Thursday, 25 February 2016

Deadpool (Quick Review)

Quick, let's all pretend we've always been massive fans of Deadpool! I'm not a sanctimonious bastard (I am), but this is like when high street clothes chains bring out a generic Ramones t-shirt, and suddenly there's a horde of fourteen-year-old girls wearing them. For my part, I have been 'aware' of Deadpool - the irreverent, psychotic, crude, fourth-wall breaking anti-hero - for some time now. But I can't say that I know all that much about him - I'm not really a huge fan. I've read parts of his storylines (such as Deadpool Kills the Marvel Universe), but, again, for me he has always primarily existed on the periphery of my consciousness - like I'm wondering whether I left the stove on or not.

Well, the Merc with a Mouth, Wade Wilson, now has a movie of his own. Or at least, one he wouldn't be too ashamed to introduce to his parents. Deadpool is, of course, the first R-Rated comic book adaptation. Excluding; Dredd, The Punisher, Kick-Ass, The Crow, Blade, Spawn, Watchmen, etc., that is. Ok, so it's the first R-Rate comic book adaptation since the average Joe started giving a shit about superheroes. Ah, who else remembers the pre-watershed days when David Hasselhoff could unironically play Nick Fury like a Baywatch character, and fucking Dolph Lundgren was The Punisher. I suppose after Green Lantern, the very idea of Ryan Reynolds being in a comic book movie again brings back these pre-Marvel/DC Cinematic Universe feelings of cringe. But just like anyone else, Ryan Reynolds deserves a second fourth chance (we will not forget Blade 3 and Wolverine: Origins, buddy).

There'll only truly be justice when this image pops into Reynolds' mind every time he fucks.

Yes, Reynolds has adorned the tight red costume for the second time - or first, because did they bollocks do it properly last time - in the latest entry in this endless parade of Marvel properties. Only this is a Marvel film made not by Marvel, but by the same studio which brought us the X-Men film franchise - 20th Century Fox. A statement that is akin to a colleague trying to set you up with a girl by telling you she is smart, cute, and shares in all your interests, but then confessing: "Oh and she thinks Atlantis was real, and believes in the healing properties of crystal skulls". Being the sad loner that I am, I'd date her anyway - but I'd be left wondering when she was going to flip out and kill my cat or burn all my clothes. I did admittedly enjoy X-Men: First Class, however, so I went into Deadpool cautiously optimistic that whatever cancer-emitting space rays which caused the former to seem watchable, would return.  

As it turns out, Deadpool is a good movie. Not a brilliant movie. Not the best movie EV3R1! But a good, solid movie. One of a select few comic book adaptations, in fact, that have actually caused me to want to search out and read more of its source material. A win for all concerned. I even bought Volume 1 of the Uncanny X-Force. So what was so good about Deadpool? Well, even given what little I knew about the character himself, I knew any movie featuring 'pool would have a reckless disregard for all the conventions which have bogged down the superhero genre. And Deadpool doesn't disappoint in that respect. The movie begins with the titular anti-hero sat in the back of a taxi leafing through various pamphlets, and ends with him wearing a dressing gown and dishing out spoilers for Deadpool 2. Comparatively, most superhero affairs start with more pomp than a fucking House of Borgia orgy. So desperate are the filmmakers to convince us that "no really, the villain really is that big of a threat this time!" No, it's not going to be glowing Guy Pearce again."

Not even Deadpool could make Iron Man 3 funny

Even the plot kept proceedings as simple as possible. Ex-mercenary Wade Wilson discovers he has cancer and desperation forces him to resort to the only option available to him: undergoing experimental treatment from an apparently shady company (who, because I can't remember their name, I'll refer to as Halliburton (+1 in Evilness)). This is one of those Breaking Bad-esque plots which operate on 'just go with the concept so we can get five seasons out of it' logic. Naturally Halliburton (+1 in Evilness) turn out to be corrupt, with their idea of 'experimental treatment' being little more than torture in the name of helping people 'unlock' their mutant powers (so they can be subservient superhumans). It transpires that this is an awful idea for all concerned, as torturing someone until they become both immortal and disfigured is not the way to go if you want to make friends. Wade violently escapes and vows revenge on Halliburton (+1 in Evilness), specifically sadistic lead scientist Ajax Francis (Ed Skrein) who possesses all the social awareness of the love child of Donald Trump and Nigel Farage. Oh, and Wade also desires a reunion with his lady friend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) but fears she'll reject him because he now resembles Freddy Kruger after an accident in a sandpaper factory.

