Friday, February 12, 2016

Movie Review: "Deadpool" (2016)

© 20th Century Fox

The era of hard-R comic book films (and TV) is upon us (fingers crossed that Warner Brothers lets Suicide Squad reach its full potential), and 2016's first foray is Tim Miller's surprisingly solid Valentine's Day weekend release, Deadpool. Marvel's popular joke-cracking, audience-aware anti-hero based on the comic of the same name sweeps into theaters with a little something for everyone—as long as you're unphased by sex and gore and dirty jokes. With my only knowledge of the Deadpool character coming from his narration of the 2013 LEGO Marvel Super Heroes game (which is to say, I had literally none), watching star Ryan Reynolds come into his own as the titular prankster made for hearty, laughter-filled good time.

Former Special Ops soldier, Wade Wilson (Reynolds) hasn't let his history of taking lives get him down. In fact, he's taken his skull-cracking skills to the streets, becoming a rogue faux-justice fighter for the little guy, scaring away stalkers and assholes and the like—for a fee, not out of the kindness of his heart. His happy peak is reached when he meets his female equivalent, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a prostitute with a potty mouth and a soft spot for his shenanigans. It's real love.

Things just aren't meant to work out for Wade, though, after he finds out he's got terminal cancer and is approached by a secret organization that can promise to cure him. With nothing left to lose, he walks out on Vanessa and, well... things once again don't quite work out. Tortured into a mutated state by the—sadly very forgetful—villain, Ajax (Ed Skrein), Wade must save himself by seeking revenge and finding a way to get back to his girl, now using the new moniker "Deadpool." All with a little help from his friends (cue Beatles track).

The comedy is not dry or subtle. There are no innuendos or double-entendres. Deadpool doesn't mince words. He's crude and explosive and gleefully filthy, and his fourth-wall breaking humor is as pointed as it is obvious. This was true when he was Wade, and it continued to be true as he unwillingly transformed into his mutant self. With cracks about the X-Men franchise and the general rules of filmmaking littering the script, there isn't much that you'd be thinking or criticizing that Deadpool doesn't take a quick moment to verbalize for you. Some might find that obnoxious, but I found it hilariously refreshing, and at times, insightful.

On the surface, Wade/Deadpool is just despicable. He doesn't listen, he's violent and unforgiving, and he's mean to the people he seems to care most about. But underneath all that, there is a subtle layer that I found compelling, one that hinted at a man who is resentful in his knowledge that he's just not meant to be happy. Instead of wallowing, though, he acts out, picks fights, and laughs at his, yours, my, everyone's expense. Mostly the X-Men, but everyone else, too. It's easy to miss all this, because director Tim Miller doesn't pay it much mind or seem to want to acknowledge that it's there, but I saw it, and it made me care about Wade and forgive him his wild indiscretions. Even root for him.

That brings me to the love story. Morena Baccarin as Wade's female counterpart, Vanessa—a woman who doesn't simply "put up with" her leading man and have nothing to contribute, like most superhero "girlfriends" in these films—is wonderful. She's literally his other half, without simply repeating his eccentricities. Despite a third the screen time, Vanessa is as well developed—and funny—as Wade Wilson. Yes, I think he's well-developed, too, despite the fart jokes. A romance this effective and touching was unexpected, to say the least, and while their romantic sequences were quick and full of nudity, it just worked, because their chemistry was there. So when he transforms into a monster, his ego becomes his enemy and the fear of her rejection is enough to push him into the bloody, frenzied revenge that makes up the majority of the film. As worthy a motivation as one could find in a Marvel flick.

T.J. Miller as Wade's best friend, Weasel, essentially plays himself, and the role was hardly a stretch for him. His comedy was dry where Wade's was sticky and harsh. The stale elements of the film came in the form of the X-Men themselves... or rather, the two that 20th Century Fox could afford (nudge-nudge-wink-wink). This is where the audience har-hared the most, but the jokes were the least clever. Like the mock-opening credits, it was not as funny as the audience's laughter might have led you to believe, but it was playful and gave Deadpool the necessary ammunition to comment directly on the genre—an undeniably important element of the comic. The self-aware, tongue-in-cheek (or rather, lack thereof) comedy isn't for everyone—normally, it's not really for me, either—but Reynolds slipped into the part so naturally, it was hard to not enjoy him and his attempts to lighten even the ugliest of situations.

Ryan Reynolds struck gold with this role. As an actor, he's seriously struggled to be in anything memorable, despite his looks and stellar comedic timing. This role is, for him, the hard-R version of Hugh Jackman's PG-13-limited Wolverine—it is a career defining turn, one that is bound to continue through the next decade of the Marvel franchises.

With superhero films becoming so predictably low-to-no-stakes, Deadpool shines in its rough and messy visual (and emotional) tone. It's also rough as a film overall, shallow in its scope and themes, but as a set-up for the character, it did splendidly. It risks overkill in all aspects, and managed to stay right at the edge this time around. Regardless of the constant desperate-for-a-laugh lines and situational comedy (I'm still chuckling about Wade's IKEA furniture fight with Blind Al), the film has a lot of heart. The danger is tangible, and even the handmade costume speaks to the "anti-gloss" nature of his story. Side by side with shiny and CGI'd Colossus, it's clear that Deadpool is quite literally the antithesis of the X-Men. That was welcome, indeed.

Rating: ★★★½ / 5 stars

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...