Warning–this article will contain SPOILERS!
So this was an interesting film to review for me. When it was first announced last year, I honestly had very little interest in going to see Deadpool. However, one of my friends was really looking forward to it, whether out of curiosity or genuine interest I’m not sure, but the trailers did seem pretty funny so I decided it might be worth a look, if only to find out what all the fuss was about.
As the release date closed in however, the marketing for this film became virtually inescapable. Back in October I went to see the James Bond movie Specter with my mom and Granddad and there was a trailer for Deadpool in front of it. Now, neither of them watch R-rated movies on a regular basis and my Granddad has absolutely no interest in superhero films at all, yet they both wanted to go and see it. That’s how entertaining the trailers were!
So the release date arrived, and people were raving about this film even the week before, declaring it to be a whole new kind of hilarious super-hero film that would revitalize the genre. I bought a ticket and went to see it with my brother-in-law. The theater we went to see it in was packed, with a line that literally went out the door. We sat down to watch and when I came out…I was disappointed. Why?
Well, first lets discuss who and what Deadpool is.
Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) is a foul-mouthed low-level gun-for-hire who falls in love with a prostitute/stripper named Vanessa (Morena Baccarin). They’re starting to build a life together when Wade finds out that he has stage 4 Cancer pretty much everywhere. Having no other options he accepts a deal for a cure from a shady guy in a lab coat calling himself Ajax (Ed Skrein). Ajax cures him and makes him effectively immortal but the transformation leaves him disfigured. He destroys Ajax’s lab but the villain escapes in the process. Wade then goes on a quest of revenge against Ajax and his group, becoming the costumed anti-hero Deadpool.
Let’s start with the good things.
I know very little about Deadpool beyond his extremely overzealous fanbase and basic characteristics: the red hood, his ability to regenerate any lost limb or injury, his sarcasm and sense of humor toward heroes in general, and that his name is Wade Wilson. From what I saw in this movie however, Ryan Reynolds is Wade Wilson. He seems to be perfectly at ease with the role of the fast-talking low-life mercenary that Deadpool is. His performance in the softer-moments of the film (what few there are) feels genuine and his higher-pitched voice is so cartoony that it makes his many quips that much easier to laugh at.
Speaking of laughs, much of my audience was guffawing throughout a large portion of this film. I’ll admit there were a lot of moments that I personally didn’t find funny but plenty of people in my audience did. That doesn’t mean I didn’t laugh at all in this movie, just that I laughed a lot less. But when this movie did get me, it hit me really good. There were a couple moments when I was literally in tears, I was laughing so hard. I’ll sum my favorite moments up real quick: Colossus vs. Deadpool and the Zamboni incident.
The plot of the movie—while pretty basic and rote—is nice and easy to follow, in spite of flashbacks, which means more time for jokes. When a lot of movies today have complex plots about all the things our main character has to do to get what he wants or needs, it’s nice to have a film that is less about the end goal and is more about how much fun can be had getting there.
That philosophy is embodied in the opening credits and the first ten to fifteen minutes which are, in my opinion, the best part of the film. It’s pretty much all hilarious action with Ryan Reynolds going all out as Deadpool against a caravan of goons. The action is gorgeously shot and there isn’t a bit of “shaky cam” to be found as he deals with the goons one-by-one, quipping all the way. It’s a super-fun sequence to watch even if it is a bit gruesome at times.
Sadly, that brings me to the things the movie doesn’t do so well.
I just mentioned how the action in the first sequence of the movie is so well done, which is why it’s so frustrating that most of the action in the rest of the film is pretty lackluster, especially in the finale. The funny thing is that the sequences are not bad, per se, so much as they are boring after the amazing opening sequence. I think if the movie had ended with the opening sequence then I might feel a lot better about this than I do. But this is how they made it.
In many ways that’s kind of a microcosm of the film itself. Moments of brilliance mixed with stuff that just feels average at best, especially when compared to those moments of brilliance.
I also didn’t feel like the romance with Wade and Vanessa worked. There’s a scene towards the beginning where they’re playing in an arcade and talking about how messed up their respective lives are. You see them bonding over the irony of how terrible their lives seem to be. It’s a great scene and one I wish we could have seen more of. Unfortunately, that’s all we get and it’s not enough to make their tragic romance work in the context of the story. We have Wade telling us about how much he loves Vanessa, especially after he learns he has cancer, but that doesn’t make us feel like he loves her. It’s a case of telling instead of showing, and no, love scenes don’t count. Those are just there for padding and don’t add anything to the movie whatsoever.
Speaking of adding nothing to the movie, lets talk about our villain, Ajax. Ajax is a complete waste in this movie and in all honesty, there isn’t a lot to him. He’s sadistic and he has no sense of humor, and…that’s about it. He can’t feel pain so I guess that’s something but what fun is a villain who can’t feel anything? There’s even a line in the movie where he says, “Now I feel nothing”. There’s nothing to make us care why he is Wade Wilson’s arch-enemy other than he tortured him in the lab. You could put anyone in that position and the audience, excepting the hard-core comics fans, would never know the difference.
Furthermore, he’s not even clever in how he deals with Deadpool. At one point in the film he kidnaps Vanessa to use against Deadpool. How does he botch it? Instead of using her as leverage to make Deadpool, I don’t know, maybe swallow a grenade or something equally intelligent, Ajax tries to kill her right there on the spot. Deadpool stops him after about fifteen seconds. His plan B? Axes. Sure, against a guy who we see regrow entire limbs. Marvel movies in general have had a rough time coming up with good villains—which is why the X-Men are still fighting Magneto to this day—but Ajax is I think one of the worst villains I’ve ever seen. And here’s the worst part. He drags Deadpool down with him. Yes, Deadpool is supposed to be mostly for laughs but he’s still a character on a mission, and he’s immortal. If he’s not challenged it ultimately makes him a less memorable character.
So, are these negatives why I was ultimately disappointed in the film? Actually, no.
The negatives certainly contributed to my disappointment but they don’t make the film unwatchable, far from it. The real reason for my disappointment comes from the expectations that I had going into this film. When I went to go see it, there was a lot of hesitation in my mind. Before it came out this film was being touted as being a super-hard R-rated smorgasbord of foul-mouthed crude humor and action-violence. Even when a petition went out to make it PG-13 so kids could see it, the filmmakers declared that it had to be rated R, as though they were proud of that rating for a Deadpool movie. “That’s who Deadpool is”, ran across the internet “He should be rated the hardest R possible”.
But when I came out of the theater, I strangely didn’t feel like I had seen the worst that an R-rating could provide. Make no mistake, there was definitely some stuff in it that should never reach the eyes or ears of children, or some adults for that matter. But it wasn’t as graphic or as horrible as I had feared. Now, I’m not a guy who goes to R movies on a regular basis but I have seen some pretty rough films in my time and this wasn’t one of the worst at all.
Remember how I talked about the love scenes feeling like padding? Well to be honest, a lot of this movie is padding. It’s like getting a huge box from your aunt for your birthday and you open it to find a new phone surrounded by those little Styrofoam peanuts that get all over the carpet. You love the phone but you were expecting something more impressive. Moments of brilliance wrapped in average or downright mediocre packaging. That padding makes the film feel unfocused and so takes away from the overall viewing experience. However, overall if you don’t mind sifting through all the peanuts, and some rough language, sexual content and violence, there is definitely some enjoyment to be found.