Reel Talk

The Juvenile Highs and Lows of Deadpool

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Oh Deadpool. I have very conflicting feelings about this character. He’s extremely over-hyped, and has generally been embraced by a demographic of aggressively eccentric people who think being random is the funniest thing in the world, and that I generally find intolerable. He’s basically become a joke, and with the exception of a handful of comics writers, his appearance in a comic is generally going to be pretty aggravating. And yet, he’s the character that really got me into comics. I had fooled around with comics through my life, and in high school began grabbing random trades at Barnes and Nobel, trying to find something I liked, but for whatever reason it was Deadpool that really clicked, especially the run written by Daniel Way, which hasn’t aged very well, but really brought me into the character. And honestly, Deadpool is probably the best gateway drug of a comic character there is, because he interacts with so many of the different characters in the Marvel universe, since he so frequently had cameos from different people. So when I heard that they were finally getting a movie off the ground, even after the disastrous showing in Wolverine Origins, I was cautiously optimistic. Because the character really could be used effectively in a movie, I really do believe that. And was this that movie? Eh, not really.

Now, I wouldn’t say that this was a bad movie, it was pretty good, it just wasn’t great. It was a valiant effort, that showed real promise, and while it wasn’t as good as it should have been, it certainly wasn’t as bad as it could have been. And I think the main problem with the movie was that it, for the most part, focused on the worst, but more marketable, parts of the character. But before we get into that, let’s talk about what the movie is actually about. Now, even though origin movies are pretty played out, that’s what they went with, and the movie basically just tells a version of Deadpool’s origin through an extended flashback. The movie opens up with a truly great credits scene that listed the stereotypical roles the characters were playing, instead of the actor’s names, like saying “Comic Relief” instead of TJ Miller. We then see Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds finally getting his chance to do the character right) and his cab driver heading to the middle of a busy freeway so he can ambush a group of mercenaries that are guarding a sketchy guy called Ajax (Ed Skrein). We see an extended version of that test footage that the director “leaked” a couple years ago, where Deadpool attacks the mercenaries on the highway, and goofily murders everyone involved. And after a pretty great scene where he manages to kill all of the mercenaries with only 12 bullets, we begin the barrage of flashbacks that make up most of the movie.

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Now, the flashback is more or less based on some of the backstories that we’ve seen before in the comics, but Deadpool, much like the Joker, doesn’t really have a definitive backstory. It’s changed a lot over the years, and is generally chalked up to the fact that he’s crazy and has memory problems, so not even he exactly remembers what happened. But the one we get here has Wade Wilson, a former Special Forces solider who works as a mercenary at a bar run by his only friend, Weasel (TJ Miller). But along the way he meets a prostitute named Vanessa that he ends up falling in love with. They get engaged, and right on cue Wade finds out he has all kinds of terminal cancer. He pretty much gives up on life, until he’s approached by a mysterious man representing a shady organisation that offers to experiment on him and possibly heal his cancer. He wavers about it, but ends up sneaking off, not even telling Vanessa that he’s going to do it. So he’s brought to the shady Weapon X facility (at least I assume it’s Weapon X, I don’t remember if they actually ever called it that) where he meets the head of the facility Francis, a.k.a. Ajax (Ed Skrein) and his super partner Angel (Gina Carano). And right away Ajax admits that this place isn’t on the up-and-up, and the whole plan is to torture people in the hopes that their mutant gene activates and gives them powers. So Wade is essentially tortured for some nondescript amount of time, and finally his healing abilities manifest, along with a side-effect where his skin becomes gruesome. Wade and Ajax then fight, leading to a massive explosion that devastates the facility, and Wade is left for dead.

