‘Deadpool’ Review: Can’t Keep a Good Merc Down

Posted in The Screening Room by - February 13, 2016

I’ll be brutally honest, here: I’ve been apprehensive about the idea of a full-fledged Deadpool movie for a while now. What with Fox’s earlier failings in what I will lovingly (hating-ly?) refer to simply as “The Movie Which Shall Not Be Named,” coupled with the mass appeal of the character from false pretenses in internet memes, things did not look good for the Regenerating Degenerate. Add to that the studio’s apprehension at the initial pitch and certain people’s opinions of the character’s handling (no, Leifeld, he can’t be PG-13. Ol’ ‘Pool ain’t the clown show you created anymore), and things really looked bleak for a true Marvel-Studios-Level adaptation.

Yet here we are, barely two months into 2016, and somehow it all worked out stunningly.

Deadpool stars Ryan Reynolds as Wade Wilson, an ex-special forces operative turned to petty mercenary who finds himself diagnosed with multiple terminal cancers soon after kicking off a romance with a reformed prostitute, Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin). As a last resort, Wade signs up for an experimental procedure that promises to cure his cancer and give him super-human abilities. Of course, it’s all a ruse, as a mutant experimenter who goes by the name Ajax (Ed Skrein) reveals that the experiment is meant to turn patients into powered slaves through extreme stress and torture.  Coming out of the procedure cancer-free but scarred and virtually unkillable, Wade takes up the mantle of Deadpool and starts a quest for revenge against Ajax, with X-Men representatives Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Stefan Kepicic and Brianna Hildebrand, respectively) in tow.

It’s a fairly straightforward revenge/return to love story, but that’s to the film’s advantage. Deadpool is just too weird as a central character to try and dump a more complex plot on top of his already outlandish style AND peculiar origin story. By keeping things simple, with few game-changing reveals or otherworldly baddies, Deadpool manages to keep itself focused and grounded enough to really highlight the protagonist’s sarcastic and self-referential humor.

At the same time, this light sprinkling of plot allows the hyper-violent action scenes, few though they may admittedly be, to really shine. The film opens on an extended version of the highway fight shown in the leaked test footage from a few years ago (I’m still not sold on the validity of which, for the record), so audiences are cued in right away to the tone and gratuity in store for the next hour and a half.

There’s a kinetic energy to every bit of action, jolted along by Reynolds’ impeccable comedic timing. Make no mistake, folks: those Facebook posts your geeky friends have been sharing around are not lying: this is NOT a comic movie for kids. We’re talking heads lopped off with full spurts of blood, shots through open bullet wounds in Wade’s arm, and, of course, a string of steamy-but-still-hilarious sexual encounters between our leads (and might I say, Mr. Reynolds is in top shape. Ladies…).

But it’s not all laughs and punctured lungs. No, no, no; as much as Deadpool shines for its witty writing and near awe-inspiring violence, it’s also a supremely well-cast affair. The villain is a dastardly yet steel-nerved adversary for our fast-talking lead, and his partner, Angel Dust (Gina Carano) is equal parts brawling badass and daunting persona. Heck, she even gets a quick joking moment of her own without breaking character AND remains a staple villainess throughout the affair (unlike a certain silver-armored baddie from last year).

Even Deadpool’s supporting cast hold their own throughout the film. Colossus may be a bit sillier than his previous incarnations, but he does so while being as much of a straight man and emotional center as the film seems willing to allow. Wade’s partner-in-crime Weasel (T.J. Miller) keeps on the same witty and edgy level as the hero, despite his departure from his inked origins. Deadpool’s roommate, Blind Al (Leslie Uggams) is perfectly cast, though her screen time is all too short for her fantastic performances. Hell, even Baccarin holds her own against Reynolds, proving that, although she may not be the same level of murderous badass, she can still talk shit and sling one-liners with the best of them; plus, it’s just a treat to see her so envelop a role so entirely as she did back in the Firefly days.

If anyone gets the short end of the stick here, it’s really Hildebrand as Negasonic Teenage Warhead. Sure, she’s a HIGHLY unknown character with no basis in any other X-Men film property to date, but she’s a fantastic actress given a role with potential and awesome powers. It’s a shame we only start to see her character blossom just before the final fight, where she shows a few little jumps out of the “brooding emo girl” they’ve typecast her as. That’s not to say that she or any of her scenes are bad – but, man, I really could have used some more from her! I’ll hold out hope that there are some bonus scenes from the cutting room floor that let her break out of her shell more than she does in the theatrical release.

I want to take a moment to highlight a personal joy of mine from the film –the handling of Deadpool’s style of comedy. As we’ve seen from previous attempts to bring the character to life in the non-written media, it’s difficult to really nail the humor of the “Merc with a Mouth.” The internet took to him so passionately in the late-2000s that his jokes were quickly boiled down to a few crude niches. Take a quick browse of mass-marketed Deadpool merchandise and fan creations, and you see they come down to Mexican food, sex jokes, and brazen, sophomoric humor.

Sure, some of it got things a little more right, but the general populace seemed to take even the good things, like his fourth-wall breaking, and push it way too far. For a while, the best we could get was booby-ridden silliness like 2013’s Deadpool video game, while the worst… well, go browse through some of the old Hot Topic and Deviantart offerings and see for yourself. Admittedly, it’s a hard style of comedy to ape, so I don’t fault people for taking the easy route – but it’s just SO refreshing to see the movie actually take its time.

Yes, there are a handful of sex jokes and other low-brow bits of humor, but we also get some tasteful references without feeling forced (… most of them), delusions of grandeur, simple-yet-effective asides, and visual gags. The Deadpool movie knows that the character is closer to a living Looney Toon than an Adam Sandler schlockfest, and it rides that comedy through almost flawlessly.

Still, this first outing isn’t a flawless movie. Not every joke lands, and it suffers a bit from not really having a serious sidekick for Deadpool to play off of. Colossus does his best, sure, but he still has some more playful bits with Negasonic and Angel, and even his dealings with the protagonist can be a bit humorous (not solely at his expense, either). Also, I feel the movie leans a little too heavily on the romantic threads, especially near the end.

I was surprised to find that Vanessa was actually a part of the comics’ canon in a similar vein to her portrayal here, but I still find using her as a through-line neared on being a crutch for the film. And as much as I like a good rom-com (and, trust me, I REALLY do), there’s a time and a place for those stories – and I’m not sold that Deadpool is one of those. Yet these issues, much like the changes to the Weasel/’Pool characterization and relationship, are really just nitpicks to what is otherwise a highly entertaining action movie.

Deadpool is one of those movies that prove it’s good to be proven wrong. It had so many ways to go wrong, so many ways it could have just imploded on itself, but through the sheer unbridled passion of all those involved, it stands as a fantastic little flick. It’s honestly refreshing to see an R-rated comic adaptation with some joy in it, harking back to the bloodbath days of the Blade series. With fantastic fight scenes, a hilarious script, actors who clearly love what they’re doing, and a kick-ass soundtrack, to boot, one that even highlights a bit of fan-made Nerdcore in the use of Teamheadkick’s “Deadpool Rap”, Deadpool really is a fanboy’s dream.

Final Verdict: Watch It.

Go.

Now.

For Realsies.

This post was written by

He is a Nebraska native and UNL Honors alum with an ever-relevant degree in English. When he isn’t working his day job or writing for Kulture Shocked, Ben spends his time as an independent game designer, seeking to publish his first board game. You can also find him modeling for art classes around Lincoln or online as Dlark17 on most major gaming platforms.

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