Friday, March 18, 2016

Local Girl Doesn’t “Get” Deadpool, Can’t Understand Fuss

Ryan Reynolds as Deadpool in Deadpool.

This is it. This is the moment where people are going to read something I wrote and tell themselves that I dislike the thing they love because I just don’t understand. “She just doesn’t get it,” they’ll say, “she’s a girl/doesn’t read comics/probably drinks pumpkin spice lattes; Deadpool goes over her head.”

While that characterization isn’t totally accurate, it’s also not entirely wrong. I don’t get Deadpool. I’m putting it out there and I’m not taking it back. I’ve never read a Deadpool comic and I had no idea what he was about until I started researching for this piece. All I know is that my nerdiest male friends were raving about this movie and I had to see it. My critical opinion is that… it was alright, I guess.

What I can say for Deadpool is that it’s one of the most genre-breaking, self-referential films I’ve seen in a long while. I would almost call it “post-modern,” if we weren’t collectively over calling things post-modern by now (we are, aren’t we?). From the opening credits, where the producers are credited as nameless “Asshats,” to the after-credits scene (yes, there is one) where Deadpool addresses the audience with a completely unnecessary Ferris Bueller-inspired bathrobe over his red-and-black costume, Deadpool doesn’t waste any time trying to take itself seriously as a superhero movie. This is classic Deadpool: the comics inspiring the movie are known for shattering the fourth wall and allowing the character to reach beyond the limitations of his medium, sidestepping pesky obstacles in storylines by, say, reading an enemy’s comic book to learn everything about him. Deadpool knows it’s a superhero movie. It plays with this idea and, while I have my reservations about the film, its adherence to its source material is fun, inventive, engaging, and translates very well.

I have to credit Deadpool for making it to theatres at all. After 2009’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine took a bafflingly bad stab at bringing the character of Deadpool to the big screen, both fans and portraying actor Ryan Reynolds wanted a do-over. Origins’s take on Deadpool was initially decent: Reynolds’s pre-mutated, motor-mouthed Wade Wilson (Deadpool’s alter ego) was promising, but his eventual degeneration into a mystifying naked, mouthless, scar monster with katanas in his arms by the end of the film was horrific to longtime fans. In the spirit of retcon-happy Deadpool stories since time immemorial (1991, to be exact), Tim Miller’s Deadpool threw out the bad Origins storyline and started fresh, but not without a fight. Historically, Deadpool is a pansexual, crude, wise-cracking, meta tornado of insanity; it was important to the team behind the film that his personality stay intact. Despite pressure to make the movie PG-13 to appeal to a wider audience (and make more money), Deadpool had to be R-rated to be worth making at all. In exchange for a substantial cut to the movie’s budget, the makers of Deadpool got their wish and the film now appears in theatres (except for China, where it is banned) in all its R-rated, curse-laden glory.

Ryan Reynolds and Morena Baccarin in Deadpool.

The quality of the performances in Deadpool range. Ryan Reynolds is brilliant in the title role. His previous attempts at playing superhero roles never seemed to work. He was never really believable in roles like 2011’s Green Lantern. He seemed too smart to be a straightforward poster boy for justice; something about it registered as dishonest. Deadpool is an entirely different story. Finally, it seems, Reynolds has found the “superhero” that fits him like a glove. His Wade Wilson is both disgusting and charming, incredible and also unapologetically fucked up. He says mean things to his friends, he jerks off with a stuffed unicorn and yet Reynolds makes him loveable, relatable, and even believable as a (sort of) romantic lead. Reynolds is Deadpool. However, Deadpool is also, at some points, impossibly annoying. Casting Reynolds was a brilliant move; watching anyone less attractive or captivating deliver Deadpool’s endless wisecracks would be insufferable.

The supporting cast is another story. Morena Baccarin as Wade’s beloved hooker-turned-girlfriend Vanessa holds her own against Reynolds’s mania. She plays an equally messed up character with aplomb and charm. Baccarin and Reynolds have incredible chemistry and collaborate to create one of the most endearing, believable, and not lame couples I’ve seen on screen in a long time. T.J. Miller as Wade’s “bestie” Weasel was subtly hilarious and as close as Deadpool gets to a straight man character. Leslie Uggams as Wade’s elderly blind roommate, Blind Al, might have been my favourite. Her comedic timing is excellent and I loved every scene she was in. Less engaging were Ed Skrein as British bad guy Francis and Gina Carrano as his super strong sidekick, Angel Dust. Skrein was adequate and, allegedly, a huge nerd who was thrilled to be involved in this movie but I don’t even know why Carrano was there. She is an impressive looking “buff lady,” to be certain, but she has the acting chops of a wooden plank. Next time around, if there is a next time, I’m crossing my fingers for villains with a little more substance.

All things considered, I left the theatre with a sense of bewilderment. I wasn’t sure if I enjoyed it at all. The more research I did for this piece, however, the more the film grew on me. While Deadpool has ample gags, about a million Easter eggs, and a lot of delightfully gratuitous shots of Reynolds and Baccarin having aggressive sex as an aside, the Deadpool costume was built with a fake muscle layer underneath the spandex; Reynolds was so ripped by the time they filmed that they had to take the fake muscles out because he looked comically muscular… just let that sink in for a minute), my experience confirms the suspicion I had going in: Tim Miller’s Deadpool is a well thought-out, honest adaptation of the Deadpool comics, but it resonates much better with fans who are in on the joke than the clueless, perhaps pumpkin-spice-latte-drinking, general population.
– Danny McMurray has a B.A. in English Language and Literature with a minor in Anthropology from the University of Western Ontario. She is particularly enthusiastic about science fiction, horror movies, feminism, video games, books, opera, and good espresso – all of which she can find in spades in her home base of Toronto, Ontario. 

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