But he didn’t die, and then spends a while becoming Deadpool, with the help of Weasel, in a great montage where he gradually makes his suit, fights a bunch of guys in ridiculous ways, and starts tracking down all of Francis’ men, hoping to finally find him. And while all of that’s going on, he thinks about talking to Vanessa, letting her know that he’s actually alive, but decides to wait until he finds Francis to do that, since he thinks Francis has a way to fix his face. And we’re finally at the point where the flashbacks began. Deadpool has killed all the mercs, and finds Ajax among them. Bur right as he’s about to torture the guy in order to get him to fix him, he’s attacked by two X-Men, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead. They stop Deadpool from dealing with Ajax, since Colossus wants him to be a hero, and Deadpool generally responds by being an asshole. And during their squabble, Ajax gets away, and Colossus gets ready to take Deadpool back to the X-Mansion, by any means necessary. And this ends with Deadpool cutting his own wrist off to avoid the handcuffs before jumping off onto a dumpster. He then gets back to the shitty little house he lives in with Blind Al, which was a character I was shocked to see in a movie. The two hang out and argue about Ikea furniture until he gets a call from Weasel that Ajax and Angel attacked him in the bar, and know where Vanessa is. The two run to the strip club where she works, and we get to see the weirdest Stan Lee cameo yet, but they’re too late, and the bad guys have stolen Deadpool’s love.

So they race off to the weird scrapyard that Ajax is hiding out in, and that has what I think is supposed to be a Helicarrier? Maybe it’s just a battleship, but I’m pretty sure I saw the turbines that they had in the Avengers movies. Colossus and Warhead join Deadpool, and the fight is on, as Colossus and Warhead fight Angel, and Deadpool wipes out a bunch of useless goons, before running into Bob, Agent of…I guess Ajax. But Deadpool finally makes it up to the top of the carrier in time to fight Ajax, who has locked Vanessa in the weird oxygen deprivation tank that made his power manifest. The two beak the hell out of each other, Deadpool saves Vanessa, and the carrier ends up exploding. Deadpool finds Ajax in the rubble, and Colossus begins rambling about how heroes don’t kill. But not surprisingly Deadpool still kills Ajax, says he doesn’t really care about being a hero, and then still gets the girl, even though his face is fugly.

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So there we go. The Deadpool movie. It wasn’t that bad, but man was I hoping for more. The movie started out very strongly, and I felt like it had a real fighting chance. The opening credits, the cab ride, and the first fight on the highway were all great. It had some parody elements, some fun dialogue, and some bonkers action, just what I want from a Deadpool movie. But then the flashbacks begin, and the movie starts to get shaky. It became a pretty paint-by-numbers superhero origin movie, just a dirty one with lots of sex jokes and profanity. I feel like the best bet would have been to make the movie a parody of origin films, which maybe was what they were going for, but it really didn’t come across that way. It was just a dirty origin story, instead of a satire of one. And man was Ajax an incredibly boring villain. Yeah, Deadpool doesn’t have many good villains, but this dude was such a waste. They made him just hateable enough go along with Deadpool’s hatred as he begins a pretty standard revenge plot. It hits pretty much every plot point that you would think it would, which I could see someone argue makes it a satire of the genre, but it just felt lazy to me. There was no satire involved, it was just a cheesy action movie.

And I was really not into the whole concept of Deadpool doing everything he could not to be a hero. The movie was so obsessed with showing us that he’s no hero. He kills people, which makes him extreme! It’s so tired and played out, and just seemed to date the character to his 90’s origins. I love that the Deadpool of today’s comics spends most of his time desperately trying to be a hero, while all of the established Marvel heroes want nothing to do with him, and avoid him at all costs, while he’s essentially trying to befriend them as a sort of apprenticeship. But Deadpool wanting to do something that isn’t murder just isn’t appealing to the target demographic of this movie, so of course they wouldn’t go that way. He’s still so entrenched in this weird 90’s detached cynicism, that it would feel weird in the movie we got if Deadpool was going with Colossus, and trying to be hero. Which would have been awesome if this movie came out in the 90’s, but in the modern day when people are loving the Marvel Studios movies that revolve around characters doing everything they can to be heroic, it seemed weird that this movie did everything it could to make Colossus and his love of heroism seem lame and ridiculous, when it’s Deadpool’s obstinence and commitment to be an “anti-hero” that came off as ridiculous. At least to me.

