*** MILD SPOILER WARNING ***
So I went and saw Deadpool on opening night.
Fangirl of the character that I am, this was the first movie in my life that I’ve ever cared enough about to brave the humongous crowds for an opening-night showing. (According to 20th Century Fox, Deadpool broke records for highest-grossing opening day for R-rated films, and it is poised to break more. On a note that would highly please the Merc with a Mouth himself, and with a not-at-all-subtle amount of irony, it even out-grossed the opening night of every X-Men film. Suck it, Wolverine!)
Something about the banner that stood outside the door to the theater, with the red-suited star cheekily forming his hands into a heart-shape, made me feel like the creators may just have kept the promise they’ve been trumpeting about. That they would stay true to the omnisexual anti-hero’s source material.
Well, folks, I am proud to report that Ryan Reynolds, Tim Miller, and company have kept their word — Deadpool is, in my opinion, one of few movie adaptations that more or less does justice to its character. (I admit it, I squealed like a one-year-old throughout most of the decidedly not kid-friendly display.)
The movie itself started out in a manner entirely apropos to the attitude of Wade Wilson: against a freeze-frame montage of an action scene, complete with trinkets of Deadpool’s murderous machinations (bullets suspended in midair? That crayon drawing highlighted in various trailers? Hello Kitty chachkis?!). The opening credits flashing not with peoples names, but with satirical descriptions along the lines of “Asshole” and “Sexy Beast”. Classic!
Fans of the character will be more than satisfied with this homage. There’s plenty of blood, explosions, gratuitous lewd displays, loads of gross-out slapstick action, a plethora of oddly-timed pop-culture references, a cornucopia of fourth-wall-breaking, and — of course — lots and lots of the outrageously wacky humor that we’ve come to know and love. He even saws his own hand off to escape a pair of cuffs! If you’ve come for the ‘Pool, you will not leave disappointed.
The plot plays around with the backstory a bit which isn’ a big issue, since readers of the comics are no stranger to this, but it still sticks with the basic details of torturous-experimentation-post-cancer-diagnosis. Also appearing in the film (again, with changes) are Weasel, Blind Al, Vanessa Carlysle (completely eschewing the character of Copycat and leaving her human, but still keeping intact the relationship with Wade Wilson and his subsequent breaking up with her after his diagnosis), and Colossus (and the School for Gifted Youngsters!). In the role of the baddies, we see Ajax (a.k.a. Francis!), Angel Dust, and for sharper-eyed fans there is pre-Hydra Bob — Agent of Hydra!
Some fans will wonder at the lack of Deadpool’s other voices in his head, his lack of teleporting powers, and why chimichangas were only referenced once in the entire movie. However, these are more or less forgivable since the first bit is arguably hard to execute in live-action, the second is not canon for the entirety of Deadpool’s existence, and the third, well, it’s been mentioned that Deadpool doesn’t actually like eating chimichangas as much as we’re led to believe, but rather, reeeally enjoys saying the word (can’t argue there, it’s fun to say) so I can live with that. There are just too many references, and only so much movie to put them in between fight scenes. Don’t worry — there’s more than enough comical ass-kicking to make up for it.
As far as superhero action-movies go, it’s not entirely disappointing there either, but it’s not anything groundbreaking. The film mostly runs on the hype that is Deadpool — not that that’s really a bad thing. It is as much comedy as it is action; whereas other entries in the superhero genre focus more on the action and drama, for Deadpool the comedy is the engine that keeps the ship running.
And the humor is absolutely on point. It is witty, it is clever, and it is blade-edge sharp. It is the exact brand of unexpected humor we’ve come to expect from Wade Wilson. I have to hand it to the writers, it is spot on. It really feels like a Deadpool work through and through. It is supremely gratifying.
On a more profound note, we get to see a side of Wade Wilson that isn’t always obvious: the shame he feels about his appearance. While this is an aspect that is re-explored from time to time in the comics, his devil-may-care facade tends to mask the fact that he is affected by what others think of him. Only now, of course, he expresses this shame through oppositional self-fulfilling bitterness, taking off his mask in front of others and forcing the spectacle of his gruesome figure on them to see their reactions.
