It’s barely February and already the Marvel juggernaut continues unabated with its latest big-screen addition to the spandex roll-call, except this time we have a R rated twist to the sequential panel storytelling that is quite a foul-mouthed fulmination true believers. For the most part the character of Deadpool was an unknown to me, he arrived guns ablazing on the scene after I stopped reading comics on a regular basis, and from a distance the inclusion of a wise-cracking assassin was hardly breaking the traditional post Dark Knight Returns grim and violent 1990’s graphic novel mould. In that sense I have no baggage, no ‘it’s not like the comics’ nerd-rage tedium to taint the opinion of what I found to be a largely amusing and entertaining romp, a mischievous melee which manages to annihilate that acidic aroma of Reynolds relationship to the terrible Green Lantern picture from a few years back. If I’m honest those initial trailers for the film left me rolling my eyes in faux exasperation, but I needed an alternative to the grievous subject matter of the other two movies we have circling in the airspace, and some of the conclusions oozing out of various social media faucets seemed to suggest this could be an entertaining aside. The Marvel marketers have also pulled an amusing coo by programming this against Valentine day’s weekend as Deadpool, as its titular character voiceover asserts is in many ways a love story. Well, when I say love story, I mean love story that follows a rather non-traditional pathway of boys meets girl, girl meets boy, boy contracts terminal cancer and submits himself to a horrific secret medical procedure which leaves him a wretched and ragged shadow of himself whom is immune to pain and regenerates shattered tissue as he mercilessly hunts and exterminates down the members of the shadowy syndicate whom have subjected him to this horrific fate.
If that sentence was a little breathless and overwrought then you’ll forgive me for aping the film itself in such a meta-textual way, as it opens in a balletic mid-combat title sequence where the traditional credits have been supplanted by descriptions of the roles from Deadpool’s perspective, hence ‘Produced by a couple of Douche Bags’, ‘Starring A British Villain’ and ‘Also Starring A Dumb Sidekick’ set the framework for the general direction of travel. We are thrust into the midst of the second act transition to the climax, where after a quick action beat chaser our wise-cracking guide Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds) provides through flashback his origin story, sliced by frequent asides to camera, whip crack montages and frequent shattering of the fourth wall, all fostering a general disregard for genre credentials in a boisterous charge that sustains momentum throughout the movie. As an ex-mercenary type Wade is the aforementioned guy who robs from the bad guys in order to maintain his own degenerate lifestyle, a path that changes when he meets Vanessa (Morena Baccarin, best known for Homeland and that terrible V reboot from a few years back) at the seedy bar that his friend Weasel (T.J. Miller) runs with a hirsute, criminal efficiency. True love and frequent fucking blooms until the cancer raises its ugly head, leading Wade into the arms of a shadowy cabal. These swine subject him to a torturous experiment that disfigures his body but leaves him with accelerated healing powers, setting him on a righteous path of vengeance, punctuated by bone shattering violence, wank gags and frequent Marvel legendarium in-jokes – and a couple of third tier X-Men appearances…..
I don’t think it was unreasonable to assume that this could have been some obnoxious frat-boy of a movie judging by some of that trailer content, and with Van Wilder Party Liaison himself in the driving seat I believe my caution to be justified. They obviously caught me on a good day as I cackled like a tickled wraith throughout Deadpool, I relished the squelching violence and let the flow of risqué quips and convention buggering bulldozer demolish my snooty objections, while the light scattering of in-jokes wasn’t as possibly onerous as a sandpaper dildo, just to steal another line from our potty-mouthed protagonist. With a Shane Black inspired machine run ratio the various eviscerating beats land with a 70% to 80% accuracy, and even that perennial failure of the Marvel brand, a toothless charisma void of a main villain, didn’t particularly wound the film by evidently being grown in some Jason Statham clone tank. Crucially the action is well choreographed and reasonably inventive, and the appearance of comic book characters like Colossus power drives enough weight to lift the attention from Reynold’s hyperactive histrionics. Where it might be most subversive is with its structure, not to get to boring or academic but running the origin movie requirements movie in voiceover attuned flashback from the second to third act transition worked quite well, and broke up the linear original story template in a fresher, more engaging fashion than this particular strain of films usually attempt.
