Thursday 18 February 2016

Deadpool: The Rough and The Smooth

Director: Tim Miller
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein
Running time: 108 mins

Ryan Reynolds sends himself up a treat in Tim Miller's Deadpool

Stylistically, Deadpool is a massive departure from Fox's usual Marvel superhero fare (Fantastic Four, Spider-Man and X-Men). There's nudity, streams of bad language, extraordinary violence and, at one point, the titular character even offers up a description of Wolverine's balls. Professor X would surely not approve.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a black ops agent turned low-rent mercenary. He meets and falls in love with 'working girl' Vanessa (Homeland's Morena Baccarin) and the pair plan a life together. Unfortunately, it turns out Wilson has terminal cancer and barely months to live. The only thing that can save him? An excruciatingly painful process to force his body to mutate in a way that will not only obliterate the disease but also imbue him with superhuman abilities. The treatment – administered by bad-guy scientist Ajax – works but Wade is left for dead, his entire body horribly disfigured. Super-strong, super-fast and super-annoying, Wilson – now calling himself Deadpool – packs up his guns, knives and swords, teams up with two X-Men, and vows to find the AWOL Ajax. His plan? Force the super-villain to cure his mangled body so he can reunite with Vanessa...

Colossus, an entirely CGI character voiced by Stefan Kapicic 

1. Marvel Comics must have literally thousands of great bad guys so why do filmmakers keep populating their movies with tedious dullards? It happened most recently in Ant-Man and the same problem pops up again here. Ajax is an evil British scientist super-villain who is thoroughly nondescript, a situation not helped any by Ed Skrein (the actor playing him) who isn't even a B-list Vinnie Jones, let alone a B-list Jason Statham.
2. The two X-Men – Colossus (Stefan Kapicic) and the wonderfully named Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) – feel a bit crowbarred into proceedings. They have two lengthy appearances here and neither feels particularly 'organic'. Colossus wants Wade to reform and join the X-Men but it often seems the script is having to makes excuses for the pair to show up.
3. This an origin story and they are seldom edifying, so hats off to director Miller and Zombieland writers Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick for trying something a bit different with the structure of the film. Unfortunately, their decision to constantly switch back and forth from the past to the present day turns out to be a bit clumsy. In fact, so clumsy is it that Deadpool himself – during one of many 'breaking the fourth-wall' moments – has to explain when the flashbacks have caught up to the main story. 

Deadpool battles Ajax, another underwhelming super-villain 

There's an avalanche
 of gags here and quite a few of them fall flat. Remember the video that did the rounds a few weeks ago in which a pissed-off bloke shouts obscenities at an episode of The Big Bang Theory? Sure you do; it's the one that went: "Fuck you! Where was the joke?! He just fucking named a bunch of shit – how is this comedy? Why are you laughing?! WHYYYYYY!?" In other words, it's all well and good referencing TV shows, comics and films but saying the name of something isn't the same as writing a joke about it. There was a reference to Blade 2 at one point that just made me roll my eyes. Also, quips about Limp Bizkit, Wham!, The Spin Doctors and Sinead O'Connor in 2016. Really?
5. Outrageous superhero satires are nothing new and Deadpool is neither as irreverent and transgressive as Matthew Vaughn's Kick-Ass or as crazily imaginative and straight-up weird as James Gunn's Super. To be honest, it isn't nearly as funny as The Tick or Mystery Men either.

Deadpool Red Band trailer (warning: contains rude bits)

1. Reynolds is meant to be the epitome of annoying here but I found his performance significantly less so than in, say, The Voices or R.I.P.D.. Yes, Deadpool spends all his time killing people and making dick jokes but he's clearly quite a tragic figure too. Reynolds sells that dichotomy very well. He also sends himself up a treat, happy to take the piss out of his role in Green Lantern and a People magazine cover from 2010 which hailed him "The Sexiest Man Alive". In fact, both he and Baccarin are terrific; they have genuine chemistry and you invest in their relationship and root for a happy ending.
2. Deadpool's X-pals Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead may feel as if they've been thrown into the action at times but they are at least entertaining, especially the latter – a splendid crop-haired ball of snark – who I sincerely hope we see again in the inevitable sequel and other X-movies too. 

Negasonic Teenage Warhead - crazy name, crazy girl!

3. As I argued above, Deadpool isn't consistently hilarious but when the gags do hit home you know it. A joke towards the end involving a Hugh Jackman mask made me laugh out loud as did some of DP's fourth-wall breaking antics ("It’s a big house. It’s weird I only ever see two of you. Almost like the studio couldn’t afford another X-Man"). In fact, there are so many pop culture references, ideas and jokes on display in the movie's 108 minutes you'd have to see it at least a couple of times to catch them all. 
4. It's interesting that at the same time DC's cinematic universe is speeding full-pelt down Grim 'n' Gritty Boulevard, Fox and Marvel seem to be heading in the opposite direction. Ant-Man was nothing special but I appreciated its more light-hearted tone and, despite being full of death, destruction and terminal disease, Deadpool continues in that vein. In fact, it's gleefully, relentlessly childish and unabashedly stupid. The writers don't miss a single opportunity for a bum, boob, dick or toilet joke and, as South Park and Viz comic have proved over the years, that's almost an art form in itself. 
5. Deadpool and the movie's chief villain are both men (obvs!) but I was impressed with the number of well-written female characters here. Baccarin's Vanessa quickly transcends the 'tart with a heart' stereotype, while Negasonic Teenage Warhead's surly charm is never less than a joy. Angel Dust, although not given enough to say, is probably a more interesting and formidable foe than Ajax, while Deadpool's blind landlady Al steals every scene she's in. None of this should come as a surprise, though; Reese and Wernick demonstrated on 2009's Zombieland a facility for writing strong female characters. 

Reynolds and former Homeland star Baccarin have genuine chemistry

6. The action scenes are bone-crunchingly, blood-spurtingly terrific, especially the big fight on the bridge between Deadpool and Ajax's goons that opens the film and the massive slug-out at the end involving pretty much the entire cast. I kept forgetting that Colossus was a CG character so seamlessly is he weaved into the action. Apparently, due to last-minute budget cuts, one action scene featuring a spectacular motorbike chase had to be cut entirely and the big finale downsized. Despite that you never once feel shortchanged in terms of thrills and excitement.

Rough 5 Smooth 6 – It's a narrow but well-deserved victory for Deadpool! Tim Miller's movie might not be as funny as it thinks it is, but it's hard not to fall for its anarchic charm and sweary joie de vivre. Reynolds is clearly having the time of his life and the energy he brings to the role is certainly infectious. 

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