Sunday, February 14, 2016

Deadpool (Film)

As I’ve not so subtly indicated before on this blog, Deadpool, aka the Merc with a Mouth, is my favorite Marvel character to the point where I’m looking at a framed image as I type this. However, I will say now that I will not pretend to be an expert on the character, as I have yet to read all of his material. But I am willing to learn more and have been working on reading more of the early material by Joe Kelly, as well as more of the side content and mini-series. With that out of the way, it’s time to talk about the most unique “superhero” movie yet, Deadpool.

Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a mercenary who has fallen in love with a woman named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). Just as he’s proposed to her, however, he finds out the hard way that he has terminal cancer and agrees to go through Weapon X testing in the hopes of curing his condition. After going through the process, he has instead awakened a latent mutation which allows him to regenerate his cells. He survives an explosion of the testing facility and dedicates himself to hunting down Ajax (Ed Skrein), the mutant who put him through the Weapon X process, so he can remove the hideous scars covering his body and live happily with Vanessa. At the same time, the mutants known as Colossus (Stefan Kapičić) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand) are trying to convince him to change his mercenary ways and put his skills to use as a member of the X-Men.

Perhaps the most interesting thing about the movie is its troubled production. According to an interview with Ryan Reynolds, he had already been slated 11 years ago as the actor who would play Deadpool in a film appearance. After learning this, he read about the character, as well as several issues of the comic, and figured the character would be perfect for the basis of an entire movie. From that point on, he kept asking Fox to make a movie and they continually declined. However, he played Wade Wilson in X-Men Origins: Wolverine with the knowledge that it would be a cameo appearance. But last-minute decisions from a higher-up resulted in changes to the character of Deadpool in X-Men Origins, including the infamous decision to sew his mouth shut, which led to a negative reception of the character’s portrayal among fans. Eventually, the Deadpool movie entered production on and off for a few years, but still couldn’t get greenlit by Fox despite having a script fully written out. During this time, test footage from the film leaked onto the internet and was met with a positive response from viewers, which finally led to the Deadpool movie being greenlit by Fox.

Wade Wilson as he appears in X-Men Origins: Wolverine.

But that’s not all. While it was greenlit, the crew was given the fraction of the budget that would normally go to an X-Men movie, resulting in additional villains and action sequences getting axed; Reynolds has referred to the size of the budget as what would normally be a movie’s “cocaine budget.” Along with Reynolds becoming a Producer on the film, this budget came with the trade-off of the crew being given full creative control of the project. As a result, the crew got to make a “superhero” film with an R rating, which they felt allowed them to go all the way with the character of Deadpool and not pull any punches. In the end, the film has not only received positive reception from critics, but also broke box office records for an R-rated movie and has led to the planned sequel entering production.

The hardship put into making Deadpool a reality has definitely been worth it. The story, compared to many recent Marvel Studios releases, is simple and straightforward. Wade has a clear mission with a clear motivation and there aren’t really any side plots to distract from the main one. Not only is the script very tight, but so is the sense of humor. Though there are a couple places where the sexual humor went a little far (strictly by my own tastes; I won’t fault anyone for thinking differently), there’s plenty of fourth wall-breaking humor and many laugh-out-loud jokes and X-Men-related in-jokes to keep the viewer entertained. It’s rather amazing, really, that a movie like this could play the “superhero” genre straight and yet, quite appropriately, treat it like a huge joke. At the same time, there’s a romance element between Wade and Vanessa that was well-written and interconnected within the main story rather than a side event.

The easy to follow nature of the story extends to the action sequences, which contain excellent choreography and nothing that would really muddle them down. Deadpool’s skills with guns and katana swords are cool to watch, as are the abilities of the other mutants, especially Negasonic Teenage Warhead, who has a very non-standard ability when compared to the rest of the characters. I also have to give credit to the filmmakers for not feeling the need to level a city or a continent, or suck the Earth into a yellow vortex, and instead keeping the damage to within an abandoned junkyard.

The reason I’ve been putting “superhero” in quotes is because Deadpool, as he puts it, is super, but he’s no hero. Rather, he’s a mercenary from beginning to end and would rather kill than spare those in his way. Of course, he also has a good side, as he demonstrates unwillingness to kill innocents or those he doesn’t have a personal beef with. Ryan Reynolds was clearly born to play the role, as he plays the character in a way which perfectly demonstrates his love and respect of the material. At this point, it’s hard to imagine anyone better suited to play Deadpool and Reynolds has found a role that can fully show off his acting abilities.

Ryan Reynolds does a great job as Deadpool.

Morena Baccarin plays her role of Vanessa quite well. Though I’m aware Vanessa is a pre-existing character, I can’t really compare her movie depiction to the one in the comics. However, I can say that Vanessa and Wade had very good on-screen chemistry, which made their relationship believable given the setting. Baccarin is also very attractive herself, which compliments Vanessa’s personality nicely and creates a great love interest for Wade. I also have to give the filmmakers props for giving Vanessa a unique origin for a “superhero” love interest, as she starts out as a hooker with a heart of gold before developing a serious relationship.

Morena Baccarin does a great job as Vanessa.

It’s also quite refreshing to a have a villain in a “superhero” movie who has no redeeming qualities and is unquestionably evil. The movie is very to-the-point with Ajax and Ed Skrein pulls him off very well, which makes his comeuppance all the more satisfying.

Though minor characters, Colossus and Negasonic Teenage Warhead are no less important. The relationship they build with Deadpool in their attempts to recruit him, as well as their contribution to the climactic fight scene, makes them very enjoyable to watch. Humor is also derived from the contrast between Deadpool’s psychotic personality and their clear alignment with the side of good. I also have to give credit to T. J. Miller as Weasel and Leslie Uggams as Blind Al; both characters are very humorous and the actors give great depictions of the characters from the comics.

Colossus (left) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (right) are good foils for Deadpool (center).

Compared with many other recent “superhero” flicks, Deadpool isn’t very special effects driven, though this is very likely due to the smaller budget. Despite this, whatever special effects exist are done excellently and even help contribute to some of the humor, such as a scene where Deadpool’s hand is regenerating and it’s briefly very small. Colossus, who is credited in the opening as “A CGI Character,” shows off exactly where a good amount of the budget went and is rendered in a way that he feels like he’s actually there. His movements have a weight to them and Deadpool learns the hard way that he certainly has mass. Other mutant abilities such as those of Negasonic Teenage Warhead or Angel Dust (Gina Carano) are also rendered very well, particularly since the latter mainly fights Colossus in the climax.

In the end, Deadpool is an excellent movie. A surprisingly good mix of action and romance along with refreshingly mature humor for a “superhero” movie makes for an unforgettable experience. Deadpool fans will surely love this, but I would also recommend it for those who want something different from Marvel and DC’s normal cinematic output. However, parents should be advised that Deadpool is rated R for a very good reason and should only consider taking their children if they feel they can handle very graphic or very adult content. This movie does not shy away from showing what you can’t find in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the currently-being-attempted DC Cinematic Universe, which is part of what makes it so refreshing and fun.

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