this happens, Jeff Bridges' character cheers! Now, what I thought was, "Wait a second. These guys are attempting to protect the city, in their eyes. To them, there's this monster, attacking the city and they are doing their duty, risking their lives to save the city. And when, for their trouble, they get burned to death by Kong, the male lead of the movie cheers and, it's expected, so should the audience." My overwhelming feeling at this scene can be summed up thusly: Hey Jeff, fuck you.

bill r. said...

Greg, I don't think Mindy would be the one to show any remorse, but the other guy...the kid. Kick-Ass, or whatever. Doesn't he say something along the lines of "Not the girl!" or something, just before Hit Girl kills her? Anyway, nothing is followed up on. He neither grows uncomfortable with the violence, nor is he shown to really be more cold-blooded.

I think the recent film SUPER approaches this same basic idea a lot more directly, though you could easily argue that it ultimately cops out in a similar way. But it's a lot funnier and more interesting and has better acting and writing and is stranger and more genuinely loony-toons, so I like it more.

Regarding KING KONG '76...yeah. Thanks for that. I really barely remember that movie, but I know that moment. My brother loathes it as much as you do. The director's cut of Jackson's remake does something similar. It's less egregious, but has a similar vibe. I honestly like his movie, but I wish I had the theatrical cut because of that.

Greg said...

I just checked to see if Super was on Instant and it isn't yet but as soon as it is, I'll give it a look.

I've never seen the extended cut of Jackson's Kong so I'll trust you on that one. I understand making Kong a sympathetic character but the military and police personel fighting him haven't been following his story like we have. All they know is, "Holy shit! 40 foot gorilla, loose in the city!" And, you know, it's kind of in their job description to fight things like that while the rest of us hide in our basements. Making their death something to cheer comes off as pretty fucking gross.

Robert said...

Great post. I just discovered this blog and am loving it.

I always thought someone should make a movie where the main character doesn't make it through to the logical conclusion of the story. He dies like any nameless characters would in an explosion or firefight or chase scene - cut to black - roll credits.

Because if we're to believe that in the world of the film, all those people are indeed people, then that's their experience.

Arbogast said...

Movie deaths bother me when they seem out of proportion with the rest of the movie. In City Slickers, humor attends the death of the Jack Palance character and even a team of horses that is sent over a cliff... but we're asked to address with grave sobriety the mid-life crises of the male protagonists.

The other night, watching The Final Destination, the race track devastation that starts the film is followed by a public mourning scene that focuses on a wall of photos of the victims... and I swear 95% of these are children. We didn't see any children die, I don't think, but for some reason the filmmakers focus on toddler and adolescent deaths for some occult reason - to boost sympathy? I don't get it.

I had these gripes while watching 2012, in which we're asked to thrill in a vicarious way to the destruction of Los Angeles before our very eyes. But the whole time I'm thinking "There's children down there! And old folks!... I no longer care if John Cusack survives!"

I love those airplane hijack movies in which the captain is murdered but the head stewardess walks away with the hero (Velocity, Snakes on a Plane) for what is obviously going to be a sexual hook-up as if nothing has just happened. Death, devastation, terror but, hey, wheels on the ground now and it's Miller Time!

Greg said...

Robert, thanks for stopping by. This is going to kind of spoil the movie but it's the only way to tell you about it. There is one movie that immediately comes to mind where the main character does indeed a quick senseless death that isn't dwelled on. It's the superb war film Overlord out of Britain in 1975. After following the lead character for the entirety of the film leading up to the D-Day invasion, the boats approach the shore and before even arriving he gets a bullet in the head and falls. The end. It's pretty amazing, actually.

Greg said...

Arbo, yes, in 2012 it's the same way. At the end, the children and their mother have completely forgotten there used to be a stepdad they (I thought, at least) loved. He's gone, we're alive and the first dad's back. Hooray!

Or in The Sum of All Fears where Ben Affleck finally gets that date he wanted on the White House lawn. Never mind that his best friend, Morgan Freeman is dead and, oh yeah, Baltimore was destroyed by a nuclear bomb the day before. Whatever, right, because he's going to have sex!

Josh said...

I felt just the same way about KICK-ASS and that scene, and it's clear that we're supposed to think Hit Girl is just awesome. Why else would they play that stupid music while she's fighting? It's not like that in the far superior SUPER, where it's made perfectly clear that these characters are mentally unbalanced and self-serving, and we have to think about that if we choose to root for them.

In my review of THE DAY AFTER TOMORROW, I address the awful, fake "triumphant" feeling of the ending, because, you know, even though billions of people died and the planet was pretty much destroyed, Jake Gyllenhaal was ok.

In any case, great post, Greg.

