Deadpool and all the images you see in this review are owned by 20th Century Fox
Directed by Tim Miller
Despite being 2010’s Sexiest Man Alive, Ryan Reynolds isn’t really your traditional leading man. The guy had a long string of successful comedies through most of the 2000s, but it wasn’t until they tried pushing him into a leading man position that everything started to go to hell. He’s been keeping himself busy with films like The Woman in Gold and Self/Less just to keep his name out there, but he has bet everything on this movie to finally put him back on top and as the comedic actor he wants to be. Was it a wise move to bank on this character making a splash with main stream audiences, or is this going to be the last straw before Hollywood finally gives up on the one time super star? Let’s find out!!
The movie begins with Wade Wilson (Ryan Rynolds) having finally tracked down the man who turned him into the un-fuckable immortal wearing the red onesie known as Deadpool. The man in question AJAX (Ed Skrein) seems to be heading somewhere with a caravan of tough guys that are dispatched with ease as we saw in the trailers. During said assault, we get flashbacks to Wade’s life before the super powers and learn more about his relationship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) prior to getting multiple terminal cancers. After being diagnosed, he’s visited by a mysterious man (Jed Rees) who offers him a chance at a cure which Wade eventually take him up on which leads to him being under the care of AJAX. Things go south however as it turns out the mysterious organization running horrifying experiments is not quite what you would call “ethical” and so Wade finds a way to escape but can’t bear to face Vanessa again until AJAX either fixes his face or is buried six feet under. Donning a snazzy outfit and a the moniker of Deadpool, he proceeds to cut his way through AJAX’s known associates which leads back to the boss and neatly lands us back at the beginning of the movie. Speaking of which, the commotion on the freeway doesn’t go unnoticed as a member of the X-Men Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and his student Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) catch wind of it from news reports and they go to see what the hell Wade’s doing. Will Deadpool get his revenge on AJAX before these two buzz kills get in the way? What will AJAX do now that Wade has resurfaced and is broadcasting his intent to kill him? What the hell is Ryan Reynolds gonna do if this ISN’T a hit!?
Now I’m not coming from this as a fan of the comics, the video games, or anything else we’ve seen him pop up in before. I like him as a character, but I’ve never had enough exposure to any of his previous incarnations to know much more than surface details and the running gags he has. Until this movie, my biggest source of information was Marvel vs Capcom 3 which means that I’m pretty much the perfect audience for this movie; interested in the character and ready to learn more. The character of Deadpool deserves a better movie, but the one we got here is good enough. After an INSANELY strong opening that brings the humor and the action, the movie just goes from fourth gear to natural for too long, and when it does get back into the swing of things, it’s diminished by not really upping the ante on what we saw at the beginning.
What drags this movie down is what ended up happening to too many of the early superhero movies; the origin story takes up too much of the running time when it can easily be summed up in ten minutes. Now that’s not to say that we haven’t run into that issue in some of the modern super hero movies. All you have to do is look at The Amazing Spider-Man or Fantastic Four to see how a film can beat around the god damn bush for too long telling us what we already knew before walking into the damn theater. Marvel though kind of turned that around when they started making their cinematic universe (though I’d argue that the first Spider-Man movie does it well and the first X-men movie avoided going too much into it) and even DC tries to imbue some depth and meaning to their origin stories. Not always successfully what with Man of Steel being a decently made origin for someone OTHER than Superman and Green Lantern being… Green Lantern, but it’s certainly leaps and bounds better than what we had gotten in the past. Because of this (and despite priding itself on being self-aware), the movie feels way too old at times and is practically a throwback to when the early X-Men films was the pinnacle of what we could hope for from the super hero genre. Those movies are still fun to go back to except for two of them (you KNOW which two), but the genre has evolved since the mid-2000s and so have the X-Men movies for that matter. If this had come out around the time of X3 or Origins: Wolverine, this would have revitalized the franchise on the spot and we wouldn’t have had to wait for Matthew Vaughn to kick things back into gear and get everyone on board to fix the series. Today though, it just feels a bit rusty and out of place.