Deadpool is down to Earth due, in large part, to the fact it only received a 1/4 of the regular budget given to these sort of films. A budget which is still meaty at $50+ million, and still a thousand times more than what something like The Blair Witch Project ever had. Director Tim Miller makes the case for a less is more approach to the action: the majority of the film's fight scenes are either free-flowing knife or gun battles, showcasing Wade's acrobatic style. There's only one instance of the typical 'showy' CGI-laden superhero fight, but because it comes at the end - and is mostly played for laughs - it didn't feel so overdone. Thinking back to the action, I'm wanting to make a comparison to the likes of Family Guy and American Dad. Those shows feature excessive cartoon-logic violence which somehow still manages to be gory and gritty. Deadpool follows this vein - the bad guys are sliced to ribbons, impaled, and even have their brains blown out - but it's all so ludicrously over the top that it's rarely dark. I mean at one point Wade takes a bullet up the arse.

And Wade's better at drawing violence than me.

While I'm making this comparison, I'll admit that the humour is of the same school as those animated shows. Deadpool essentially has two jokes: lewdness, and fourth-wall breaking references. The former is your standard affair, with one example seeing Deadpool sniffing the smoking barrels of his gun and quipping: "Oh I'm touching myself later." It's a cheap form of humour - which mostly serves to distance Deadpool from the standard Superhero stock - but it works. I've made more than a few jokes about my masturbation technique being such that I could enter the annual Trophy Polishing Contest and dominate every year; so, clearly, I do appreciate crass jokes. But when a film practically bleeds blue humour, I find it quickly gets rather stale. Deadpool is by no means as witty as your Marvel fanboy friends claim it is. The fourth-wall stuff is great, though. Again this is the Family Guy patented brand of 'movie reference + quirky, offbeat comment = humour", but who the fuck am I to complain? That's like Frozen's Elsa complaining that she forgot her scarf on a nippy day.

Whether you'll enjoy the anarchic comedy or not, really depends on how straight-laced you like your superhero movies. I caught myself chuckling at the references to Hugh Jackman, Green Lantern, Patrick Stewart/James McAvoy both playing Professor X, and Wolverine: Origins' depiction of Deadpool; and the whole Ajax/Francis thing elicited a wry smile. But then I'm the type of guy who prefers those old cheesy 'Marvel didn't give a shit who made them' movies just for their sheer entertainment value. Put it this way, I got more enjoyment from the Captain America film starring Reb Brown (1979) than I did from the MCU one with Chris Evans (2011). So yes, I laughed at Deadpool breaking his wrist punching the metal man Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) in the bollocks. Yes, I enjoyed the Bob Agent of Hydra cameo. And yes, I did think the 'Captain Deadpool' origin montage was hilarious. Ryan Reynolds is excellent in the role of subversive anti-hero, by the way, bringing his characteristic brand of annoying flippancy and cranking it up to eleven.

You could say that I was largely interested throughout the film. A lack of interest in the CGI superhero slugfests is something which I've noticed more and more lately. Those pre-MCU movies may have been rubbish and made purely to fill the studio's cocaine buckets, but they had a heart. Not only that but they also make for perfect viewing when you're sat baked with friends. Marvel's current cinematic universe is, by and large, perfunctory. Films like The Avengers are fine, but they are also the type of films where the status quo is always going to be re-established by the end. Because the studio can't kill off characters when the actors have nine-picture contracts. Deadpool isn't interested in being part of a larger world - aside from Colossus' constant urges that 'pool should join the X-Men - it simply exists as a fun comic book movie. A quaint notion considering that suddenly every Marvel actor on retainer gets to be in the third Captain America movie. It's like some Mafia nepotism scheme.

Looking the world's worst feminist punk band

There are, of course, aspects of the film which I didn't appreciate; chief among them being that it doesn't feel daring enough. Given what I know of Deadpool, I'd say the filmmakers could have gone further with the fourth-wall breaking. There were more than a few times I found myself thinking "was that it?" especially during the more serious flashback scenes. The marketing for this film was absolutely spot on, but I did start to wonder whether the adverts that portrayed it as a sappy romantic drama were actually accurate. The whole Wade-Vanessa relationship constitutes a significant portion of the film. And while I'm hardly some embittered Tumblr user hating on cis-scum romance narratives, it bogged down a film packed with nob and wanking jokes. Vanessa herself caused a bit of an issue for me because I know that, in the comics, she becomes Copycat and joins X-Force, but here was little more than a plot point which needed to be rescued by Wade. Rather disingenuous considering Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) and Angel Dust (Gina Carano), the movie's tertiary hero and secondary villain respectively, were both bad-asses who outclassed Wade, and surely Copycat is even more capable than them.

But going back to my main point, the problem, when you assign yourself to the role of class clown, is that if you're not consistently funny or edgy, people don't give a shit. And this is true especially for this movie; it's not organic to transition from extended sequences of how tragic Wade's backstory is to Wade doing weird things to a unicorn plush. Deadpool as a character has one aspect to his personality: being as crass and irreverent as possible. Swearing and making constant references to obscure bits of pop culture which...oh shit, I'm Deadpool.

Let's all get some chimichangas.

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