Directed by Tim Miller
Barraged 12 February 2016
Deadpool packs a lot of irreverence and violence, but the result is a little tiresome.
Why is the ultraviolent Deadpool being released on Valentine’s Day weekend? Because it’s a romantic comedy that is a 180-degree spin away from the arm-chewing nausea of a Nicholas Sparks romance.
Deadpool leaps right into parody mode with the opening credits, which feature nameless talents like A British Villain, A CGI Character, A Hot Chick and A Gratuitous Cameo. It’s a surprising, strong start, loaded with CGI wizardry and wit, but for all its pop culture smarts, Deadpool still misses some obvious targets.
For one, in terms of awareness, Deadpool isn’t quite in the ranks of household names like Batman, Spider-Man, Iron Man and Superman. Among all those men, how does Deadpool rank? Well, this relatively new character (Deadpool first appeared in New Mutants in 1990) has some mad skills cultivated during a career as a Special Forces operative. But this origin tale doesn’t go that far back in Wade’s history, to its own detriment.
The movie starts with Deadpool in the thick of his personal revenge mission to kill those who created his predicament (in that regard, he is not the relative peacenik that is Batman).
The predicament here is a curious one. Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds, who found less comic-book success with Green Lantern a few years ago) has 41 kills to his name. He’s a tough guy, one who also sports a biting wit. And at one point he falls madly in love with a woman named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, TV’s Gotham).
What’s the attraction? Well, she’s got some mad skills of her own and she’s hot as heck – and she knows how to talk about Star Wars characters. They hop in the sack and find unique ways to celebrate each of the holidays, oftentimes with food involved, kinda like 9½ Weeks.
Trouble is, after they fall madly, insanely in love with each other, Wade is diagnosed with cancer. Vanessa’s a fighter and wants to find ways for Wade to beat the disease. Instead, Wade disappears and moves in with an elderly blind black woman with a crack habit.
There’s a smidge more to it before Wade disappears.
By chance, at his favorite watering hole Wade meets a man who might be able to help him (as the bartender quips, their meeting might advance the plot). Turns out, this man carrying a black business card with nothing on it but a 555 phone number offers a potential cure for Wade. It’s one that would trade his cancer for superhero abilities. Not bad.
Wade takes the bait and, of course, things go horribly south. Hence the opening scene in which Deadpool exacts revenge on those who claimed to be his saviors.
That's all fine and dandy, but the problem is Deadpool doesn’t do enough to create a reason for non-true believers to care about this smart-mouthed angel of death. How about a little more character establishment, a little more about how awesome Wade Wilson was before he became Deadpool?
Well, no doubt there’s a smarty pants retort to that request.
As it stands, Deadpool is content to bash comic book conventions in the thick of a completely and utterly conventional plot. But without a real reason to care (granted, for many, the hilarity of the snappy repartee will wipe away what’s lacking), Deadpool rambles on to a rather lackluster climax involving a couple B-Team members of the X-Men.
Equally as hard as it is to totally embrace Deadpool (the movie and the character are, after all, abrasive by design), it’s also hard to completely give Deadpool the shaft.
The laughs come fast (and they’re sometimes pretty furious). There’s a classic scene in which Deadpool chases down a bloody baddie as he crawls across an ice rink. Deadpool? He’s behind the steering wheel of a Zamboni. It’s a bizarrely awesome sight gag.
As a movie experience, Deadpool feels like the cinematic purging of a lot of male aggression. And there’s certainly a welcome place for that.
But in some respects the pop-culture smarts were every bit as evident in Kick-Ass several years ago. And here, much like while watching Ted, the mass media winks and nudges grow a little stale. Rapid fire references to Fox’s Marvel franchise attempts (including a cute joke about James McAvoy and Patrick Stewart) are funny, sure, but grating after a while. There are jokes about Blade 2, Ryan Reynolds himself (on the cover of People magazine and starring in Green Lantern), 127 Hours, Wham!, Sinead O’Connor, Spin Doctors and so much more.
If only there was something more compelling to make Deadpool a truly innovative force. As it stands, Deadpool is a comic book movie primarily for fans of comic books. And Ted.
• Originally published at MovieHabit.com.