“This is a love story”
It’s Valentine’s Day, and you always need a good date movie for V-Day. And what better date movie than the recently released Deadpool? Deadpool promised a subversive comic book movie where the hero isn’t really a hero and all of the typical tropes of the comic book movie are shot to pieces. Or at least that’s what I understood. Instead, what I saw was a comedy that hurled too much at the screen and was as loyal to the traditional comic book movie tropes as any other comic book movie. That’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it; there was so much effort and love poured into this movie that it was hard not to enjoy it. However, much like ‘Kick-Ass,’ it promised a lot more than it delivered.
‘Deadpool’ introduces us to Wade Wilson, who undergoes experimental surgery to cure his cancer. The surgery ignites his mutant genes, giving him the ability to super-heal and the looks of “an avocado having sex with another avocado.” He doesn’t use these powers to fight crime, but to find the man who gave him a case of the ugly, Ajax (or Francis). Before the surgery, he had fallen in love with prostitute Vanessa Carlysle, and Wilson wants his good looks back to reconcile with her. Along the way, he meets a friendly taxi driver, a couple of X-Men, spits a quip a minute, and breaks the fourth wall (all in non-linear fashion!).
“Rock meet bottom”
On the surface, ‘Deadpool’ seems like an atypical comic book movie. The supposed hero kills the henchman of Ajax without a second thought. The action is bloody and ultra-violent. There’s plenty of swearing, jokes about sexual organs and several sex scenes (in one of the funniest sequences in the film, Wilson and his new girlfriend celebrate various holidays by sexual experimentation. My particular favourite was ‘International Woman’s Day). Sure, ‘The Punisher’ films have dealt with the theme of vengeance being wreaked by an anti-hero in ultra-violent fashion. ‘Watchmen’ gave us a tame sex scene. ‘Kick-Ass’ pre-empted ‘Deadpool’s’ supposed satire by almost a decade. But ‘Deadpool’ stills seems like a different kettle of fish to the hordes of comic books films that hit our cinema screens.
However, look a little closer, past the ultra-violence, swearing and fourth-wall breaking, and all of the comic book trends that you know and love (?) are there to see. As Wilson says at one point, it is a love story, like so many comic book stories before it. Deadpool may be killing people, but he’s not killing innocent people. If the non-linear aspect of the story was scrapped, the usual comic book hero origin story would be plain to see. He even goes through a few costume changes before settling on the costume he’s famous for, in scenes so similar to what we’ve seen before. The last battle ends in a massive ‘ship’ (or SHIELD helicarrier?) collapsing after a boss fight between Deadpool and Ajax. There’s even two super-strong mutants brawling and hurled each other across the screen in scenes of destruction that are all too familiar. Whilst screaming all too loudly that it is a different comic book film, me thinks the Pool doth protest too much…
However, it feels like I am protesting too much against this film. I enjoyed it! There are too many jokes, and they come thick and fast, so some do miss the target. The pop culture references range from the sublime (the one referring to Yoda riding Luke’s back in particular) to the obscure (anything American, such as the Shake-Weighty one, which all of my friends were confused by…I only knew of it thanks to ‘South Park’!). I laughed a little too loudly when the figure of Deadpool from ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’ turned up in one shot, and at the references to Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool. There’s enough packed in to raise a laugh more often than not, and it’s mainly thanks to Ryan Reynolds. He truly embraces the character of Wade Wilson/Deadpool in yet another perfect actor to superhero match. He may have failed at Green Lantern, but Wade Wilson had met his match in Ryan Reynolds. Is it wrong to think him worthy of an Oscar? I mean, he plays a character that had cancer…the Academy lap that kind of stuff up!
When Deadpool is breaking the fourth wall and exchanging barbs with friends and enemies, the film is more than sufficient entertainment. However, it was during the action scenes that my mind began to wander. Maybe it was where I was sat, but I found it hard to follow the action scenes due to the way they were cut. It reminded me of ‘Quantum of Solace.’ I’ve watched that film several times and still struggle to figure out what’s happening in the fight/car chase scenes. The same problem was apparent with ‘Deadpool.’ I love a bit of ultra-violence, but the editing was so fast and rapid that I struggled to see what was happening, never mind the excessive amounts of blood colouring the screen. In an action movie I want to admire the action, not miss the action!
As a piece of pure entertainment, ‘Deadpool’ works in stops and starts. There’s an equal amount of stuff that works and doesn’t work, especially with the comedy. The genitalia jokes can get a little tiring, but some are so ingenious that they can be forgiven. There’s plenty of blood and swearing (and even a little sex!) for those who like a true Rated R film. And in a way it is something different to the typical superhero film, thanks to the Rated R nature of it and the breaking of the fourth wall. However, look a little closer, and it’s nothing more than a superhero film with blood and swearing. How can it be subversive when it’s a male superhero, for goodness sake? We need a female superhero film that forgoes an origin story and even a love story. But, like I mentioned before, Ryan Reynolds holds the film together, even at its weakest parts. He’ll make sure you leave the cinema with a smile on your face!
VERDICT: 6/10. A bloody and fairly entertaining superhero film that isn’t as subversive as it hopes to be (or as funny, unfortunately. The humour misses as much as it hits). But it’s a step in the right direction, and Ryan Reynolds is a hoot as the titular anti-hero.
(Click here for my review of Deadpool’s previous appearance in ‘X-Men Origins: Wolverine’)