Tuesday, June 7, 2016
Deadpool: A Review
The rapturous notices Deadpool has received has me wondering whether people genuinely think this film is the Second Coming of the comic book film genre. My thinking is that the title character would find the term 'second coming' a sex joke. That's the kind of humor Deadpool delves in: juvenile, raunchy, immature (I figure the description of its audience). Both mocking and adhering to the 'superhero origins' story that are ripe for parody, Deadpool really wants to have it both ways. Right from the opening, with Angel of the Morning playing over a scene of gruesome violence while throwing silly credits (God's Perfect Idiot, A Moody Teen, The Hot Chick), right to its ending scene spoofing an added scene, Deadpool revels in its own idiocy. Mocking the conventions doesn't make the movie as smart as it thinks it is, however, and both the violence and the unoriginality of Deadpool hamper the film.
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) narrates his own story (sometimes addressing the audience directly, making snarky remarks along the way). A mercenary (hence Deadpool's nickname of "The Merc With the Mouth") with a hint of goodness in him, he is pretty quick with the quips with his best friend, Weasel (T.J. Miller). It's in Weasel's den of iniquity that Wade meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), the hooker who is as adept at the quick comebacks as Wade is. Soon a very raunchy, downright perverse sexual relationship commences, with genuine love floating thereabouts between oral and anal sex.
Things appear to be going well, until Wade is diagnosed with terminal cancer. He wants to spare Vanessa of seeing him die, but she wants to stay with him. Wade soon gets contacted by a mysterious figure he calls "Agent Smith", who can get Wade into secret experiments that can cure him. Agreeing, he gets involved with nefarious experiments by Francis, also known by his nom de mutant, Ajax (Ed Skrein), and his henchwoman, Angel Dust (Gina Carano). After much work, Wade is cured of his cancer but is horribly disfigured (or as horribly disfigured as Ryan Reynolds can get). He manages to blow up the secret lab and almost kill Ajax until Ajax tells him only he can cure him of his disfigurement. With that, Ajax 'kills' Wade, but of course, being now a mutant himself, Wade won't die.
Taking on the name of Deadpool (after the Dead Pool List that Weasel's denizens bet on), Deadpool goes generic. Our snarky super-but-not-hero spends the rest of the movie going after Francis/Ajax while at first avoiding, then attempting to rescue Vanessa. Into this mix come two other mutants, Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapisic) and Negatron Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hidelbrand), a moody teen at Charles Xavier's School for the Gifted. Colossus in particular wants to bring Deadpool into the X-Men fold, but Dead has no interest in being a Boy Scout. Ultimately, the final battle between Pool/Colossus/Negatron and Ajax/Angel Dust ends with, well, take a guess.
Sometimes it worked (like when Deadpool wryly comments to no one in particular that despite the school being rather large, he seems to find only Colossus and Negatron there...as if the studio couldn't afford another X-Men character). Most of the time, however, it didn't at least for me. Moving the camera to avoid showing one act of violence, trying to be clever about the fourth wall breaking the fourth wall (making it sixteen walls, according to Deadpool) struck me as taking the irreverence the film wanted one step over.
I know that saying that one of Deadpool's flaws being that it didn't take things seriously sounds like an odd complaint, but hear me out. All these characters exist in their own universe where mutants are real. With Deadpool, the film goes to great lengths to make note (and make light) of how all this is fake. What I ask, however, is what will happen if and when Deadpool the character is found in another Marvel Cinematic Universe film or if and when another MCU character shows up in a Deadpool sequel. We can't go back to what they did with Deadpool (say, note that Spider-Man the character is in a movie) because it will take away from another Spider-Man film. At the same time, we can't go straight with that crossover because it will mean that Deadpool will have to work within the confines of another franchise's internal logic.
In short, how can we take any of it seriously when the film insists we recognize that it is all fake? Should Spider-Man for example, pop up in another Deadpool film, will the Merc With the Mouth remind Spidey that he's an actor (and thus, rob audiences of the idea of even bothering with the story if we're told it's all a fake)? Can we really conversely make Deadpool 2 one where we don't keep winking to everyone when the first one did nothing but?
What astonishes me on a personal level is the rank hypocrisy of Deadpool's audience. At the screening I went to I saw a father and mother take their child, circa five or six, to this very R-rated film. The sight of people being beheaded caused laughter from the boy, and the parents were fine with that, yucking it up with the rest of the audience (save for me, who was downright horrified at the intense nature of the killing spree). When we got to the strip club scene and had a couple of boobies thrown our way however, the father quickly covered up the boy's eyes. In other words, we need to shield our children from what they sucked a few years back but should let the little tykes enjoy the fun of mutilations.
I guess these folks would have no problem with me showing little Junior the newest ISIS video?
Deadpool makes no apologies for the extremely graphic violence, and that troubles me personally. I am not fond of films where we get to see beheadings, three heads blown up with a bullet, and the jokey nature of the comments underlying how we should delight in the gruesomeness of it all. I did not like the graphic nature of the violence, or the extended sex scene between Reynolds and Baccarin. One should know that this is not a film for teens, let alone children. Parents, at least the responsible ones, should not take their kids to see Deadpool, period. The guy cuts his hand off for goodness' sake! Sometimes, one should leave things to the imagination. We don't need everything spelled out.
Now, in terms of performances I cannot dislike Reynolds' take on Deadpool. I'm not going to say that Deadpool is a stretch (I'm old enough to remember Two Guys, A Girl, and a Pizza Place, where his Berg was a kinder, gentler variation on Wade Wilson's type of snark). A particular high point was Baccarin as Vanessa, at least in the early part where she matches wits with our sardonic anti-hero. Once she gets sidetracked by the script and later becomes a damsel in distress then she is reduced to a stock character in the kind of film Deadpool wants to mock.
Ultimately, where Deadpool fails is precisely because in the end, it falls into the same trap it wants to ridicule, namely the same story we've seen before. We have 'the comic relief' (and Miller is good, though I wasn't laughing at his own quips). We have the 'evil British guy' (though Skeins' character just had to be evil and nothing more, with Carano's Angel Dust having nothing interesting about her).
As I think of it, I know I will be in the minority on Deadpool. I know many, many people loved it: finding it hilarious, crude, gleefully violent and irreverent. I think those are all the reasons I disliked it (particularly the violence). Then again, I've seen worse.