Ever wonder what it would be like if Marvel movies weren’t produced by the Disney Company? With Deadpool (2016), we have a solid reminder that Fox also has rights to certain Marvel properties, and they take this movie in a decidedly non-Disney direction. Deadpool is funny, clever, and well-edited, though it is also vulgar and violent and seriously lacking in any kind of developed female characters. Let’s talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of this latest Marvel movie.
In short, Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, a low-level style hit-man (the kind who scares people but doesn’t actually kill or maybe even hurt them) falls in love, decides to get married, discovers he has cancer, and then ditches his “one true love” to go be part of an illegal experiment to “cure” said cancer. His skin gets lumpy (though he gains heightened strength, agility, and super healing powers to rival or surpass Wolverine’s) and he spends the rest of the movie being angry and angsty about it, while trying to get Ajax (Ed Skrein), the guy who “fixed” him via injections and torture to change him back. Or at least fix his skin.
Some people may say that Deadpool is at its core a romance. Deadpool is sort of a romance, if by romance you mean if Chicken Soup For the Soul was written by your horny, jerk of an ex-boyfriend. This isn’t particularly a bad thing, but it does make for an odd set up, where you can’t ever tell if the heart-of-gold hero actually has, y’know, a heart. Which I guess is the point.
Action action action! I love the action scenes in this, and in all honestly the violence in these sequences wasn’t any worse than what you’d find in a typical R-rated action movie. Let me emphasize here that it’s rated R: there is some definite gore, and far more blood than you’d see in, say, an X-Men movie, but it isn’t exactly Tarantino level stuff.
I thoroughly enjoyed the referential humor in Deadpool as well, from the nods to other franchises (and their multiple actors playing the same character at different ages) to the highly meta references to things about this movie specifically. Deadpool also breaks the fourth wall frequently, which is one of the appealing things about the character; it’s like he’s fully aware that we’re all watching him, and is going to let us in on the joke. The opening sequence, which he narrates while also giving the audience information about how he got to where he is, was particularly well done, and sold me on the movie more than almost anything else I’d seen in previews. And I needed to be sold quickly in order to make it through the rest of the movie.
The whole conceit for this movie’s conflict isn’t, when it’s all said and done, that Wade a.k.a. Deadpool is ashamed of something he’s done or that he’s trying to be a hero. It’s that he’s completely conceited. He doesn’t go home to his girlfriend Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) because he is too vain. He convinces himself she wouldn’t still love him (or at least that she wouldn’t still find him attractive), but that’s it. There’s no deeper, darker motive. In fact, she is put directly in danger because he’s too ashamed of his looks to just talk to her. This is ridiculous.
There’s also no real explanation for how Wade (as Deadpool) learns to fight the way he does, or how he adjusts to his powers. He just seems to suddenly connect with them. Not that we need another formulaic origin story, but there wasn’t any development, just a sudden jump forward and it felt a little rushed. The major “character development” was learning to wear red instead of white.
It also really, really bothered me that Vanessa turns into a prop. But more on that in a moment.
The only women with speaking lines I can recall in this whole movie are A) Wade’s girlfriend, Vanessa; B) Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand); C) Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) and D) Angel Dust (Gina Carano). Angel and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (they never give her another name) are only there as sidekick fighters. Vanessa started off with potential as an interesting character but by the end of the movie was reduced to being the Damsel in Distress for Wade to save. Blind Al was, well, blind. None of them have any significant impact on the story and none of them says more than a few sentences.
There’s also a whole lot of vulgarity, from masturbation jokes to a full nudity strip club, and it didn’t add to the story in a way that felt necessary. Instead it seemed like the filmmakers were appealing to the most stereotypical fan base. What’s odd is that, by pushing this one into an R rating, the younger audience who might go for that sort of thing will have a harder time seeing the film.
I have to say that overall I enjoyed Deadpool, and I’m surprised to say that. I went in expecting not to particularly like it, but the humor and the well crafted action sequences won me over. It’s certainly the most “adult” comic book movie I’ve seen, and I’ll be curious to see how it eventually affects other movies in the genre. The CGI blended so perfectly with the live shots that I forgot at times it was even there (unlike Amazing Spider-Man which kept making me think I was watching video game footage). If you like comic book movies, and aren’t put off by the violence, sex and language, you’ll like this one.
Also, if you haven’t seen it yet, here’s Betty White’s review. Enjoy!