So what’s so wrong with the origin story? Well, it just doesn’t manage to be all that interesting no matter how many snarky comments, gratuitous sex scenes, and T.J. Miller appearances they throw in there. My biggest concern going into this movie was that the trailer didn’t give us an idea of what the movie was about, but the trailer proved to be distressingly accurate as it really does take half the running time to explain that Wade Wilson has cancer, goes in to get it fixed by a shady organization, which leads to him ESCAPING the organization, donning an alter ego, and tracking them down to get his revenge. Oh wait. There’s ONE more thing that I THOUGHT was just going to be just a joke, but turned out to be a major plot point. The dude is super fugly and apparently that’s enough for him to NOT go see his girlfriend after escaping the bad guys and getting a clean bill of health. It’s played WAY too straight (especially in a movie that does such a good job of hanging lampshades) and it just brings the story to screeching halt for no apparent reason.
While the origin story takes a good third of the movie’s running time (and doesn’t get fully resolved until the end of the second act because we keep cutting back and forth between the present and the past), almost everything else here is top notch and what I was expected from a Deadpool movie… minus some clear budget constraints. The highway attack which is what we saw the most of in the trailers (and the entirety of that original test footage Fox made) is damn near perfect and a great way to start the movie. Ryan Reyonlds is absolutely on point as the titular anti-hero with his snarky witticisms and hilarious body language, and the whole sequence feels creatively unrestrained with a lot of ideas packed into it. Unfortunately, this is the peak of the movie as it doesn’t take long for the action to be constantly interrupted by the tedious flashbacks followed by a third act that is a bit of letdown. I wouldn’t say that it’s step down from what we saw earlier, but it’s not much of a step up. On top of that, the villains are completely unthreatening despite how hard Ed Skrein and Gina Carano are trying to come off as menacing, and they pull back on what makes Deadpool so unique (his irreverent humor with the filmmaking itself being an extension of that) to instead film a decent if somewhat uninspired series of action set pieces. One thing that REALLY bothered me and I feel typifies my issue with the third act is that DMX’s X Gon’ Give It To Ya (which played a prominent role in the trailers) is played BEFORE the big climax (a walking scene of all things) instead of during it. The music during the climax by the way is a noticeably generic sounding action score which feels out of place in a movie whose humor is it’s unique selling point. They do give us an AMAZING moment where he gets stabbed in the brain and Chicago’s You’re The Inspiration starts playing in his head while also hallucinating about cartoon characters, but this is maybe two or three minutes in a twenty or more minute finale that could have uses that kind of creativity throughout.
What DOES help this part of the movie are the two X-Men they could afford to put in this (Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead) who are both great foils here for Deadpool and do a lot to ground the world enough for his out there antics to have weight. Colossus is a big burly square who un-ironically believes in being a super hero is very well realized for humorous effect, but I also like how he isn’t really punished for this point of view. Sure, Deadpool is a thorn in his side constantly, but he’s never put in a position where he has to be the anti-hero himself or compromise on his principals, unlike some OTHER superhero movies I can think of (*cough* Man of Steel *cough*). In fact, despite the occasional offensive joke here and there, this movie isn’t really that mean spirited or insufferable (unlike a lot of Deadpool fans, OH YEAH I WENT THERE!) which is something that could have easily derailed this movie if they hadn’t been careful to ride that line instead of crossing it. It’s not something like Kick-Ass which felt the need to mock the idea of heroism entirely and punish people for not accepting the most cynical viewpoint about humanity. This movie is dirty, rough, gross, and occasionally offensive, but it also has a heart, especially with how well Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin play off of each other which was one of the saving graces of the origin story. I wish the movie had gotten into how Colossus and Deadpool initial met and became sort-of friends (you’d think with how much time they spent on the backstory that they could fit it in somewhere) but the chemistry between them is very solid. Negasonic Teenage Warhead isn’t all that interesting as the role she plays is intentionally reserved, but the actress does a great job portraying that kind of character, and her powers lead to some pretty great action scenes during the climax. Hopefully both of them will be a part of the sequel (and any subsequent X-Men movies) as they were definite highlights here despite not having too much screen time.
