With the recent release of Deadpool on DVD I finally got the chance to watch it, gosh that Deadpool was good wasn’t it! Finally I get the chance to show that I’m not a boring sod, and can enjoy a superhero comic book film just like anyone else. The only issue I’ve had with movies of this ilk in the past is that they just haven’t been very good, that’s all, it doesn’t take that much for me to like a film, honest. A film needs to accomplish the task of being an entertaining but well told movie, before it’s given the chance to deal with other priorities, such as being a faithful adaptation of the source material.
It comes with great elation that Deadpool – much like its comic book – shakes the genre up by rejecting a lot of common conventions that I feel the genre has tumbled into. Enough with the extremely earnest over-plotting of several silly characters having a big punch up over magic, world ending mcguffins. Keeping things simple and fun while being subversively clever in the unique ways that the Deadpool character allows gives a fresh take on the superhero film.
Why stop at the conventions of comic book films, the film demonstrates that a large portion of the audience this material attracts are fully grown adults who want their interests catered to, and Deadpool caters to those interests at the price of $778,617,348 at the box-office. It’s shaking up Hollywood’s perception of what kind of movies can make exuberant amounts of money at the box office. While I would like to be optimistic that we’ll start to see more movies that target an audience hungry for gore and violence of the kind that was massively popular in the ‘80s. It’s more likely that the success of Deadpool comes down to it being a comic book movie and they’re always making bank these days, or is it?
If you’re like me and you avoided going to see Deadpool, lets fill in on what it’s all about. Like many first entries in a superhero franchise this is an origin story for Deadpool. To sum it up quickly, Wade Wilson is diagnosed with untreatable cancer, subjecting himself to illegal treatment by a shadowy organisation to cure himself. The operation leaves him horribly disfigured, but mutated with healing abilities transforming him into Deadpool. He also becomes a prisoner of Ajax who leads the operation, but he escapes and goes after Ajax to treat his disfigurement.
But really, the actual story is not what makes it a great film. As you may already know, what’s unique about the film and to the character of Deadpool is that he directly speaks to the audience. I don’t mean that the film delivers its exposition through narration though it does plenty of that. I mean that Deadpool spends much of the running time winking straight at the camera, talking to us, it’s really easy to see that this could be some throwaway gimmick employed by the filmmakers, but it isn’t. They follow through with the premise that Deadpool actively participates in the narrative and quips about the narrative as a spectator alongside us, at the same time!
Breaking the fourth wall has been done before and isn’t unique to this movie. Some of the best films ever made have done it and perhaps way better than Deadpool such as Amélie, Annie Hall, Fight Club or American Psycho. However it is unique to the comic book movie genre and is faithful to the original comic book where Deadpool is self aware of the fact that he is a character in a comic book. This is the element that manages to separate Deadpool from the flock of intertwining superhero blockbuster movies. To be honest it isn’t so much a superhero movie, as it is a superhero spoof, a parody that cleverly mocks the convoluted plot lines, the over-earnest seriousness of those plots, by simply being really fun, and swear-y, and bloody. There are even scenes that get very meta, for example Deadpool seems to be calling out the studio execs for the actual film for not investing enough money to include more than two member of the X-Men. While we won’t know for sure if the film executives did in fact hold back on investing in the film, and this could be an entirely fabricated joke, but the gag still hits home right back at the cynical movie establishment – which I approve of.
More importantly, the film didn’t forget that it had to be a really well done, fun action movie. Despite its $60 million dollar budget (which is meagre for a blockbuster film nowadays), the filmmakers made great implementation of computer generated effects that complement and accentuate the live action shots. Sure for the most explosive and cartoonish scenes, there are next to no live action elements, but you can still see where they manage to sneakily composite some real elements. Say for example the shot of the guy being dragged along the road after being knocked out from the passenger seat of a car, they simply shot the guy against a green screen as he’s being dragged along a treadmill. From large effects like how they created the Colossus character (which they utterly nailed in look and physical, audible performance), to the subtle effects of Deadpool’s eyes in costume, which they couldn’t do physically, unless they did some crazy Jim Henson, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles style makeup effects, which I would love but maybe Reynolds not so much. In terms of special effects, Deadpool is deftly executed; the filmmakers should be commended for their seamless work on this front.
Not everything about Deadpool is perfect however, whenever people talk about how great a film is they insist that movies need to have nuanced, multi-faceted characters, and a deep narrative running through it. Indeed the story is paramount in film, and including a lot of depth can help to invest the audience, but all films have an individual approach to telling narrative that doesn’t necessarily need to be over complicated. Deadpool does a lot right as a comedy and an action film, but it also insists on making Deadpool a relatable character, which wasn’t entirely necessary.
The problem stems from Deadpool having a love interest that has more to do with the plot than is needed, now Morena Baccarin’s character Vanessa isn’t horribly clichéd and is in fact a respectably fearless and confident person. So she’s hardly a defenceless idiot, but she does end up being reduced to a love interest and a princess who needs saving. But the worst thing about her character is that she acts as a plot complication that moves the story forward. It isn’t enough for Wade Wilson to be diagnosed with cancer and want to participate in a program that might cure him, no Vanessa is the reason he takes part in it because he’s happy to die, but not if it hurts the people who love him. It’s not enough that Deadpool wants to pursue Ajax to cure his disfigurement, Ajax has to find and kidnap Vanessa so that Deadpool must go after him to rescue her. Yes, yes, a film needs to have stakes but I would argue that Wade Wilson wanting to be cured is fine for the first part, then just make up something about Ajax’s nefarious experiments that would endanger people or even mutant kind, if you must. Personally I’m fine with Deadpool being an arse, but Ajax is even worse, so let’s watch Deadpool kick his arse instead, all the characterization you need.
I want to clarify that there’s nothing wrong with Vanessa as a character, I just feel she’s utilised in an unnecessary way. Deadpool has enough motivation to carry the plot forward. The elements that attempt to make Deadpool more human and relatable end up disrupting a lot of the fun I was having with the character, I loved the quipping, the action, his deplorable nature. These traits set him apart from the other superhero movies, being a horrible, selfish mercenary wouldn’t get in the way of the audience engaging in and being entertained by him. I couldn’t help but feel like the film didn’t go far enough as a spoof of the comic book movie genre, it’s a hilarious movie that could have been funnier, never letting up the jokes. Maybe the filmmakers were pressured into putting in a love interest by the studio, to be more relatable as they didn’t think the film would work otherwise. I feel this was misjudged and her character should have been a memorable side character alongside T.J. Miller as he has a memorable supporting role. Why not combine Vanessa’s character with Negasonic Teenage Warhead (the one that’s not Colossus)? Filmmaking is about being economic with the storytelling as much as it’s about being inventive with how to execute complicated special effects.
Anyways those are my thoughts on Deadpool. I can’t stress how good it feels to watch a comic book movie and not be either bored or indifferent towards it. Gives me high hopes for the sequel, but let’s remain pessimistic until we have concrete evidence they’ve learned something from the making of this film, and do something off the wall and different. If you’ve been putting off watching Deadpool because you got sick of watching big budget comic book movies and want something that’s a little different, definitely check out Deadpool.