dir. Tim Miller
Starring Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, T. J. Miller, Gina Carano, Brianna Hildebrand, Stefan Kapičić
~ SPOILER FREE ~
Here’s something you should know about me. I love superheroes. Avengers Assemble is one of my favourite movies of the past few years. I think Batman has the most interesting overall concept, universe and villains of any comic book character and Heroes is my guiltiest pleasure. But when it comes to the movies, my heart belongs to the X-Men. They were probably the first superhero movies I really watched, with understanding and I enjoy all of them (with the exception of the genuinely not good Origins: Wolverine and 2013’s The Wolverine, which was fun when it remembered it was a superhero movie, but otherwise boring). However, of the many superhero films coming out in 2016, Deadpool, an X-Men spin off, wasn’t the highest on my list of most anticipated films, not with Captain America: Civil War and a main series X-Men film, Apocalypse, and even Suicide Squad due to come later. I still wasn’t going to say no when a group set out to see this film, though. So, with not really any expectations at all, neither positive nor negative, what did I think of Deadpool?
Initially I’ll admit I was concerned. I was aware of Deadpool’s origins as a fairly comedic character, with little to no regard for the fourth wall and interested to see how it would be implemented in the movie, and so I enjoyed the opening credits, where names are swapped out for tongue-in-cheek descriptions (‘The Real Unsung Heroes’, or something to that extent, referring to the writers, tickled me). But I was also worried by the number of juvenile jokes, and by the time Deadpool’s red-spandex clad crotch gets up close with the camera I worried that I was in for two hours of nothing but lowest common denominator humour. However, by the time we’re counting down bullets with the title character in the film’s first major shootout setpiece, I was on board, and from there the comedy just becomes stronger. There’s a lot of swearing implemented, but it’s woven well into the script, and handled quite cleverly at points, flowing naturally from the actor’s mouths in a fashion that rarely draws attention to itself. Similarly the violence (and boy is there a lot of blood shed) is cartoonish enough not to be horrifically gruesome, though this certainly isn’t a film for the squeamish.
Without spoiling anything, Deadpool is divided fairly neatly into action sequences and narrative scenes, beginning with the road chase and shootout prominently featured in the trailers, interspersed with flashbacks showing how Wade Wilson fell in love, only to submit himself to torturous experiments in order to awaken his mutant ability and rid himself of cancer, becoming the Merc with the Mouth, in a “how we got here” sort of set-up leading into the final third of the movie. Surprisingly, it’s the flashbacks and love story between Wilson and his sweetheart Vanessa that are the backbone of the movie. Ryan Reynold’s and Morena Baccarin’s chemistry is extremely strong, and thanks to them we care about the pair and root for them when the action is taking place. This structure also contributes to the film’s fast pace, and few scenes wear out their welcome by going on too long. Many superhero movies either feel too short (Thor: The Dark World) or way too long (Man of Steel), but Deadpool’s 1hr 48mins feels just right for a film of this kind.
The crossovers with the X-Men are mainly relegated to the background (which is acknowledged in a couple of the film’s funniest jokes), but Xavier’s Academy students Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, despite minimal screen time, ended up being my favourite characters thanks to their attitudes towards the titular mutant. That said, outside of those two, Deadpool himself, Vanessa and TJ Miller’s barkeep Weasel (thanks to some brilliantly offbeat line delivery), the remaining characters are fairly bland, and the villains are likely to blend in with other superhero foes (not surprising, outside of Batman antagonists, Marvel Netflix shows, Magneto and Loki, villains have always been a weak link in this genre).
Despite its strengths, Deadpool is far from perfect. The scenery betrays the film’s small budget, with every action sequence set in variations of grey, industrial areas. Not to mention, despite a strong start, without spoiling anything, the story ends up falling into a very familiar pattern come the third act.
Despite the strong pacing, it does feel a little like there are scenes missing. I’d have liked to have seen Deadpool meet Colossus for the first time and refuse joining the X-Men, as is implied to have happened more than once off-screen. Wade Wilson also has the same sense of humour that he has as Deadpool, but doesn’t really break the fourth wall until he puts the suit on, so this sudden ability feels a bit jarring (though I will say that a mid-film montage, where Deadpool feels at his most, well, Deadpool, was my favourite sequence of the movie).
I’ve heard of lot of people, either detractors or critics who reviewed the movie positively but not with glowing praise, argue that Deadpool isn’t as unique or revolutionary as its louder fans are claiming it is, citing last year’s Kingsmen: The Secret Service and Kick Ass (both Mark Millar graphic novel adaptations directed by Matthew Vaughn) as examples of R-rated comic book adaptations that parody or satirise their source material. I’m inclined to agree (and would also cite Watchmen, V for Vendetta and Dredd as comic book adaptations for adults that, in my opinion, succeeded as good movies, if not financial successes). Aside from the level of violence and tone of the comedy, Deadpool really isn’t all that different from the other X-Men films or MCU movies, story wise.
On the other hand, it isn’t the same type of film as Kingsmen, Kick Ass or any of the others either. The Moore adaptations and Dredd aren’t comedies. Kingsmen (whilst probably the closest in tone to Deadpool) might have been adapted from a comic book, but it is a satire of the spy genre, not superhero movies, whilst Kick Ass, which exists only to comment on superhero tropes… Well, I could never really get into Kick Ass. I found to be mean spirited, patronising and just a little too self-serious with its message of “real-world” superheroes as mentally and physically damaging to themselves and those around them. That’s why superheroes are escapism, why even the first Iron Man and the Christopher Nolan Batman movies have a sense of the fantastical despite also going for realism in the setting.
Deadpool understands this, and never takes itself too seriously. It isn’t even really parody. Sure there are jokes at the expense of the X-Men and superheroes in general but it doesn’t feel like Deadpool-the-movie is trying to make a point about the genre, its just Deadpool-the-character making an observation, sharing a joke that the audience is in on. The biggest difference between this film and the other R-rated comic adaptations listed above, the real revolution, is accessibility (it has those ties to the X-Men universe and welcomes X-Men fans with open arms) and its genius marketing campaign (which, let’s face it, none of the above movies can come close too. Kingsmen’s marketing, for one, was dreadful). If Oscars were given to marketing teams, then Deadpool’s 100% deserves one. If movies learn anything from Deadpool, I hope it’s to copy its sense of fun and not to take themselves too seriously, no matter the rating.
Overall, Deadpool is good but not great. Worth seeing again, but I’m not planning on buying it on DVD, and it very much won’t be for everyone. If you’re not a fan of swearing or violence in films, even when its played tongue-in-cheek, keep well away, this is not the film for you. Deadpool isn’t a masterpiece. It isn’t a game changer and it isn’t the kick the superhero genre needed (not that it needs a kick in the first place), but that’s not what it set out to be. All Deadpool wants to be is entertaining and, despite its flaws, I cannot say I wasn’t entertained whilst watching it.