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Monday, February 22, 2016

Film Review - Deadpool (2016)

RedStar2
Deadpool

Humour is subjective, which is why it’s always difficult to review a comedy. And make no mistake, Deadpool is a comedy. Is it a good comedy? You’ll find out soon.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) was a mercenary who upon being dishonourably discharged from the military began working “for the little people”, usually in the form of roughing up jerks. One day, he meets with a prostitute named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin) and they fall in love with each other. Together they have a relationship that’s mostly hinted at being sexually explicit, but this is not the type of film that takes chances. More on that in a bit.

A few months go by and Wade learns that he has contracted an incurable form of cancer. Vanessa wants to help Wade through his upcoming tough time, but Wade decides to leave her because he wants Vanessa to remember him as he used to be and not to have to suffer alongside him.

In his search for a potential cure, Wade is met with a man who sells him on the idea that a cure does indeed exist, and Wade decides to take it. And here enters the film’s villain Francis (Ed Skrein). Francis, a mutant who can’t physically or emotionally feel anything, informs Wade that he too will be turned into a mutant and possibly even a superhero. However, the process requires days, if not weeks of physical torture and Francis takes pleasure in torturing Wade. However, the moment that Francis informs Wade of his true intentions behind creating mutants (which is too silly to mention here), Wade escapes the facility. Later on, Wade will decide to hunt Francis down and kill him.

Here’s my first big problem with the film: Wade’s motivation throughout the entirety of the film makes no sense. The mutation treatment does actually cause Wade’s cancer to subside, but it also disfigures his entire body to the point of resembling Freddy Krueger’s. Just not as badly. Wade then dubs himself Deadpool, dons himself a costume, and tracks down Francis with the full intention of having Francis turn him back to normal.
…and all for the sake of getting back with Vanessa. However, now that he “looks like an avocado that had sex with another, older avocado”, he believes that Vanessa won’t even give him the time of day.

Really? I know that this is an adaptation of the popular early ‘90s comic book series but the script borrows from the “book of indie film relationships” and it tries its damndest to have relatable, human characters (ish) who look and speak like real human beings. Yet, in a rational, realistic world, Vanessa wouldn’t care less what Wade looks like if she truly loved him. They were going to marry at some point, but Wade pulled away from her because he loved her enough to not want her to suffer alongside him. So what made him think that his ugliness would push her away?

There is another comic book series from the early ‘90s that has a similar premise, and that’s “Spawn. Its protagonist, Al Simmons, dies of an explosion but is eventually resurrected by The Devil himself. It‘s a raw deal, however, because Al then looks exactly like he did when he died: a charred, horrifically disfigured corpse. His motivation for not approaching his wife and revealing his face to her is sound, but he continues to protect her from afar regardless, because he loves her.
Wade, in this film, doesn’t look nearly as bad as Al does, but he doesn’t even stick to Vanessa like a guardian angel. He just casually stalks her like in a romantic indie film, waiting for the perfect moment to reveal his new face to her. Not trusting Vanessa to love him solely for who he is took me out of the film from early on and the film didn’t captivate or interest me in any way, as a result.

And here’s another big problem that I have with this film: in the comics, pre-cancer Wade is a mercenary nicknamed “The Merc with a Mouth” because he’s always cracking jokes and has somewhat of a low attention span, kinda like Spider-Man (but not Peter Parker). But Wade cracks jokes even outside of battle. He’s annoying to those around him, but he’s still likable. In this film, pre-cancer Wade is annoying and is an unlikable (pardon the French) asshole. He narrates the film from time to time and constantly reminds the audience that he’s not a superhero, or even a hero or a good person. I find that removing what little there was to like about Wade from early on was a huge mistake because after Wade is turned into Deadpool, Deadpool develops a split personality. In the comics, Deadpool has two different colour speech bubbles, signifying when Wade is talking and when Deadpool is talking. Wade is still The Merc with a Mouth, but Deadpool is constantly breaking the fourth wall, and is even aware that he’s a comic book character. He says random things all the time, and he loves chimichangas and boobies. He’s infantile, but is also mostly cleverly written. In this film, he’s almost the same before and after his mutation. There’s little change, and as a result I was annoyed, bordering on boredom. Add his (personally) pathetic, unrealistic motivation for revenge and the film is a dud. It’s a slog, even at 100 minutes, there are very few action sequences throughout it, and the humour almost always fall flat.

In my opening sentence I’d mentioned that humour is very subjective; subjectivity is the deciding factor of whether humans, as individual people, enjoy certain comedic films or not. I didn’t find most of the humour in this film funny or even interesting because it was mostly improvised. I’m not a fan of improvisational comedy in general, and I wasn’t a fan of it in this film. I find that it generally takes away from actually clever, humorous writings and that it confines situational comedy into one-liners that don’t propel the story forward. Such is the case with the humour in this film, and as a comedy I find that it majorly fails. Deadpool’s story is driven by jokes, and jokes don’t power stories. And the plot is already weak and unrealistic (even for a comic book adaptation), and I’m starting to repeat myself.

There are also very few action sequences in the film, as aforementioned briefly two paragraphs above, but let’s talk about clichés, instead. Besides being improvisational, the film’s style of comedic writing thrives on being self-aware. Not only is Deadpool aware that he’s a character in a film, but he addresses the audience on several occasions and comments on popular clichés and action/superhero film tropes before and after they appear. To me that’s always been a double edged sword because that affords the writers a one-time ticket to cram their script full of clichés. You can really only get away with it once. That’s why movies like Cabin in the Woods won’t have successful sequels. And at the end of the day, Deadpool has generic action set-pieces (only two, actually), and a final climactic battle that takes place outside of a warehouse/shipping yard/construction site (take your pick). And when the film’s production looks cheap, Deadpool simply jokes about the fact that they can’t afford something better, and poof! The audience laughs because the film is self-aware. Well, guess what? The film still looks cheap. Commenting on it won’t fix it, it’s simply a form of misdirection, and I find it to be dishonest. Some of the special effects also looked very cheap, most notably Colossus.

Deadpool is slightly different than Disney’s MCU films in a good way. But it’s still not much more than a different kind of cartoon. It’s definitely sillier, but it revels in being silly. DC films can learn a thing or two. And the marketing spews an R rating onto the audience, but it’s a very soft R. It’s barely violent, you see a strip club for 5 seconds, and every character in the film speaks like a teenager who’d just watched a Judd Apatow film for the first time. It’s infantile and it’s silly.

Did I like this film? Not really. Was it funny? Hardly ever. Was it entertaining? Not really. But I wasn’t bored, and that goes a long way. I really wanted to like this film because it’s nice to see murderous anti-heroes like Deadpool receive R rated film adaptations, but this film lacks what makes for a good action film, a good comedy, and a good comic book film adaptation. Better luck next time.

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