I will say, the thing I love most about Deadpool is the fact that he’s a parody of superheros, the industry, and the genre in general. Which is what makes the character so enjoyable, in the right hands. Yeah, you could make him a super simple meme machine that yells about chimichangas and Bea Arthur, which would appeal to the reddit fanbase, but the runs that really work for me are ones that have Deadpool wander around the Marvel Universe, poking fun at how ridiculous things are. And this movie just couldn’t get that across, mainly because of the studio issues. He obviously can’t make direct references, or talk to any of the characters being handled at Marvel Studios, and the movie is left with only the X-Men characters, which this movie didn’t even use right. We had two X-Men, one virtually no one has heard of, and the other being Colossus, who I really don’t care about. I guess the movie made an accurate Colossus, since he was mainly worthless (seriously, read the early issues that had Colossus written by Chris Claremont, he spends most of the time complaining about how he’s useless in every situation he finds himself in). And other than that, and a few cheap jabs at Green Lantern and the Wolverine Origins movie, it’s pretty devoid of parody of the genre. And taking away the satire basically leaves us a movie that embraces basically everything about the character I’m not fond of.

Now, Deadpool is supposed to be a funny character, making jokes all the time. Unlike Spider-Man, I usually do find the guy funny, especially in the right hands. But one thing that seemed wrong with the movie was the tone. Yeah, comics stick with some rules that keep things kind of at a PG-13 level, so essentially everything I’ve seen of Deadpool is in that mindframe, but the crudeness of this movie felt weird. I’m by no means a prude, I’m perfectly fine with a movie full of sex jokes, but it just didn’t seem like Deadpool. He’s usually more of a cultural reference guy, less “blue” material. It just felt like they were desperately trying to seem “mature” which means it’s trying to appeal to teenagers. At the very least it didn’t go the route of the terrible DC movies that are about to assault us by making everything incredibly grim and dark, but it seemed to be taking the same methodology of just being vulgar to equate maturity. I just kind of walked away from the movie with the feeling that this movie was aimed directly at hyperactive high-schoolers. Which isn’t a problem, I mean movies have to be directed at someone, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.

There are good points to the movie too. The humor, when it wasn’t doing it’s best to be in the gutter in an attempt to be edgy, was pretty great. Moments like Deadpool killing a guy with a Zamboni, making references to the convoluted timeline of the X-Men films, and some of the silly fourth-wall-breaking asides were really fun and worked great. I think Reynolds did a great job, and really works at spitting out the rapid-fire puns and jokes. And there was some really solid action in the movie, especially that opening scene, even though it was basically just that test footage that we saw a couple years ago. And while these positive parts did help the negative, in the end it didn’t really save the movie for me. Like I said, I didn’t hate it, I just feel like we should have gotten a much better, more satiric film. Although I do kind of hate feeling that, because it’s a little weak to complain about the movie you didn’t get. And I feel like we’ll never get the Deadpool movie I actually want, since it would require full use of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I feel like the best bet would be to make a movie more inspired by the recent run of Deadpool that’s been written by Gerry Duggan. It uses some great satire of the universe, wonderful humor, some really solid new supporting characters, and a whole lot of heart. This movie seemed to be really focused on the early years of Deadpool, when he was trying to be a parody of ridiculous 90’s characters while still being firmly in the 90’s and still falling into all the same pitfalls. The Deadpool of today is a more realized and interesting character, and that’s just not the guy we got. It was nice to see that some emotion was put in this movie, which I really didn’t see coming, it just wasn’t enough to make this the movie that would have really changed things, and become the true superhero satire movie that we’re waiting for.

Deadpool was written by  Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, directed by Tim Miller, and released by 20th Century Fox, 2016.

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