In this movie, it is a driving force, an emotional barrier keeping him from reuniting with the girl he left behind because he is scared of her potential reaction. It even causes him to make stupid mistakes — mistakes that costs her her safety, as his panic when trying to approaching her, when he already knows his enemies are on their way to capture her as a pawn piece against him, leads to the inevitable result. Even a man as genre-savvy as Deadpool is fallible when human emotions are at stake. Every so often we get a reminder of this in the comics, and to see how mad at himself he is after the fact is that wonderful and necessary reminder of his emotional depth and humanity.
As far as plot, Ajax does unfortunately come across as a bit scripted and cliched. In most circumstances this would come across as a poor creative decision, but for one thing — in this case, it is a perfect foil to Wilson’s unpredictable craziness. When Francis spits out a formulaic villain line we’ve heard verbatim before, it just makes the zany retort from Deadpool’s mouth that much better by contrast. Colossus is also a bit of a foil coming from the side of Good, but thankfully not as stereotypical in his lines. Having Ajax and Colossus at opposite ends of the moral spectrum with similar behavior patterns does well at highlighting Deadpool’s status as a moral and behavioral renegade. He knows he’s no hero, and he owns the fuck out of it, wisecracking all the while.
Untangle the action from the comedy, however, and the action loses a bit of its shine. For one thing, the action was amazing at the beginning… but there was no real variation from there. Not that any of the fights later on weren’t satisfying, but they didn’t get any better either… which is something that one tends to look for in the finale of these films. This is one of those moments where they already started at “maximum effort,” and didn’t leave any room for improvement for the final battle. Well, with the exception of one thing.
In the fight scenes, Colossus is great, Angel is great, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (as an X-men in training under Colossus, with Nitro’s powers) is great. Deadpool himself is really amazing as well, most of the time, but when you’re fighting against certain enemies who do the same things over and over, it gets monotonous. I’m talking about Ajax.
Every fight with Ajax was the same old axes. Even though the scenery was different, and the stakes were different, there was no variation in Ajax’s fighting style, and that left little room to work with for Deadpool. Until the point in each fight at which Deadpool solution’d the problem, they may as well have patched in previous fight footage with Ajax and we wouldn’t have noticed. But even flynning can be done in various ways, and the directing staff could, and should, have made use of that.
The other thing that bothered me about the fights was the lack of other weapons in Deadpool’s arsenal. Yes, it was great for a gag when the duffel full of guns got left behind in the taxi, but… not even grenades? He had the utility belt for fuck’s sake, surely they could have at least showed him tossing a timely grenade. We didn’t even see him using any guns other than the dual pistols. For me at least, it’s not really Deadpool until he randomly pulls out a giant gun, even if he doesn’t use it for long. (Yes, he took one shot with the teeny gun he got from Al, and he used a smaller knife to saw his hand off, but A.) neither of those were not in-combat, and B.) the tiny-gun use doesn’t make up for lack of big-gun use.)
His superior capabilities with the weapons he does regularly use were well-demonstrated, but, Earth to Miller, he *is* also a multi-weapon specialist — including unarmed fighting! They had plenty of time in combat to illustrate his other in-combat abilities, and it would have been a great potential solution to the problem of the Repetitive Fighting Ajax. This is the one biggest issue I have with this film.
But even for a very-okay superhero movie, Deadpool still performs well in its class. For Deadpool lovers, it’s a thrilling number that hits all the right buttons, and then some. If you came for the Marvel superhero action without any knowledge of the character, well… just pay attention to the crazy, meta jokes and you’ll get your money’s worth just fine. And who knows, even if you agree that the action falls short, maybe it’ll get you hooked on the character and the comics. Either way, it’s a solid win.
P.S. There’s a post-credits scene! Stick around to the end for a hilarious through-the-fourth-wall sequel teaser, folks!