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Review: Deadpool

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I have a heavy heart. I broke my own rules, and left my LONG AS HELL review of Deadpool (among 5 other films being reviewed at the time) in my browser only to lose them to an unplanned reboot. Thus, all my thoughts, as well as my researched tidbits, are gone gone gone. That said, I think the media has done a good job of carpet bombing the mainstream reader with factoids and takeaways from this film, almost more so about what comes next than what happened in the cut. Will we see a glut of R-Rated, 4th wall supers films banally copying Deadpool but missing the reason why it was so successful? (YES) Will we have a prequel? (YES) and were there awesome deleted scenes (YES)…

All you really need to know is that this was, in my opinion, a successful film specifically because it was it’s own animal. It had a pure vision, from the script by Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick to the fearless commitment of neophyte director Tim Miller. It had an actor so completely perfect for the part and so committed to the production and marketing of the film that it felt, going in, like a labor of love that the cast and crew shared, and that the suits allowed somehow to slip through, almost like those grindhouse ‘the unrated horror they don’t want you to see!’ projects. The backstory of the film’s birth was legendary even before it was released (a script languishing, a proof of concept short leaked to the public by the production crew and/or actor involved, and early and often statements from all parties that this was going to knock some bloody socks off some bloody decapitated legs. And finally, this is the new standard for viral marketing: the ever-changing 4th wall billboards, the curious cross-marketing across other campaigns, the seemingly irreverent way the character thumbed its nose at the film it was promoting… everything about it. Now, all this led to a record for first weekend R-rating sales, and at the time of this writing, Deadpool is the highest grossing X-Men film ever… two weeks in.

I thought, when I saw it, that perhaps the viral marketing would get butts in seats beyond the rabid genre fanbase (as I saw it in advance and didn’t know what the weekend would bring) and after that weekend had passed, I wondered if the sales were largely due to that same brilliant marketing, such that the second weekend totals would drop off a cliff. And they didn’t. That an R-rated, profane, seriously post-modern, 4th wall superhero film would do this well in a general audiences environment is stunning. We’ve seen genre pictures somehow hit the zeitgeist and kill it at the box office before (Avatar, Transformers, Jurassic World) but at the expense of critical reviews… films like Avatar, for example, became perpetual motion machines… bringing people in weekend after weekend for repeat viewings, much like Titanic before it, due to the spectacle, the social nature of it, the rush of enthusiasm for an ‘event… but over time, films like this have not made a lasting impression regarding quality or impact. Other films that did far less well at the box office were similar to Deadpool in that they were immediately copied, soullessly, by a host of other projects that missed what made the original compelling: witness Pulp Fiction, Bourne Identity, and Guardians of the Galaxy (not a good example of a poor performer, admittedly) and their host of clones to follow. What we have here, though, is that magic film that manages to be different, to break conventions, to appeal to a wide variety of mainstream viewers seemingly impossibly, and with staying power.

But is it good? Is it GREAT?

Not really. I mean, I loved it. I REALLY enjoyed myself, despite my preconceived notions dueling each other (I strongly dislike the character and their place in comics history as a symbol of the decline of storytelling in the 90s; on the other hand, I strongly favored a mature-audiences irreverent supers film and wanted it to succeed) and can’t wait to see it again at home. But it wasn’t a brilliant script that blew me away with class and twists. It was what it wanted to be, and was wisely very simple in its structure: introduce Deadpool, show his origin as a flashback, watch his revenge play out, end credits, Ferris Bueller stingers. As some have noted once the novelty wore off, the script had Deadpool hurling jokes at such a clip that it was like an area affect weapon… if a few landed, it did its job. But really, not every film has to be a legendary piece of celluloid. I love so-so films that push all of my buttons. I will never tire of worshipping Michael Mann’s HEAT, and that was no thespian exercise, despite its strengths. Lung adores Hudson Hawk, but he’s on blueberries all the time. Who knows? What I CAN say is that you’ll either love it or hate it, and I don’t think there’s a medium setting. I recently listened to a close friend just rake Force Awakens over the coals… and largely from the perspective of being frustrated by missed opportunities. I can appreciate that sentiment, though I didn’t share it on that film. But one thing I don’t hear from people that saw Deadpool is that it didn’t live up to its potential. It exceeded it.

