Film Review: Deadpool


By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 9 February 2016
Category: Reviews
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There's been much hype and anticipation for this chapter in Marvel's X-Men universe that introduces audiences to Deadpool, an anti-hero who is a fan favourite due to his unpredictable behaviour and twisted sense of humour, which offers plenty of potential for a story that's far from the run-of-the-mill glut that we have been subjected to lately. Unfortunately, the film-makers may have played it too safe....

(Please note that this review contains minor storyline spoilers but if you've seen any of the trailers you already know about everything important that will be referenced here.)

Film Review: DeadpoolDeadpool's appeal for Marvel comics fans is his offbeat humour, erratic behaviour, moral ambiguity, and tendency to break the fourth wall - he is very aware that he is a comic book character. Much of this is due to mental illness so I was interested to see how well this would be handled in the movie.

As an introduction, Wade Wilson/Deadpool (Ryan Reynolds) is a product of the Weapon X programme, the same project that enhanced Wolverine and Sabretooth, but instead of being a mutant who gains additional powers he was just a normal man that the project experimented on to see if it would be possible to give him healing powers similar to those of Wolverine. The experiment went wrong and although he received healing powers it was also revealed that he had cancer that mutated due to the experiment and left him physically disfigured, which he hides with his superhero outfit. His brain constantly changes as the cancer, which now cannot die, attacks it and his healing powers regenerate the damaged areas, thereby causing his erratic nature. Sometimes he is ethical, sometimes he is unethical, sometimes he is gay, sometimes he is straight.... His personality, predilections, and moral compass shift as his brain changes so he becomes everyone, anyone, and no one.

I've already told you more in this introduction to the character, most of which I wrote before I saw the film, than you will learn from the film itself. In an effort to wrap up a neat, simple package for the screen the film-makers have dumbed down much of this interesting back story - so much so that fans will recognise references and moments but the larger meaning will be completely lost on people new to the character.

Film Review: Deadpool

The film takes place in the same universe as the X-Men but the only real nod to this, besides fourth wall jokes about Wolverine and Hugh Jackman, are the appearance of a rather empty Xavier's School For Gifted Youngsters and the appearance of Colossus (Stefan Kapičić and Greg LaSalle) and Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand). The fact that the school is devoid of life is played for laughs (there aren't even any background extras, just the two X-Men floating around by themselves in the massive building) but it's just one of many moments that make the city feel lifeless.

(Others include two massive - and, frankly, exceptionally violent - battles that cause a massive amount of destruction and yet no first responders, ambulances, or law-enforcement officers ever appear, even though the characters spend ages after the battles wandering around talking nonsense. The only really colourful areas are the bar, tended by Wade's best friend Weasel (TJ Miller), where the mercenaries pick up jobs, and Deadpool's apartment that he shares with Blind Al (Leslie Uggams), who deserves far more screen time.)

Film Review: Deadpool

In the Marvel comics canon Weapon X is a disaster, often leaving participants with psychological or physical damage, so those affected were then shipped off to a hospice, where scientist Doctor Killebrew secretly conducted further experiments on them in the Workshop with the help of his enforcer/assistant Ajax, who doesn't feel pain because the doctor has removed his nerves. Ajax later also receives enhanced strength, speed, and agility as the result of experiments and due to implants.

In the movie there is no Weapon X, just the Workshop, and no Doctor Killebrew - Ajax (Ed Skrein) is the star, assisted by Angel Dust (Gina Carano), another mutant from the Marvel universe who is inexplicably thrown into this storyline for no purpose except to be useful in a fight later against Colossus. Her actual story is quite interesting but you'll hear none of it here. Instead Angel Dust is the typical silent, scowling, right-hand (wo)man whose presence is wasted and pointless.

In the film's version of the Workshop people with potential latent mutant abilities are coerced into admitting themselves before discovering that inhumane experiments are performed in unsanitary conditions to try to get their mutant abilities to manifest, often resulting in the death of the candidate. This version of Ajax is, himself, a product of the Workshop (that's how the film-makers explain his inability to feel pain, although it isn't really explained as to whether he has his other powers).

Film Review: Deadpool

Wade, having discovered he has incurable cancer, checks himself into the Workshop after being invited to do so. He would rather roll the dice with whatever the Workshop might offer than experience an excruciating, debilitating slow march to death in the arms of his beloved, Vanessa Carlysle (Morena Baccarin), so he walks away from his life to spare her this experience. (Incidentally Vanessa is another character with an interesting back story that you won't find here but perhaps they're saving it for another movie. Instead she's been reduced to a love interest for Wade who possesses far less agency than the film-makers realise.)

The rest is easy to fathom. Ajax, assisted by Angel Dust, sadistically performs experiments on Wade, and the inevitable occurs: his latent mutant ability activates and he receives a healing ability, effectively making him immortal, but at a price - horrible physical disfigurement that makes Wade believe that he'll never be able to integrate into society.

Film Review: Deadpool

However - so exciting - he still has his sense of humour! (In the film the humour doesn't manifest from Deadpool's changing brain; it's Wade's original sense of humour.) Unfortunately Deadpool doesn't come across as mentally unwell - he's just snarky and now breaks the fourth wall. He isn't visibly dealing with a brain that's constantly remapping itself, thereby constantly changing his personality and making his behaviour unpredictable. This would have been a fantastic topic to explore.

Instead, Deadpool doesn't do much that's morally ambiguous until right at the end of the film in a moment that's, unfortunately, played for laughs with a punchline that is so obvious so far ahead of time that you just wish they'd get it over with. Even so, because of who and what you don't really care about his decision - some people may not even see anything wrong with his choice.

I would argue that he really isn't Deadpool - he's just a disfigured Wade in a mask who wants revenge for being made to look so unappealing that he's sure Vanessa will reject him forever. It's formulaic and boring: take away Wade and Deadpool's wisecracks (which aren't going to appeal to everybody anyway - I thought that Morena Baccarin delivered most of the few good lines in the film) and there's nothing interesting here.

Ironically some of the advertising for this film trumpets it as a love story in an intentional sendup of traditional romantic comedies (Sunday is Valentine's Day) but this movie actually is a love story. Wade spends the first half meeting the girl of his dreams and falling in love and the second half moping around that he's lost her forever - to the point where it just becomes annoying. We also see him with his mask off often enough that his disfigurement becomes normalised and you don't see it anymore. It stops being an issue to everyone but Wade.

Film Review: Deadpool

I'm tired of superhero movies but this was one instance in which it would have been possible to do something completely different. It's evident that the film-makers thought they had, due to the non-disclosure agreement I had to sign ahead of the screening. They're wrong. They could have made any number of off-the-wall, non-sequitur storylines filled with chaos and confusion. (I would have loved to have seen even half of what's depicted in this fake-spoilers post.)

Instead, the fans get their snarky humour but to people who aren't that familiar with Deadpool they've put together a clichéd, run-of-the-mill superhero (love) story whose few included nuances will only be understandable to fans - and that's a shame. I think the filmmakers played it safe and missed a number of opportunities - but they don't realise that they did.

Film Review: Deadpool

Deadpool is written by Rob Liefeld and Fabian Nicieza (character) and Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick (screenplay), is directed by Tim Miller, and stars Ryan Reynolds, Morena Baccarin, Ed Skrein, TJ Miller, Gina Carano, and Brianna Hildebrand.

The review screening was courtesy of Times Media Films.
Deadpool opens worldwide on 12 February 2016.

Tags: #comics, #screen, #speculative_fiction



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Rating: 5/10



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