Tuesday, May 10, 2016

"Deadpool": Fox's X-Men Spin-Off is a Winner

Now Available on DVD and Blu-ray

Sometimes it happens that I don’t see a big tentpole film right when it comes out in theaters, even if it is apparently good and pretty much everyone else I know has told me to go out and see the damn thing.  Deadpool is one of those films.  I like the character just fine, but I’m just not enough of a fan to want to go out and see the film on day one, and due to the film’s success I knew that I would see it eventually.  I definitely wasn’t going to change anyone’s mind with my opinion, but after having finally now seen the movie, I don’t think I have to.  Deadpool is good.  Not amazing.  Not groundbreaking.  Just a lot of fun.

I think the smartest thing about Deadpool is that it understands that its title character works well in digestible chunks.  For the uninitiated, Deadpool’s entire shtick is that he is the ultraviolent Bugs Bunny of the Marvel universe; he cracks wise and kicks ass with wild acrobatics and occasionally breaks the fourth wall by commenting on how absurd comic book antics actually are.  It’s a fun gag, but it would definitely get old if the film didn’t go out of its way to give humanity to Deadpool beyond his swordplay and juvenile humor.

Told in flashbacks that intercut the film’s first big action setpiece, we see Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) before and during his transformation into Deadpool, how he changes from a wisecracking mercenary to a rapidly healing mutant under the ministrations of a scientist claiming to altruistically cure his cancer.  The powerlessness-to-torture-to-revenge arc has been seen before in quite a few films, superhero or otherwise, but the film’s adherence to convention seems to primarily play into the need to tell jokes and to let the actors do their thing.  The crux of Wade’s relatability lies in his relationship with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), and the two have a definite chemistry that could easily make one forget that this is primarily a bloody action flick.

And bloody is the operative word here, because this is definitely not a kid’s superhero film, even if the prime audience for it is probably teenagers looking to feel more adult by laughing at the bloodsport and sexual innuendo.  The jokes are almost uniformly funny, and the violence, though discernably low budget (for a superhero film), is creative and often absurdly hilarious in its own right.  This works mainly because Deadpool has two comedic foils on loan from the X-Men as he dismembers bad guys: Colossus, who acts as a moralistic big brother who inexplicably tries to convince Deadpool that he can still be a good guy; and Negasonic Teenage Warhead, a representative of the film’s teenage demographic that ironically isn’t amused with his antics.  Deadpool snarking in a vacuum would likely have become obnoxious, but when he’s bouncing off these two broad antitheses to everything he stands for, their reactions are perhaps the biggest reason why the jokes land at all.

If you can’t tell, I had a lot of fun with Deadpool, and that’s obviously entirely by design.  It isn’t a groundbreaking origin movie or even a terribly novel concept, since R-rated action comedies aren’t exactly new, but it knows what it’s trying to do and does it well.  Smart scripting and some great performances sustain a movie that could otherwise have been dead on arrival.  I may not be an especially big fan of the merc with the mouth, but I do look forward to seeing if Fox can maintain this momentum with the inevitable sequel.

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