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Director: Tim Miller
Writers: Rhett Reese, Paul Wernick
Stars: Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, T.J. Miller
Ryan Reynolds is Deadpool, and I mean that with all the inflection the italics can muster. Every sarcastic word, every gratuitous gesture, and every offensive remark is made sublime because of how absolutely on-target Reynolds is in bringing this latest (and best) iteration of the mutated hero to the screen, one he played before for the same X-Men franchise in X-Men Origins: Wolverine (2009) but in a totally different way. His ironic tone, his tortured, vicious wit, his irreverence, and his take-no-prisoners, have no mercy sense of humor is delivered with acerbic glee and it works supremely well (seemingly channeling Jim Carrey in The Mask). For the most part. It’s the world he lives in and the things he must do that spoils everything else.
Wade Wilson (Reynolds) is an ex-mercenary, a tough as nails former Special Forces operative who meets and falls in love with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), enjoying the kind of sexual/emotional relationship that only a film in today’s market could make sense of, full of shock and awe, with that awe more in line with sadness than surprise when they learn that Wade is riddled with incurable cancer. There’s a wonderfully restrained and sentimental moment when that is being disclosed to them when Wade’s senses fade to only his eyes, watching the woman he loves accept this new challenge, hinting at something deeper the film steadfastly lets go as soon as it takes hold.
Wade is approached by a super secret agency that offers him the chance to try a highly experimental test that might save his life, and though he at first refuses, eventually relents, deciding to leave Vanessa, thinking it will save her more torment now than in the future and heads to the laboratory where he learns about the Weapon X program (the same used on Wolverine) but lied to and is repeatedly tortured by Ajax (Ed Skrien) who has plans of his own for a mutated man. During the process, Wade is horribly disfigured but imbued with healing and regenerative powers and super human strength. He is left for dead by Ajax when the building is set on fire and crumbles around him. This sets up the revenge tale that kicks off this origin story, eventually involving Colossus (motion captured by Stefan Kapicic) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) of the X-Men.
Directed by Tim Miller, the story is told in flashbacks and we skip from present to past and back throughout with Deadpool offering a running stream of narration and quips that are at times funny, especially in the early sequences, but run dry fast. The self-referential script which is not just sprinkled but layered in pop-culture (often dated) references and nods to the universe Deadpool himself is a part of never truly hit like is should, feeling more like Shrek 2 than its inspired original. Pushing the boundaries means more than just being naughty, and much more than mocking the film genre and world the character exists, especially when it’s wrapped in a story that is full of the very cliches being made fun of. Instead of sharp and inventive, it is often thin and generic. Worse, when it’s over, there is no joy in the experience, other than the fun of watching Reynolds, who seems willing to make this what is should have been.
First time director Miller handles the action mostly well, using a number of slow-motion and other familiar tricks to good advantage, giving Deadpool the opportunity to break the fourth wall (maybe a little too often). There is nothing memorable about the style, but it succeeds as it should with superhero bodies flying about the fight scenes, smashing into things with all the destruction we’ve come to expect. Colossus and Warhead are wasted though, with Warhead especially a tiresome character that does little but look bored. That may be her ‘thing’ but it only makes her uninteresting. Baccarin is fun in her limited role and is a perfect match for Reynolds, and I liked T. J. Miller as Weasel, Deadpool’s friend.
The best parts of Deadpool, aside from Reynolds, is the scale. A decidedly smaller film than many of the more recent Marvel movies, like Ant-Man, it is personal and kept local. This feels fresh, less crowded and more easy to follow. Jumping on the Guardians of the Galaxy train by filling the soundtrack with an eclectic mix of 70s and 80s tunes is a bit stale and forced though, but forgivable, somehow coming across like the right choices. The film has earned an R rating for it’s adult content and language, but interestingly still feels tame, as if it didn’t go far enough. Despite the raunchy jokes and silly violence, it all feels safe and middle of the road. It’s goofy fun, and maybe that’s all it wants to be, but for such a dynamic personality the film and Reynolds creates, I wish it had been more.