Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Movie Review: Deadpool

Directed by: Tim Miller.
Written by: Rhett Reese & Paul Wernick based on the character created by Rob Liefeld & Fabian Nicieza.
Starring: Ryan Reynolds (Wade / Deadpool), Morena Baccarin (Vanessa), T.J. Miller (Weasel), Ed Skrein (Ajax), Brianna Hildebrand (Negasonic Teenage Warhead), Gina Carano (Angel Dust), Stefan Kapicic (Colossus), Leslie Uggams (Blind Al), Karan Soni (Dopinder), Jed Rees (Recruiter).

The time is ripe for a movie like Deadpool to come along and make a big splash. We are in the middle of a seemingly endless run of superhero movies that have to dominate Hollywood in recent years, and Hollywood seems perfectly fine with that – planning to continue to produce these films for years in the future. Yet, many (myself included) have started to notice that all of the movie are basically the same – particularly if Marvel is involved as they seem to want to make the same movie over and over again, and it seems to be working, as they continue to make money. Still, that thrill of something truly original just hasn’t been there in a while – and the more trailers we see for the likes of Batman vs. Superman, X-Men: Apocalypse or Captain America: Civil War, it seems less and less likely that we will get anything different any time soon (yet, I have to admit it, I still want to see all of those movies – which is precisely why they keep getting made).

On its surface, Deadpool is an antidote to all that sameness – as it openly mocks the conventions of the superhero movies from its opening credit to its closing ones. Some of this mocking is visual – but mainly it’s through voice over dialogue by the titular hero, who mocks everyone and everything. Underneath that cynical top layer though, Deadpool is very much the same type of superhero movie it is mocking, which to a certain extent, it acknowledges. It mixes up the timeline, with a lot of flashbacks, to break up the hero’s origin story, which helps to cover up the fact it’s as silly as any origin story we’ve already seen a bunch of times already. The film basically is a beat for beat superhero movie – it’s just that this time, its mocking itself as it goes along. It’s a cynical move for the movie – yet I have to acknowledge it’s an effective one. I enjoyed Deadpool as it played out, and would gladly go to see a Deadpool 2 (which given the box office, is a given). The movie isn’t as subversive as it pretends to be – but its subversive enough to be fun.

The key to the movie’s success really is its star – Ryan Reynolds. After his last foray into the superhero genre – Green Lantern (2011) became of the few bombs the genre has produced in recent years, Reynolds went off to lick his wounds, by doing a series of much smaller movies. This very well could have been the best thing to happen to Reynolds – his work in films like The Voices, The Captive and Mississippi Grind is some of the best of his career, and allowed him to work with interesting filmmakers. He was no longer just coasting on his movie star charm and good looks, but was exercising his acting muscles more, and did a fine job. In Deadpool, he’s back to exercising that charm and wit that made him a star in the first place, and it works, wonderfully well. Reynolds is the perfect match for the character, as neither of them take any of this very seriously at all, and seem to be having the time of their lives as they swear, kill, quip and fuck their way through the movie. Deadpool is a classic anti-hero – but not a self-serious one, but a fun loving one, and it works for he film.

The film itself is fine, even if it basically is the precise thing it mocks. It follows the formula of the superhero movie almost exactly – starting with an action sequence, and then flashing back to show us how they got there, and eventually moving forward to the huge action climax. In this case, Wade Wilson is an ex-special forces man, who is now, in his words “an asshole paid to fuck with bigger assholes” – like the pizza man/stalker her confronts early in the film. He then meets, and falls for Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), who is just as perverted and funny as he is, and thinks he has found his soul mate – before discovering he has cancer, and will soon die. That is when he meets someone with a business card with nothing but a phone number who tells Wade he represents an organization that could cure him – and the cure, of course, is what turns him into Deadpool – who is now no longer dying, and even deadlier than before, but also looks like a burn victim all over his body. He’s pissed, and wants revenge.

The movie spent years in development hell – undeniably because the studio knew that to do the movie properly, it would need to be rated R, and keep out the teenage boys who are the bread and butter of this genre (and make no mistake, this will be the favorite movie of teenage boys ages 13-15 whenever they get to see it). As with everything else, the movie even mocks the studio for cutting back its budget (which it did) by pointing out the moments where that happened. To be honest, the cynicism of the movie, which starts off as fun, does start to grate a little as the film moves along – basically, the movie argues that nothing matters, and everything is shit, so why care? Luckily, the movie doesn’t overstay its welcome, and just as it’s starting to get annoying, we have a big action sequence, and it’s over.

Deadpool is far from a great movie, but it is a fairly entertaining one. It’s subversive enough to be a relief from the recent spate of over serious superhero movies – the Nolan Batman movies took that seriousness as far it will go without becoming silly, and some other ones have pushed well beyond that. But it’s still very much a superhero movie, made by a corporation who has a vested interest in continuing to make superhero movies. It pushes farther than most superhero movies, but still not far enough. Still, it’s a fun way to spend a couple of hours, and after all, that is really the only thing it’s trying to do.

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