lördag 13 februari 2016

Hot Off The Presses: Deadpool (2016) Review

So, I just got back from the theatre. While I prefer to do more in-depth reviews and reflect on a film for some time before reviewing it, I thought it would be fun to share my initial thoughts on this particular film. Why? Well, this is a film that demands to be talked about. Not because it's ground-breaking, which it isn't, but because it is, in my opinion, extremely well-made. And fun. It's really fun. Because I sincerely think you should see it, this review will be spoiler-free.

Deadpool (Tim Miller, 2016) is a black comedy-superhero-action film about Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds), a former special ops operative, now a thug for hire, who is subjected to horrible experiments, giving him superpowers but deforming him in the process. He becomes the masked vigilante Deadpool and embarks on a quest for revenge and to get his girl back.

As you can see from the trailer, there is more to this film than the basic story. The film is based on the Marvel Comics character of the same name and is set in the same universe as the X-Men film series. While I haven't read any Deadpool comics myself, I do have an idea of who the character is. Known as the "Merc with a mouth", he is an insane, witty antihero mercenary with a tendency to break the fourth wall. In other words, he is aware that he is a comic book character.

How does this character then translate into film? I'm going to break this review down into three parts, each focusing on how the film works as comedy, superhero and action film separately, before finishing with some concluding thoughts.

You will laugh. The film is constantly throwing jokes, of varying quality, at you and you will laugh throughout most of it. Some jokes are vulgar, some are childish, some will be completely lost on you if you aren't up to date on pop culture trivia. Some are clever and set up and executed extremely well. These, along with how much fun Ryan Reynolds seems to have portraying the character, will help you cope with jokes of lesser quality. If you see the film with subtitles, you'll also laugh at the feeble attempts of the translators to interpret Deadpool's inventive insults to a non-english speaking audience. However, one thing that bothered me a bit is that the film is riddled with pop culture references. Some, especially those related to other superhero films, are brilliant, but a lot of them just makes you think of Family Guy (1999-).

Anyone familiar with Ryan Reynolds body of work knows that he is a great comedic actor, which is incredibly important in this film. Deadpool is not only the film's protagonist and narrator, he is the focus of nearly every scene. And Reynolds definitely does a good job. He is, however, not the only funny actor in the film. Morena Baccarin, of Firefly (2002) fame, who plays the love interest Vanessa and T. J. Miller, who plays Deadpool's best friend Weasel, both get funny lines and scenes. However, they do come up short compared to Reynolds.

Superhero film
Is Deadpool even a superhero film? Deadpool is an antihero, who in the film explicitly rejects the superhero label. He also doesn't save the world, as is typically the case in superhero films. He does however have a villain to defeat and an underdeveloped love interest to save. He also seems to be aware that he is in a superhero film. This type of fourth wall-breaking self-awareness is, as far as I understand, very typical of his comic book counterpart and, as mentioned above, it does open up a lot of comedic possibilities. In one scene, he visits Charles Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters and comments on that it is almost empty because the producers couldn't afford to have more than two X-Men in the film. He also makes fun of other superhero films, particularly X-Men Origins: Wolverine (Gavin Hood, 2009), where Reynolds portrayed a much-hated version of Deadpool.

Is Deadpool then a subversion or a parody of the superhero film genre? I wouldn't go that far. To call it a subversion would be to ignore how much it borrows from other superhero films in terms of plot structure and scenes. There is, for example, a scene where a deformed pre-Deadpool Wade Wilson walks down the street with a hoodie, trying to hide his deformed face, reminiscent of a scene with Ben Grimm/The Thing (Michael Chiklis) from Fantastic Four (Tim Story, 2005). To call it a parody would be insulting. The best comparison I can make is to Edgar Wright's "Cornetto trilogy" - Shaun of the Dead (2004), Hot Fuzz (2007) and The World's End (2013) - which are not really parodies of zombie, action and science fiction films, but are comedies set in those kinds of genre film universes. This is probably the best way to view Deadpool.

Why do we watch action films? To get excited, get our blood pumping and just say "whoa" at how magnificent fights, car chases, and destruction of property can be. And Deadpool delivers. Its action scenes are well-made, albeit not particularly innovative, and the fight choreography is brilliant. Deadpool fight with guns, swords and martial arts and does some very impressive jumps and flips.

There is, however, another important part of any action film that is arguably missing in Deadpool: the sense of danger. This is for a number of reasons. Firstly, Deadpool's skills and superpowers make him almost indestructible and we never really fear for his life. Contrary to this, one could argue that the film still has high stakes. Deadpool has to save his love interest and defeat the villain, who is a very threatening character. Ed Skrein gives a quite scary performance when his character is the one in control of the situation.

Secondly, the film is sometimes a bit too self-aware and breaks the cinematic illusion, which reminds us that we are indeed watching a film. Some action scenes even stop for a second for Deadpool to deliver a one-liner. This was something that I was worried about early in the film - how can we empathise with a character that doesn't appear to take anything seriously? While this was a bit of problem throughout the film, there are scenes that show us that there is a real person behind the red mask and the jokes.

Concluding thoughts
Deadpool is, despite the problems mentioned above, a really good film. It somehow manages to be both dark and light-hearted at the same time - don't ask me how. If you're a fan of superhero films, you should go see it now.

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