It took a few hours for the penny to drop that the appearance of the two lower tier X-Men and associated in-jokes results from the rights to the main characters being bound to another studio – this a Fox production, not Disney who no doubt would have recoiled at such a disgusting expression of corporate ambition. This brings to light the total lack of explanation of Deadpool’s connection to Xavier’s school for gifted pupils and the entirely new (to me) character called Negasonic Teenage Warhead, a sobriquet that I thought was another deeply buried in-joke, but no, she’s just another z-tier character whom they thought would be funny to render on-screen. But I digress, just as our narrator does in the picture before catering off on some new wet sliced woes. For all the films proud rule breaking it still struggles in giving the character of Vanessa any effective agency, so it was a shame to see her slip away from the narrative until the final, inevitable damsel in distress clustered climax. Closing a film on some furious set-piece structured showdown isn’t exactly original but these are minor quibbles, as overall I loved that Deadpool is that rare beast which really seems to throw caution to the wind and confidently express ‘fuck it, let’s go’, so for me its closest ally in attitude and tone must be something like Dredd or even Team America:World Police. Not that I was particularly seeking any clues but I didn’t even notice the hand of any specific director, auteurist led aficionado that I am, so the news that this was some talented Second Unit / SFX guy who has been given the step up wasn’t surprising, as visually it still cleaves to that gleaming Marvel identikit aura, that bright and clearly defined digital ambulation. It’s some of the specific turns that still leave me chuckling – the ‘mask’ reveal, the corpse semaphore – two incidents that individually have within them more wit and genuine subterfuge than the entire run-time of Kick-Ass or the genuinely disgusting Kingsman movie whom both pretend to wallow in the same subversive space – god, I fucking hated that movie.
Still here? Well I think we’ve finished and there isn’t much else to say? Well, if you insist I suppose we could take a cursory look at the state of the industry with yet another big scoring superhero picture, based on a pre-existing media entity. By my reckoning 90% of this Superbowl montage is reboots and remakes, and I assumed that that odd Turkish Airlines corporate interjection was a fucking skit until with growing horror I realised it was genuine, as was the shameless pilfering of the iconic Fight Club visual – you can justify replicating comic panel compositions all you like Snyder, but that is just….well, my initial reaction is disgust. In a recent S&S article the landscapes of reboots, reimagining and sequels was explored, with the usual and expected positions floated – Hollywood and the industry worldwide has been in the business of xeroxing success since the two-reelers were a blazing technological breakthrough, thus there is nothing new here. What was more interesting was the slow change in the gender and racial composition of the protagonists (Hunger Games, The Force Awakens) that seems to be slowly changing, and the four quadrant chasing that Deadpool may already have eviscerated, that an incredibly successful film has to be family friendly to be successful, at the expense of the wider richness and diversity of the subject matter mustered by the industry. Naturally the initial reaction has been to green light R rated fare now the almighty dollar has mitigated the fiscal risk, and that didn’t take long now did it? For me this not in the top tier but certainly in your B grade superhero fare, not as originally satisfying as Guardians, or parts of The Avengers or The Winter Soldier, but I’m glad they are carving out space for R rated material which might just save a increasingly yawn inducing genre. In the spirit of Mr. Pool I’d like to provide a hesitant link to this skit and warn that it is extremely NSFW and likely to offend due to its dark subversive wit, a piece from Comedy Bang Bang precursor Comedy Death Ray which might be the kind of sketch our hero would enjoy as he embarks on his claret soaked carnage. What will be dredged up next? Well true believer I’m waiting for that impossible sounding Turk Luis Guzmán starring spin-off, but who knows, anything is possible, as the obliterating onslaught of omertà obligated objectives obviates all objections – erm, excelsior?