Even as a fan of Superheroes and Crime Fighters and whatnot, I think it’s fair to say they’ve been enjoying a fairly considerable amount of (big and small) screen time lately. I mean, they’re everywhere now, all the time, and we’re getting re-boots of re-boots, re-imaginings of re-imaginings, cross-overs, extended universes and, because that might not be enough, a sprinkling of origin stories too. I suspect that, at any given time, there’s a fair chance that any comic book store is filled with Studio Executives working their way through the shelves hoping to find the next (as of yet, unlicensed) money-spinner. On the one hand, this could be considered a Golden Age for the Geek, but on the other, even I’m starting to feel like we may’ve reached a saturation point – and I’ve had to be quite selective in what I watch/commit to. Having limited time – and a girlfriend who’s mastered the art of eye-rolling and dramatically sighing if (and I quote) “another one of those spandex-ey programmes” isn’t immediately brilliant – a lot of stuff just hasn’t made the cut.
I mention this because, in many ways, Deadpool has come at exactly the right time. Yeah, on the face of it it’s just another comic book adaptation, but actually, the beauty of Deadpool is that it is both well aware of the above, and perfectly happy to riff off of it. In a sense, it’s a much (much) needed palette cleanser, skillfully skewering the genre, but in such a way as to rejuvenate and refresh it – in other words, it’s a film by geeks, for geeks, but with an inherent awareness of the strengths and weaknesses of Geekdom. It’s a difficult feat to pull off but – for the most part – I feel like Deadpool manages it exceptionally well. Sure, it misses the mark from time to time, but in general it walks the lines with a high degree of skill.
From the get-go (as in, the opening credits) the jokes and references come thick and fast, and they basically cover the gamut from excessively childish, to genuinely quite clever and witty, but within five minutes you’ll be acutely aware of why Deadpool’s an R/18 rated movie – and why they’ve been pretty clear on that in the marketing of it (this isn’t the time for a discussion on parental responsibility, but I was genuinely quite surprised that parents were taking their 11/12 year old kids to see this (it’s rated 16 here in Brazil) and had little sympathy when they walked out in disgust after 15 minutes). It’s certainly not a film for the easily offended, and having eschewed the Family Friendly approach of recent franchises, Deadpool goes to fucking town with the freedom this facilitates – and again, for the most part – it’s successful, refreshing and funny. Cliché after cliché is satirised – often in genuinely innovative and amusing ways – and whenever the film strays too close to being overly smart-arsed, it has a knack of winning the audience back by turning its guns upon itself.
The excellent ensemble cast help in this, for sure, and there’s enough chemistry between them to carry the slower, or less amusing scenes – particularly Baccarin and Reynolds’ onscreen spark, which is suitably charged, I think. I was initially quite sceptical about the casting of Baccarin, but she’d won me over within the space of a few minutes, and by the end I couldn’t remember why I’d ever doubted her in the first place. Reynolds is perfect for the Deadpool role, and he’s especially adept at navigating the point where like-abilty falls off a cliff into ‘being a dick’ Valley. And talking of Valleys, TJ Miller of Silicon Valley fame [BOOM segued the shit out of that!] gets an honorable mention, because he really gives Reynolds a run for his like-ability vs dickishness money. Elsewhere, the villains gleefully munch on as much scenery as they can get their hands on – but in an Alan Rickman from Prince of Thieves kind of way, and not a Jeremy Irons in Die Hard With A Vengeance one. All in all, their willingness to take the piss out of themselves, to subvert the conventions of the genre, and to do it all with their tongues firmly in their respective cheeks adds another layer of shine to Deadpool’s gloss.
