Monday, 15 February 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool (2016)


More so than any other comic book film that has been released during my lifetime, like The Avengers or X-Men or even The Dark Knight Rises, this is the one that I have been waiting for. Then again, given the character’s lauded reputation and fan base, I’m sure that that is true for most fanboys in the world. Deadpool is not only one of my favourite comic book characters, but might be one of my favourite fictional characters ever: His unique fourth-wall breaking personality probably gives the most freedom of any graphic novel character, almost like a living TARDIS in terms of story possibility. Just to be clear, this guy once mugged Queen Elizabeth for her clothing and teamed up with a group of robotic animals to take down an orca in a robot suit. Under regular circumstances, I’d say that this is that rare property that is impossible to screw up, but then again we all know far too well that someone managed to do just that. But, even with all the admittedly brilliant marketing behind it and the recognition it has already garnered from fans and newcomers alike, does this still hold up given how long we’ve been wanting this film to surface? This is Deadpool.

The plot: Gun-for-hire Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), newly engaged to his sweetheart Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), discovers that he has terminal lung cancer. Desperate for a solution, he signs up for an experimental program run by scientist Ajax (Ed Skrein) to cure him, only at the cost of his beautiful looks. Able to recover from any injury, but looking like Freddy Krueger’s goofy cousin, Wade takes up the name of Deadpool and plans out his revenge against the man who scarred him, all while Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) try to convince him to join the X-Men.

X-Men Origins: Wolverine is considered by many fanboys, myself included, to be probably one of the biggest character assassinations ever put to film. That, however, is not that film’s biggest flaw, or what could have been its biggest flaw. No, that spot is reserved for the fact that they cast Reynolds as Deadpool, probably the best casting for the role possible, and utterly wasted him. Now, in a less friendly world, that would be the end of it: They had a chance for pixel-perfect casting and they blew it. However, this is a film that was meant entirely for the fans, complete with a couple of fuck yous thrown in the fact of not only the X-Men Origins approach to the character but also to Reynolds’ previous turn as a superhero in Green Lantern. This also means bringing back Reynolds in the lead role, and he goes all-out to bring us the Merc With The Mouth that we so desperately wanted to see. His delivery is as dead-on as his character’s aim with just about any weapon he can get his hands on, and his affinity for playing the likeable asshole serves him better here than in probably any other film he’s been involved in. Alongside him, we have Baccarin actually managing to portray the kind of ‘perfect match’ for Deadpool without it seeming like they’re reaching, Skrein actually doing pretty well as our villain, Miller as Weasel is a little underutilized but still works really well when he’s opposite Reynolds, Kapičić is decent as the boy scout of the film and Leslie Uggams as Blind Al is a character I could definitely have used more of.

While a 58 million dollar budget may seem like a lot, this is a comic book movie we’re talking about here. Nowadays, that’s the equivalent of The Blair Witch Project. However, credit is definitely due in that first-time director Tim Miller knew just how to use it. While the man’s previous work may be of questionable merit, given how his only film credits are for making opening credit sequences for other movies, he is still responsible for probably one of the best opening sequences of any film with Fincher’s The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo. That kind of approach with SFX is also evident here, with quite a few shots that verge on being sore thumbs but are just slick enough to go by largely unnoticed. Have to admit, given the ultraviolent legacy behind the character, this film is a lot less Matthew Vaughn than I was expecting. However, when this film takes time out for its action, it does revel in the same kind of gloriously over-the-top fun that should be expected. Not quite as gory as it could have been, but energetic all the same.

The spaces in-between the action scenes, though… okay, of probably all the characters in the comic book canon, Marvel or otherwise, Deadpool is probably the one who would benefit least from an on-screen origin story. Hell, in the comics, one of the bigger running gags is how the guy has more character pasts than The Dark Knight’s Joker. While I give legitimate props for how the romantic subplot was handled, balancing twisted and sweet just right between Deadpool and Vanessa, it still feels too… conventional for a film like this. This isn’t helped by the main conceit of the film about how heroes come in all shapes and sizes, which has been used to varying effectiveness already in bigger films like Guardians Of The Galaxy. Don’t get me wrong, Deadpool is probably the best example of how even the most unconventional assholes can become heroes, but that doesn’t excuse how it feels like the film is being distracted from himself for the sake of being only slightly more palatable to mainstream audiences. Then again, in terms of sappy character arcs in self-referential comedies, writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick have pulled this same card before with Zombieland.

But, does this do Deadpool justice in spite of that? Honestly, yeah. I mean, for every scene with him talking about how he has to save his girlfriend, there’s a scene where he showing his ‘appreciation’ for unicorns. Whenever this film feels like it’s getting too bogged down by standard comic book fare that you’d think it would too busy making fun of to join in with, something comes around that balances things out again. Whether it’s the chaotic action scenes or the gleefully unhinged dialogue that doesn’t feel like blue for blue’s sake, rather like this is just what these characters find humourous, there’s a lot to like about this. This is definitely helped by not only how well Reynolds plays the role, but also how the role is written. Yeah, his main schtick is smacking the fourth wall in the face with his nuts, but that isn’t all that he’s given so it avoids becoming completely monotonous. His love for supposedly ‘lame’ pop culture, his God-level sarcastic streak, his hyper-agility; it all stays true to what the people love about the guy. It probably helps that he is aided by Vanessa, who gets her chance to subvert the traditional ‘damsel in distress’, the do-gooder Colossus who provides great fodder for Deadpool, and of course the deliciously 90’s-sounding-despite-being-created-in-2001 Negasonic Teenage Warhead. And no, this character was not created just for the film, just so you understand the kind of world Deadpool regularly inhabits.

All in all, while I will admit that I wasn’t completely blown away by this film, I will also admit that this did meet my criteria for what I want to see in a Deadpool movie: Good action scenes, funny dialogue, tongue-in-cheek approach to its contemporaries and treating one of my favourite fictional characters with the dignity (stop laughing) that they deserve. Despite how corny it can get at times, it never once felt like it completely betrayed any core aspect of what makes him so amazing to begin with. Sure, his mental instability is pretty toned down but, honestly, it would take some serious talent to be able to juggle not only Deadpool’s on-screen persona but also the two voices spinning around in his head while he converses with other characters and even the audience. Oh, and I am most definitely looking forward to the follow-up, featuring a character I’m almost surprised wasn’t in this one. Then again, that’s the thing about having a smaller budget: You’re lucky to get even one X-Man, let alone two. It ranks higher than Zoolander 2 as, regardless of initial giddiness upon seeing it, this film managed to be extremely fun and not go completely off the rails in the process. As such, this gets the edge. However, all the little nit-picks admittedly do add up after a while and it does suffer from a bit of expectation deterioration, making it fall just below Room on the list.

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