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Directed by: Tim Miller
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, TJ Miller, Ed Skrein
Rated: R for Strong Violence and Language Throughout, Sexual Content and Graphic Nudity
Running Time: 1 h 48 m
TMM Score: 4 stars out of 5
STRENGTHS: Meta-Writing, Pulls No Punches, Surprisingly Sweet
WEAKNESSES: Familiar Story, Rather Forgettable Villain
Wade Wilson, an irreverent mercenary, finds out he has cancer and undergoes an experimental surgery that grants him superpowers, while taking away his good looks. Wade tries to track down the sadistic surgeon so that he can transform him back to his original looks, so the woman he fell in love with will still date him.
Let’s face it: superhero origin stories have become so superfluous that they feel over-familiar and boring. We know the story: guy (or girl) is a nobody, something happens that grants them powers, for a while everything is hunky-dory, and then they end up having to fight some kind of villain- superhero or otherwise- but, of course, they live, because this is only the start of their story (“We just brought this character to screen, might as well make a franchise out of it"). Yawn. This film follows some of the same tropes laid out by the past eighteen million superhero films that have come out, but… it still finds a way to make it feel fresh. How? By making the main character a fourth-wall-breaking, narcissistic potty-mouth whose goal isn’t to save the world, but to save his face (literally).
(SOME SPOILERS IN THE FOLLOWING PARAGRAPH)
The film is told in flashback form, starting with Wade Wilson AKA Deapool (Ryan Reynolds, “Pokemon: Detective Pikachu”) in a bloody, over-the-top fight scene on a busy highway, complete with a few moments of breaking the fourth wall. This whole scene sort of sets the tone for the rest of the movie. We learn that Deadpool was a mercenary in a previously life, but he finds out he has cancer and undergoes an experimental surgery that renders him ugly. He spends most of the film chasing a mutant-surgeon named Francis AKA Ajax (Ed Skrein, “Alita: Battle Angel”), trying to find a way to reverse the damage to his face so that he can return to his girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, “Serenity (2005)”).
Same Old Story, Fresh Twist
As I mentioned above, this is pretty much the same origin story, and the villain is the same warped megalomaniac you’ve seen in every superhero film since superhero films invaded our theatres and refused to leave. But, the writers still found a way to make this story seem fresh, mainly by poking fun of superhero movies throughout the film. They realize superhero films are overdone, and they know the well-established tropes by now, so how do they get around a very basic storyline? Writing a character that really doesn’t give a hoot about anything other than himself. And while that may sound like the character might come off as irritating, Ryan Reynolds has so much charisma in this role, that it works.
From the beginning of the film, Deadpool starts to mock all sorts of things superhero fans love: he makes fun of superhero’s childhood trauma; he continuously brings up old superhero films that didn’t work (including “Green Lantern”, and “X-men Origins: Wolverine”- and he starred in those films); he makes fun of the small budget of his own film; mocks the fact that Charles Xavier (from like every “X-men” movie) is now played by multiple people. Much like how “The Square (2017)” is an art film making fun of art films, this is a superhero film making fun of superhero films (and yes, I did just compare a superhero movie to one of my favorite foreign arthouse films of last year).
Another thing that makes this film worth watching is the fight scenes. I know Michael and I have talked extensively on the podcast about how in many Marvel films it’s nigh impossible to figure out locations of the heroes in relationship to each other. I.E. in “Avengers: Infinity War”, it doesn’t matter if Hulk and Iron Man are forty blocks away from each other, because if they need Hulk to be by Iron Man, he’ll magically appear there and no one will care. In this film, spacial relationships in fight scenes are almost always easy to follow. If someone is fighting on top of a giant helicarrier, then they don’t miraculously appear down on the ground. Also, this film pulls no punches. It’s gory and brutal despite being hysterical. In the opening fight scene, Deadpool addresses this fact, saying something along the lines of, “Technically, this is murder.” People are decapitated, limbs are broken, villains are “kabob-ed” by katanas, burned, beaten, and shot in the face. It’s actually refreshing to see studios aren’t afraid to show the brutality they’re skirting around in the other superhero franchises- I mean, sure, people die in Marvel movies, but its never so brutal that the crowd audibly squirms in their seats.
Also, and this has relatively little to do with the film itself, but I don't know where else I'd mention it- the marketing for these movies have been amazing. I don't think I've ever seen another studio proudly proclaim that this superhero movie is from the same studio that brought you “27 Dresses” and “The Devil Wears Prada”. For the forthcoming sequel, one of the first trailers was a Bob Ross parody. I don't know who does their marketing, but they are geniuses.
Crass but Sentimental
This is not a film I’d recommend to children. Actually, scratch that- please, DO NOT take your children to go see this film. There are tons of f-bombs, brutal killings (as mentioned above), and in the beginning there is a montage of gratuitous sex scenes- and while it’s played off for laughs and not incredibly graphic, it does go on for a good minute and a half- two minutes. But while the story is filled with objectionable content, it is surprisingly sentimental and sweet. This is the story of a man trying to get his good looks back because he believes his girlfriend wont love him anymore; at the beginning of the film Deadpool calls this film a love story. In a way, that’s very true. The chemistry between Wade and Vanessa works really well: “Your crazy matches my crazy.” I found myself getting feels towards the end of this movie, and that took me by surprise.
I think, out of all the superhero films that have come out in the past several years, I’ve seen this one the most. It’s irreverent nature, excessive but humorous violence, and charismatic lead make it a film I’d be glad to come back to several more times. I rewatched this film in preparation for “Deadpool 2”, which hits theatres next Friday (the 18th). I’m more excited for “Deadpool 2” than I was for “Avengers: Infinity War”, because Deadpool still finds a way to keep things fresh. We’ll see if D2 can continue its winning streak. The studios are betting big that it will, because they’ve already signed on for a Deadpool 3, and an X-Force movie, in which, Deadpool will be featured prominently.
Look for my review of “Deadpool 2” next Friday afternoon. Or if you’re reading this in sometime in the future, check it out now!
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