In terms of narrative, Deadpool gets it mostly right, again both following clichés, telling you it’s following clichés, and taking the piss out of those very clichés. In this way, Deadpool can tell you it’s a love story, take the piss out of that (by including a decidedly x-rated version of a love story), but ultimately still manage to be quite sweet and romantic. Likewise, it can mock the genre’s reliance on CGI, set pieces, and particular mainstays of action sequences, but then also pull off those very things with style and panache. Obviously, the narrative, or pathos, or the catharsis-of-your-main-protagonist type devices are (mostly) neglected in favour of jokes and such, but there’s still an element of those present – even if it doesn’t have the same emotional depth of an actual, non-satirical film. It’s also worth pointing out that Deadpool never sinks to the ‘let’s just ram as many jokes in as possible’ level of all your Not Another Teen Movie type (quote-unquote) “parodies” either.
Finally, you’ll likely hear or read a lot of talk about ‘breaking the 4th wall’ and such with Deadpool, and whilst it is worth mentioning (it’s quite ambitious and notoriously difficult to pull off), I don’t think it’s what I’ll remember about Deadpool. I’ve mentioned before how I’m often inclined to give a degree of leeway/shitload of bonus points to things that are willing to try something new, that have the chutzpah to take risks, and I think Deadpool’s memorable for that, and because it manages to do so without just being snarky for the sake of it. It’s easy to rip stuff apart, but it’s considerably more difficult to rip apart the thing you are whilst you’re trying to be it (if you get what I mean?) and that’s what Deadpool’s essentially attempting. That it (mostly) succeeds is commendable – managing to be both a superhero movie and an anti-hero movie at the same time, and managing to lovingly poke fun at everyone and everything associated with both.
I really, really enjoyed Deadpool, and I also strongly suspect I’d enjoy it again because there’ll almost certainly have been stuff I missed the first time. One of the cool things about watching it in the cinema was that when you got a particular reference – and laughed at it – there was a sense of camaraderie with the other people who’d got it and laughed too, but there were times when I’d obviously just missed a reference because other people laughed and I didn’t. And in a way – and going back to the stuff I was saying at the outset – that’s why Deadpool’s come out at exactly the right time, and why it can be seen as a much needed palette cleanser. Even though I’ve missed some of the more recent Superhero/Crime Fighter type movies, and even though I was starting to get a bit bored with the genre, I now want to see them just so I might get some more of the jokes and references in Deadpool.
That, right there, is quite a skill, and it’s Deadpool’s real coup-de-grace – managing to rejuvenate an entire industry by picking it apart, and lovingly, skillfully putting it back together again. It’s not the greatest film you’ll ever see, it’s not even the funniest, but it is fairly clever, well-crafted and a shitload of fun. And you don’t even have to be into the Superhero stuff either (we made it through the film with no eye-rolling or sighing, and on Valentine’s Day no less), because it works on a pure entertainment level too. If you are a fan of the genre though, Deadpool will likely provide you with a veritable banquet of Easter Eggs, references, knowing nods, and it will make you fall in love with it even as it’s taking the piss out of you and all the things you hold dear.
- Ryan Reynolds’ post-mutation face looks unnervingly like Ted Danson!?
- We accidentally ended up watching Deadpool in one of those fancy-schmancy 4D-X cinemas, where the seats move around, and occasionally jab you in the back and such. I’m not entirely convinced this works (which is a discussion for another time), but my point is this: sitting next to complete strangers, and then having the seats you’re sharing thrust back and forwards during a sex scene is, quite frankly, really fucking awkward. Consider yourself warned!
- This being a Gaming Site and all, I was going to draw some parallels to games, but it didn’t entirely work out given Deadpool’s outlier nature. However, thinking about it some more, there’s a definite Saints Rowish quality to the way the film lovingly deconstructs the genre, but also embraces it (and the the daftness of it) at the same time.
- Finally, if you’re a parent: nope. This isn’t just ‘an Avengers film with a few extra swears in it’. Seriously, DYOR – or watch the film first, then decide if you want your kids to see it – and don’t kick up a fuss in the cinema when other people are trying to watch a film they’ve paid to see. You’re the dick here – not the people who made an R/18 rated film.