Kick-Ass 2 is trying to build on the cult-hit film adaptation of the breakout comic book series by Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. Director Matthew Vaughn transformed the first installment of the comic series into a wonderfully weird meta-minded deconstruction of the traditional superhero origin story (set in real world context). With the sequel, writer and director Jeff Wadlow (Cry_Wolf, Never Back Down) was tasked with taking everything from the first film, and not only topping it, but evolving the story, world and characters as well – without offending audience members with some of the more over-the-top and shocking moments of the controversial second installment of the comics. No pressure.

Added to the pressure of keeping the franchise alive, Wadlow has the pressure of both fan and industry scrutiny right now; he is responsible for conceiving and scripting Fox’s upcoming X-Force movie adaptation, and there’s been no shortage of speculation that Wadlow’s candidacy to direct the film depends heavily on the reception of Kick-Ass 2. So again, no pressure.

We discussed all of these topics  – and more – when we sat down with Jeff Wadlow at the Kick-Ass 2 press junket:

Screen Rant: First of all let me start by saying – before we get into this – Cry_Wolf still remains one of the most soul crushing-ly good movies I’ve seen in a long time.

Jeff Wadlow: I was wondering where you were gonna go with that. You call it out and I thought oh you liked it then you said soul crushing and I was like ‘oh he didn’t.’

That did leave a dent in my soul, that’s why I remember it so well. It was great… So back to ‘Kick-Ass': you’re stepping in you’re doing a sequel and there’s always that challenge of what to keep, what to kind of leave out, what to bring to the table so that you can put your own stamp on it. You had the double difficulty with the comic book adaptation and the film Matthew Vaughn created before this.

Jeff Wadlow: Honestly in a weird way it wasn’t that much of a challenge I think for me because we just had such a strong foundation to begin with that we all were on the same page; Matthew, Mark and myself. I loved the first movie, I love the first comic book. I didn’t want to re-imagine or reboot with a sequel. But at the same time we all agreed this wasn’t going to be like a rinse and repeat sequel. If Matthew had wanted that he could have hired a couple of guys who crank out screenplays and get some music director to shoot it. But he said I want a writer/director on it someone who has a voice to take on the material. So I was encouraged to push it further and do my thing and make my movie.

They both said that to me on separate occasions Matthew, when discussing making a sequel to his film, you’re going to be making your movie I’m going to start talking to Mark about adapting ‘Kick-Ass 2′ the comic book series. You gotta change what you gotta change, you gotta do what you gotta do just make the best movie possible, we’ll all be served by that. So in a weird way because we all agreed from the very beginning that, that was the plan there was no obstacle, no stumbling block, nothing that came up along the way where we sort of fell apart because that was the plan.

Can you talk about just what kind of [plan you had]? Did you know what you wanted to do and what kind of signature you wanted to put on this?

Jeff Wadlow: I think the sequel wasn’t made for a number of years because there was this feeling of everyone involved in the first one that they wanted to make a sequel but they weren’t quite sure how to do it because in the comics she’s still 11 and Chloe is not 11. You’re never gonna recast that part because it’s so her. So what do you do? I think they kind of painted themselves into a corner. And I just said right from the beginning we should tell the story of her growing up, that’s not really in the comic but that’s something that I tried to bring to the film. I said instead of focusing on the downside of the fact that she’s growing up, own it. Let’s make that a part of the story.

As much as I loved the first one and – I’m sure a lot of people agree – Hit-Girl is sort of a little bit of a one-note character. Here’s this bad ass little girl who swears and kills people. It’s an amazing idea but it’s just a singular idea. In fact there’s this really cool deleted scene that’s not in the first film that I’ve seen where she’s at the playground where she trains with Daddy and there’s another little girl on a swing just having fun and you could tell by Chloe’s face she would like to know what that feels like. What it would be like to be a little girl, maybe.

That wasn’t in the movie but that’s really what we’re exploring in the second film. Mindy never had a chance to be a normal kid, maybe she wants to. We extended that idea to Chris and Dave too, that the first film was about super hero alter-egos, whereas this film is about figuring out who they really want to be as people. Not some other identity but who are they inside. What kind of person do they want to become.

I thought that was very interesting. Matthew’s film was very almost satirical with the treatment of the superheroes and yours was very genuine about these characters and giving very genuine life lessons and an arc to these characters. Did you find that was harder to do in the world of Kick-Ass for some of these characters?

Jeff Wadlow:  Not really, cause we pushed everything further. Matthew’s film also had a lot of genuine emotions; when Big Daddy dies, I was tense. So my mantra for this film was ‘Kick-Ass’ created this incredible tone of balancing action, humor and genuine emotion, now let’s maintain that tone by balancing all of those things, but let’s push it further. Let’s let the action be crazier, let’s have the humor be more in your face and let’s have the emotion be even more intense. So I think what you’re speaking about is the emotional aspect of the film, where we wanted the characters to change fundamentally and suffer real loss and learn some hard lessons.

I know Mark Millar and John Romita Jr. are working on Kick-Ass 3  – are you in for a third [movie] or are we possibly getting a new director? Do you know any of that yet?

Jeff Wadlow: I have no idea. I think the writing isn’t on the wall yet with this film. We have to see how this film is received and what people think of it and whether there is a demand to see a ‘Kick-Ass 3′.

Would you be game for a third or do you think you got it all done in this one? 

Jeff Wadlow: In a weird way I didn’t allow myself to think about that, because we all know a sequel is to set up another sequel and ultimately not that satisfying at the end of the day. And I wanted to make a movie that had a beginning, middle and end. That left you feeling that you went on a journey and these characters grew and changed in a definitive way, which to me, means you need a strong ending, an ending with an exclamation point.

By the very nature of conceiving things to have an ending, you don’t think too much about ‘where do you go from here?’ So I haven’t really allowed myself to entertain what that story would be yet… so honestly that’s the only real thought I’ve given to what happens after ‘Kick-Ass 2.’

After making this movie, a really big movie, what have you learned that you bring even to the script writing, I know you’re not necessarily yet directing X-Force but has it taught you how to conceive and do these kind of bigger [projects]?

Jeff Wadlow: I think this film has reinforced for me the importance of making sure you have characters that the audience connects to and that you take those characters on a journey. I think you can’t really make movies anymore where you just have like an action hero that just goes through the paces and stuff blows up, cause we’ve kind of seen it all.

And the crazier the visuals get, the less we connect, because we know it’s fake, it’s all CG. It’s not as exciting as it used to be just to see something new. So I think you have to have an emotional, personal investment in the characters who are going through an ordeal and that’s definitely what I tried to do with Dave, Mindy and Chris – even Chris, he’s our villain and I had to make sure the audience is invested in his story and cared about what happened next and that’s obviously my goal in ‘X-Force.’

For more of our conversation with Wadlow and other Kick-Ass 2 coverage, check out the following articles:

Kick-Ass 2 is now in theaters.