Saturday, 13 February 2016
Deadpool (Film Review)
The review you're about to read is from someone who has been a Deadpool reader for the better part of six years now. This is someone who has looked through old issues of his earlier years to his (un)surprising rise to glory with the internet and endlessly quotable lines. As such, this might be a little biased when it comes to how this film is being judged and it might benefit from some existing familiarity with the character. What's the verdict though? This is the single best Deadpool film we could have ever hoped for.
The story is relatively simple on the whole. Wade Wilson is a man, a criminal with something of a heart, who is suffering from terminal cancer. Taking a very curious tip from a dark source which might cure him, Wilson is forcibly tortured by the mutant Ajax to try and ignite his genetic potential. The experiment is a partial success, but disfigures Wilson in the process. Surviving a grueling fight, Wilson dons the mask as Deadpool in order to take his revenge and find the courage to rejoin with his girlfriend.
Okay, it's an origin story, and that's always been kept more towards the background in the comics. Also, yeah, the fourth wall breaking and some of the sheer, utterly insane zaniness isn't quite up there with other material yet, but in this case that's okay. This film's hero is a relatively unknown (even with the internet doing all it can to hype him) character appealing to a mass audience, so they need to ease some people into it. Even the decades old A-list heroes of the Avengers needed their origins told, and what we have here is like Christoper Eccleston's run on Doctor Who. It's toned down to allow new audiences to ease themselves into watching it, while at the same time finding ways to really, truly, appeal to the old fans before gradually ramping its ideas up to max.
The film really goes all out from the start to establish that, yes, this is staying as loyal to the comics as possible. Opening up with a taxi scene and freeway battle which could have been ripped right from the comics, we see Deadpool taking out a horde of foes with his trademark crass behaviour, insanity, bad advice and awkward teaming up with another member of the Marvel universe. In just a few minutes, you pretty much see the full extent of his current incarnation and the high flying nature of the fight scene really helps to embrace the kinetic energy of the comic. Leaping about the place, bending over into the odd suggestive pose, mocking foes and letting off incredibly precision shots, the whole thing establishes him as a surprisingly competent badass right before it subverts that with his more goofball elements. Let's face it, given how often he gets his arse handed to him in storylines, or ends up gored to near death, it would have been unfortunately easy to present him as either grossly incompetent or a downright failure. Instead the film thankfully strikes a near perfect balance between story elements.
Oh, and if you're worried that the marketing campaign was hiding something by focusing on the same bits over and over again with re-dubbed footage? Yeah, the only thing it was hiding were the even better bits of those scenes. Really, there's a surprising amount they managed to keep remarkably well hidden right up to the film's release. A wise choice which allows it to still hit hard even with audiences who had been keeping up to date with the trailers.
What might surprise some people is actually how the fourth wall breaking is most prominently used. Quite often Wade talks to the audience itself, but it's usually saved for flashbacks, info-dumps or just bringing people up to speed on events. This turns up a lot more than you would think as the film follows a very non-linear narrative path, starting in the middle before flashing back to build up what's happened so far. It's through this mixture of background scenes, montages and the like that you're given a full impression of his life by just skimming over the key events. While certainly flippant in its own way and skimming over some of the more crucial stuff you would expect, this actually manages to make it easier to get through. Lacking some of the heavy-handed elements seen in Man of Steel or similar films, it's easier to breeze through and surprisingly more impact as a result. Blasphemous as it might sound, one humourous montage left me with more of an understanding Wade and Vanessa (his girlfriend) than several long scenes between Clark and Jonathan. Bear in mind, this is coming from a rare guy who actually liked Kevin Costner in the role.
It goes without saying that this is a part Ryan Reynolds was born to play, and he utterly nails it here. Retaining a near pitch perfect blend of humour, sarcasm, borderline insanity, snark and occasional rage, he's one of the few big name actors who could truly pull off the character. While Nolan North is the undisputed master of the character in animated form, Reynolds is probably the only person who could be trusted to bring this guy to the big screen and get it right. That done, I honestly can't think of anyone who truly does anything drastically wrong. Stefan Kapičić and Andre Tricoteux nail an idealised, if a little boy-scoutish, Colossus, who manages to be closer to his comicbook counterpart in a few minutes than anything seen in several X-Men films. Brianna Hildebrand has a strong, if a bit limited, role as Negasonic Teenage Warhead but still proves to be a fun character, and T.J. Miller's Weasel is the right mix of lowlife and best friend for this kind of film. The only real weak-points are the villains, who are given a very limited role within the film. Gina Carano's Angel Dust is little more than muscle and, while he has a few genuinely chilling moments, there's just not much depth to Ed Skrein's Ajax.
Bottom line - Deadpool is the Hot Fuzz of superhero films, or at least the Fox version of Ant-Man. It's certainly not aiming to be anywhere near as high flying or impactful as its contemporaries, but a strong supporting cast, slick editing, boundless energy and fun protagonist makes this an essential for any genre fan. It might not directly adapt every last thing from the comic but the film's heart is in the right place. So, that money you were saving for The Force Awakens? Yeah, spend it on this film instead to help ensure we get a good sequel.