Greg said...

Josh, I really want to see Super now. I'll check it out soon.

And as for any movie made by Emmerich, the "happy" endings always come at the expense of billions of people dying first. And they never die in ways that horrify, only in ways that thrill and excite.

Robert H. said...

Sorry, different Robert here. (Although, a look at our profiles reveals striking similarities...)

Not a death scene, but along the same lines, I haven't watched Goodfellas all the way through yet. Forgive me! Gave it three chances (so far) but can't get past the scene where Pesci shoots the guy in the foot at the card game. By then, I'm so done with watching that character be the way he is, I almost involuntarily hit the stop button. I know we're supposed to not like him, but he's given so much latitude (screen time) that the movie's own attitude toward him tips toward tolerance. I'm no prude when it comes to violence. But the kid seems kind of unaware of exactly who these guys really are, an innocent, so Pesci's act becomes even more cruel. When he pulls that trigger, I'm out.

Anonymous said...

"[...]treating it as a joke that it believes the audience will follow along for the ride because, after all, she's mixed up with a drug dealer, so let her die!"

Not quite!

In the comic book the woman was complicit in trying to have Dave murdered.
In the movie, she breaks a beer bottle and challenges Hit Girl. Hit Girl says "So you wanna play?" - THEN the woman chickens out

Greg said...

In the comic book the woman was complicit in trying to have Dave murdered.
In the movie, she breaks a beer bottle and challenges Hit Girl. Hit Girl says "So you wanna play?" - THEN the woman chickens out

The first part, where she is complicit in trying to get Dave murdered clearly makes her a much less sympathetic character. Agreed. But that's the comic and the movie doesn't draw that helpful distinction. In the movie, as you say, she breaks a bottle after she's seen others slaughtered. Well, hell, of course she's going to try and defend herself. And she'll probably run, just like she does, after absorbing how skilled Hit Girl is. I'd say the movie fails here in making her death look justified while the comic succeeds. Thanks for info.

Adam Ross said...

I rarely get a chance to comment on NOTHING BUT TROUBLE, thank you. I saw this movie on opening weekend and even as an 11 year old I knew there was something wrong with the scene you described -- especially since it's rated PG-13! Another example that struck me in the same way is the ending of ALIEN RESURRECTION, when our characters' very large ship crashes into Earth, and from the look of it takes out almost half the U.S.

Greg said...

I'm glad I gave you the opportunity to comment on NOTHING BUT TROUBLE. What a rotten movie. I've never seen ALIEN RESURRECTION but now I kind of want to just to see that last scene. Or I'll just watch the last scene.

OzarM said...

Er, I don't think that scene in Kick-Ass was supposed to be funny, at least not in a "ha ha" sense. That's not the tone I got out of it, at least. It's dark humor, I suppose.

Certainly you should have realized something was amiss in the build up to the scene when the dad shoots his daughter with a gun to test her bullet proof vest/ability to take a bullet (And as an aside, unless this was some comic book vest, which I would think would defeat the premise of the movie, those do NOT work that way!)

These are crazy people! I certainly don't think we're supposed to feel "Wow, those criminals totally got what they deserved, look at her kill them, whee."

The "humor" here isn't in the deaths of the victims. It's the absurdity of their killer(s), the clash of reality against the ideal of the comic book superhero who clears a room of mooks without killing anybody. Real vigilante justice is unforgiving because it can't afford to be. Batman may not have superpowers per se, but he does have the "superpower" to be so completely in control of situations to the degree where he can afford to not murder everyone and have to worry about getting shot in the back of the head because he didn't quite incapacitate one of his victims well enough.

This scene grimly establishes that Hit Girl and Big Daddy are not those kind of heroes. The moment when Big Daddy saves Hit Girl by killing the mook she overlooked with a sniper rifle, we are reminded of the impossibility of a merciful Batman having any real kind of efficacy. Which is also reflected in this same scene via the contrast between Kick-Ass and Big Daddy.

Kick-Ass is the idealized Batman given shape, what a "real" Batman would be like. An ineffectual combatant whose attempts to minimize the harm he inflicts on others only would lead to his own demise. Big Daddy is what a real Batman would need to be like in order to work. It's thus ironic that it's Big Daddy who more closely resembles the Caped Crusader.

Other than that, I can totally understand where you're coming from. I've definitely noticed that death in media have bothered me more as I've gotten older.

Greg F. said...

Ozar, thanks for your comment. I think I made it clear in the post but just to reiterate: This isn't about the movie so much as my reaction to nameless deaths in movies as I get older. That's all really. I get everything you're saying, it's just that I think about the nameless deaths in movies not and years ago, I never did. That's all.