By: Samar Khan
“A gratuitous cameo.” “Directed by an overpaid tool.” “Produced by ass-hats.” These are just some of the quotes that pepper the intro credit sequence for Deadpool and give the first glimpse into the self-referential ‘superhero’ film we receive.
Think about all of your favourite comic book films over the years, change their rating from a PG13 to a hard R and add in the most meta of references and crass humour one typically associates with 12-year-olds on Xbox Live and you get something that should not work yet exceeds all expectations: Deadpool.
Before I get started, here’s a question for all of you. Jump into your memory banks and think about the last time a ‘superhero’ film – I’ll explain the conservative use of the word below- actually contained an expletive that wasn’t Hugh Jackman’s singular flipping off in X-Men: First Class. It will take you quite a bit of poking around because that’s not something one would typically associate with a film in this genre. Deadpool subverts what the commonly accepted idea of a superhero film is and, in moving away from the norm, presents to us a future where the comic book spectrum won’t be solely gritty (DC Cinematic Universe) or more upbeat and aimed at all audiences (Marvel Cinematic Universe).
Easily the greatest appeal of the Deadpool comics (and of the film) is its utterly brilliant meta jokes that poke fun at all manner of stories in some of the best 4th-wall-breaking moments captured on screen. I’ll be keeping the spoilers to a minimum so as to entice you to go into the theatres, so don’t fret about anything potentially being ruined as you read onwards. Anyways, on to the actual film. Ryan Reynolds stars as Wade Wilson, a wise-cracking tough guy of sorts that falls in love with Morena Baccarin’s Vanessa, herself a fairly street smart lady. As the trailers emphasized repeatedly, Wilson finds out he has cancer, partakes in shady treatment attempts with characters that are as villainous in appearance as they are in motives (seriously, some creativity would have been nice in regards to the “bad guys”) and is turned into a man with unbelievable powers when all goes awry. Cue revenge against the man who did to Wilson and add on a relentless onslaught of over-the-top action and even more over-the-top humour. Keep in mind, Deadpool is not a superhero (something the character alludes to throughout the duration of the film) per se, which is a wise design decision on Marvel’s part, as they create a character that can be more expressive than the rigidity expected of a typical superhero. Going in, don’t expect a superhero film; rather, enjoy the adventures of a wisecracking anti-hero.
Credit Reynolds for taking what is a very cliché and lazy origin story and making it enjoyable, with his performance as Deadpool the easy highlight of the film. It’s not hard to see why he campaigned so hard for nearly 10 years to get this film made, as he seemed destined for such a role. He lends a very human aspect to the character before his eventual mutation and upon the drastic biological change, his potty-mouth nature is immensely enjoyable as it is clear he was having the time of his life portraying the character, with his enthusiasm infectious as was evident with the crowd in our audience laughing heartily at the majority of his jokes and gestures.
Baccarin is also a pleasant surprise, managing to overcome the reservations some had about her in a film of such a nature with her roles in Showtime’s Homeland and Joss Whedon’s Firefly leading to people associating her with characters that wouldn’t normally be caught dead rubbing shoulders with the raunchiest of people. Her chemistry with Reynolds is a treat to watch, as some of their scenes result in the sort of zany comical outcomes that one would associate with Deadpool. When the script required her to bring a more human and emotional side to her character, she shined nearly as bright as her co-star in Reynolds. T.J Miller is hit-and-miss as Weasel, the bartender/friend of the film’s hero, with some of his humour being absolutely spot on but there being some instances where it drew nary a chuckle due to awkward placement in the story. His character’s effect was lessened considerably by the fact that the majority of his best jokes were given away in the initial trailer, resulting in more muted responses upon his delivery of said lines when our fellow audience members viewed the film. Fortunately, he played well off of Reynolds and a future with more of the duo is one, audiences will no doubt be looking forward to.
The weak link of the film arguably was the villainous pairing of Ed Skrein (as Ajax/Francis) and Gina Carano (as Angel Dust). Skrein is a talented actor, as his brief stint as Daario Naharis in HBO’s Game of Thrones can attest to but he lacks the charisma and gravitas you would expect from the villain of a blockbuster film. His character had a few very solid lines (cleverly pointed out by Reynolds’ Deadpool) in one of his 4th wall breaking segments but lacked the believability and menacing nature one would expect of a villain tasked with squaring off against the nigh-immortal Deadpool. Not helping matters was Carano, whose Angel Dust character was an uber-powered henchwoman for Skrein’s Ajax yet was about as fun to watch as watching paint dry. Her acting inexperience has been on display since she made the transition over from the world of MMA and she lacked the menacing nature a lead henchwoman should have that was illustrated beautifully by Antje Traue in Man of Steel. Her acting matched her portrayed physical prowess on screen and she was believably cast as someone that could reasonably beat her cousin, Superman, to a pulp. Carano failed to present a similar stature and thus, her character struggles to connect with audiences.
Not that Skrein and Carano were the only weak links amongst the cast, as there were other issues amongst the supporting cast. The CG character, part of the X-Men Universe, Colossus, was a disappointment as well, with his voice actor (Stefan Kapicic) given the kind of lines that contrasted with the rest of the film. The CG used for his character was inconsistent as well, with some scenes showcasing the CG character as realistic as can be with other scenes showing some flaws with said CG. That is more a fault on the studio for failing to provide the film with the budget it usually allocates to it’s other X-Men films (some of the digs at the studio within the film poke fun at this in the most hilarious of ways) but is something that noticeably detracts from the experience. Brianna Hildebrand thankfully redeems the X-Men duo, with her performance as Negasonic Teenage Warhead (how badass was this title?) providing many highlights throughout.
Technically, the film was as sound as you can expect. As mentioned, the intro credit sequence was the best in ages for its use of humour juxtaposed with clever camera cutting, and it was complemented by an above-average performance in the cinematography and visuals performance. For the Vancouver subset of our reading audience, you’ll be delighted to see the city show up on screen and the city is home to some insanely fun (yet entirely over-the-top) action sequences that had the majority of the audience laughing (and some walking out). The soundtrack was a delight, with appropriate tunes at opportune times and the use of “Wham!” was great throughout. The film was a labour of love and it showed, with the action and humour helping elevate the work of Reynolds on screen and making the film a pure joy to witness.
So, to recap: Generic origin story, fantastic lead performances, inconsistent supporting performances and mostly fantastic material. For those familiar with the “Merc with a Mouth” as the titular hero is often called, expect to see the comic book persona come to life on screen. For those unfamiliar with the hero but curious as to why there is so much hype, accept that the film will be crass and enjoy what is easily the most enjoyable film of 2016 thus far.
After careful consideration, we at The Film Lawyers have decided to grace Deadpool with a very high grade of B (8.0/10).