I didn’t realize some of the pedigree going in. These are the writers that once brought us Zombieland, my favorite horror-ish film ever. Tim Miller had extensive experience in FX work, and did some awesome animatronics and visual shorts we’ve featured here but were unaware of the source talent. But while we’ve subsequently heard about how the project was once lowered to PG-13 to increase studio interest, how this and that character was cut and how it had two major action sequences cut, etc the final version is immensely satisfying, and feels like it came from a unified vision, much the way certain singular directors ‘own’ the vision for their films in history, even though they owe them, in many cases, to the script or the cinematographer. This felt like Tim Miller just squatted in an office at Fox and said ‘make it, this way, and I’ll leave.’

Ryan Reynolds owns this film, as you can obviously tell from all the marketing. The actor is intensely proud of it, and its personal for him, not just because he’s played other supers that failed due to a lack of vision or well-structured execution (Green Lantern, Deadpool in Wolverine, both parodied in this film) but in the way certain actors have developed an ownership over a character or project so much so that you can’t separate them from it. Schwarzenegger is a great example: sure, Bond actors have become synonymous with their roles, and you can’t have Austin Powers without Mike Myers… but this is an example where the actor doesn’t just seem to claim the character out of ego, desperation, or financial interest, but because they invested themselves in it completely. He IS Wade Wilson. I really enjoyed Brianna Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead, a composite of several X-Men who stole all of her scenes. TJ Miller and Monica Baccarin were known quantities that were as you expected them to be (and I really like them both)… and the rest of the small cast was EH, but that was just fine. Colossus was easily, EASILY, the best the character has been presented on screen, a fusion of three different actors (mocap body, mocap face, and dialog) and finally felt true to the potential for him: from the moral histrionics to the patience to the slowness of his movement and apparent weight. I loved it.

The 4th wall stuff was really interesting. it went well beyond the character talking to the audience, which he clearly does, and often. It was also a perfect companion to the silly lunacy of the Deadpool’s actions and mannerisms. Think about his banter while killing bad guys, or swinging his feet and studying his crayon sketch of Stuart… his love of hello Kitty… all this stuff that sort of works in a comic specifically written to be witty and comical, but JUST SHOULD NOT WORK ON FILM. Yet it does, when combined with Deadpool talking to you, and talking about how random and irrational his behavior is, or how random and irrational the MOVIE is. The project makes many references to Reynolds’ career: his hearthrob status, his terrible prior roles, the status of X-Men films and the studios that make them, both Wolverine and Hugh Jackman, and so on. It’s a lot like reading a comic while following the creators’ annotations in the margins. Yet it doesn’t pull you out of the film. Somehow you become MORE invested. I also enjoyed all the nods to things that they couldn’t directly reference: the final battle on a scuttled Helicarrier, as an example, or the use of HYDRA Bob. And something else struck me about the way Deadpool was portrayed: so much talk in the last week has been about how the studios will clearly ape the project on a superficial level.. but what struck me was that this was the, finally, successful application of the sarcastic, maddening jokester concept that I’ve always begrudged in Spider-Man, especially on film. I thought the way Andrew Garfield carried his Spidey with confidence and swagger allowed him to pull off that sort of dialog better than others… but Deadpool was the first time mocking the bad guys while killing them actually WORKED.

I guess what surprised me most, in the days after I saw it, was that it was doing so well not only with STANDARD NERDS like myself, but with mainstream audiences. We sat with a woman and her teenage daughter, and they were both laughing. And yet, here I was, perfect example: a comic dork, yes, but one that hates Deadpool, hates that kind of comic project, and yet came out of the theater exhausted from laughing so hard. I wasn’t just amused. I was FIRED UP. So, in that sense, I guess I get it.

Anyway, you can listen to our even longer discussion about the film on the Robot-Kraken podcast, here:

http://robot-kraken.com/robot-kraken-ep … s-r-rated/

Your mileage may vary, but I sure as hell am happy Deadpool exists… despite my own self. I should note, I saw it as a free pre-screening at the Alamo Drafthouse, which meant that I didn’t get to put my money down to support the film directly, but I certainly DID burn through a lot of food and drinks, which indirectly helps… and also assisted with my enjoyment, certainly.


_________________
Chief of Ninja Group
SUPEESU. MADDONISSU.

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