Film Review – Deadpool (2016)

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Deadpool (2016)
Directed by: Tim Miller
Written by: Rhette Reese & Paul Wernick
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Ed Skrein, T.J. Miller, Morena Baccarin

Runtime: 108 Minutes         
   

On the way to the cinema, I still wasn’t sure whether Deadpool was right for me, I was looking forward to seeing an R-rated (BBFC 15 in the UK) superhero film on the big screen, having been a big fan of adult superhero films like Blade, The Punisher and elements of Zach Snyder’s Watchmen adaptation. On the other hand I felt that, free of censor’s eye, the film would be nothing more than a collage of pop-culture references and crude, frat-boy humour. Adding fuel to the fire, I felt that the many X-Men films had failed to recreate the social commentary and unashamed camp energy of the comic books, with X-Men: Origins being the final nail in the coffin for the ill-fated franchise.

Despite my apprehensions, I enjoyed Deadpool much more than I thought I would. Tim Miller has done a great job bringing the core essence of the character to life, for one thing,  Deadpool is much more accessible than most superhero films and you can go in blind, not knowing anything about X-Men or the original source material. The main selling point of Deadpool is Ryan Reynolds faithful second turn at the ‘merc with a mouth’. Reynolds embodies the character and it is clear that he has a deep connection to the character, having publicly voiced his disappointment with Deadpool’s portrayal in Origins. His passion for this project clearly shows in his credit as a producer and his part in the vocal (and highly successful) marketing of the film.

With such an interesting and camera-hogging character, most of the other characters: including  punky teenage X-Men Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), Deadpool/Wade Wilson’s girlfriend, Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), are quite forgettable and are eclipsed by Deadpool himself. The only stand-out character is Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapičić), he was always one of my favourite characters and it was great to see him used properly, appearing as a good-hearted if somewhat naïve figure instead of the under-utilised background figure as seen in X2 and Days of Future Past.  The cast deliver solid performances, especially the cowardly Weasel (T. J. Miller) but at the end of the day, the film is so dominated by its titular character. For those who love the character this will be a massive draw but for anyone else looking for some substance or a cohesive story may walk away feeling a bit short-changed.

Like a lot of superhero flicks, the villain is rarely as interesting as the hero, and Ajax (Ed Skrein), the antagonist of Deadpool is a disappointment, nothing more than a generic pantomime villain. A real waste because they could have had such a wacky antagonist to rival Deadpool’s shtick.

Much like Deadpool himself, the film is self-aware and tongue in cheek (there’s a great Green Lantern bit) which means sometimes it feels aimless, but at the right times it breaks free of the predictive origin story tropes that most of us have grown to hate. It certainly feels fresh and there are many graphic set-pieces I am sure will become iconic and well-watched in the near future.  On a more positive note, you don’t often get a sense of fun and playfulness with comic book movies as they often fail to mix fantasy with real life drama, highlighted in films like The Green Lantern and The Fantastic Four movies. The film is very funny and filled to the brim with jokes and visual gags but I do worry that it may become dated in a few years as much of the humour is based around contemporary popular culture, would jokes about Instagram, Mama June and Twitter still have some relevance in a five years? I’m not sure either. I laughed the most when Deadpool broke free from the age-old clichés of the genre, e.g. breaking dramatic tension by cracking an ill-times joke.

Some circles have called Deadpool a “marmite” film, which I don’t disagree with, I believe it’s been made for a particular audience of young adults rather than for a generic adult crowd, a film for a generation that has grown up with Call of Duty, stylized violence and ‘internet humour’. Deadpool should be praised for its energy and refreshing direction, and for once, a superhero film which actually resembles the comic book it is based on.

 Deadpool (2016) on IMDb