So what can we learn from all of this? First of all, there was almost NOTHING going for this movie and yet we managed to get a pretty solid super hero comedy out of it. It’s been languishing in production hell since BEFORE Origins:Wolverine, it’s based on a character that is very easy to screw up and go too far one way or the other (i.e. not irreverent enough or straight up obnoxious), and it’s the lowest budget feature in the entire X-Men franchise. Despite all these factors going against it and a shaky script about an uninteresting origin story, Ryan Reyonlds manages to shine and prove this character as a viable fixture in super hero cinema. The lesson here is that we might just be in an age (at least where Super Hero movies are concerned) where the merits of an individual movie holds less weight than the character that it’s about. We know that even if the next Guardians of the Galaxy or Captain America movie turns out to be dud that that one film will do little to slow down the forward momentum that the superhero genre has built up over the last decade or so. Hell, even if Batman v Superman tanks, it’ll do very little to tarnish the characters’ viability for future movies. Deadpool is probably gonna follow the same path which is very impressive considering he’s not part of the great behemoth known as The Marvel Cinematic Universe, or even that much of a recognizable name to the masses. Hopefully the next movie will be the REAL Deadpool movie we’ve all been waiting for now that the origin is out of the way (and the budget will no doubt be bigger next time). Until then, I would definitely recommend it to anyone who likes the character or just want a better comedy than say Fifty Shade of Black or Dirty Grandpa. It’s not perfect, but it will do.
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3 thoughts on “Cinema Dispatch: Deadpool”
Short Version: Despite a few hangups, it succeeds at nailing the feel of Deadpool.
-If the movie is getting any kind of backlash, particularly from other comic-book film enthusiasts, is that stripped from the jokes and fourth wall breaking, this is just a decent-to-average action film that’s fallen victim to over-hype. However, taking into account its budget and the niche Deadpool (both the character and his own standalone ventures) fills in the grand scheme of the X-Men/Marvel universe, I can say that the movie succeeds in that account very proudly. He’s a comic relief character who hangs at the margins of the world he inhabits, doing his own, smaller thing and taking jabs at other more important characters that take care of more urgent/important matters.
-With any luck, this role will be to Ryan Reynolds what Tony Stark/Iron Man was to Robert Downey, Jr. The film had always been promoted as a passion project for Reynolds and that enthusiasm is right there on the screen. He absolutely nails the characters reckless, devil-may-care attitude and disregard for maintaining the illusion of film. The point of DP is that while his jokes aren’t great, what makes them funny is how everyone around him is playing their part completely straight and can’t really react to his humor the way the audience would. The movie could’ve gone too far with this, but thankfully it knows when it’s time to pull back and, most important of all, inject some pathos to the story. That’s what keeps DP from being just some asshole who quips at and kills people and makes him endearing beyond his superficial aspects. Combined with a great physical performance from Reynolds and a smart use of CGI enhancements to his mask to convey appropriate emotion when needed, he makes the movie shine.
-On a lesser note, I would like to point out how, despite being an “angry little boys” movie, there are few moments that felt like they could’ve been some kind “eww gay” punchline, but the movie stops itself from going there. I like to imagine this is some kind of tease to DP being (sometimes, I’m not sure) portrayed in comic as openly pansexual. Whatever the case may be, it feels refreshing. (I also want to point out how the only time we see his penis is in a scene that isn’t funny and isn’t supposed to be.)
-Speaking as someone who’s been losing interest in the X-Men films since First Class (I don’t think it’s gonna get any better after that), I’m glad how this movie sparks some new interest for me in this series, if only to hope for DP to show up in future X-Men films (in small doses), and hopefully get his own sequel with a bigger budget and see what happens when DP gets an even bigger chance to cut loose.