DEADPOOL Movie Review – R-Rated Superhero Novelty Wears Out Fast
Let’s give credit where where credit is due: The anonymous team behind the genius-level marketing campaign for Deadpool, the latest C- or D-level Marvel Comics superhero to get his or her own (the “her” is still somewhere in the near/distant future) first film in a potential franchise, deserves all the accolades and industry awards they can get. They’ve increased not just awareness of Deadpool the character and the movie, but also stoked interest to an unprecedented degree. Unfortunately (and you knew an “unfortunately” was on the way), that marketing campaign poached not just a few of Deadpool’s best, funniest moments, it poached them all, leaving practically nothing for moviegoers to actually enjoy on their own when they venture into the dark recesses of their neighborhood multiplex. Add to that – or rather subtract from that – a semi-clever, meta-joke premise that grows stale five minutes into Deadpool’s running time and aggressively relentless juvenile humor that grows tiresome ten minutes into Deadpool’s running time, and the result is a flat-out, failure-level disappointment.
But don’t tell that to the fanboys who’ve spent the better part of five or six (or more) months eagerly anticipating the big-screen debut of the Merc with a Mouth, aka, Wade Wilson (Ryan Reynolds, in the role he was reborn to play), aka Deadpool. They’re absolutely primed to embrace the “edgy,” R-rated humor and violence, a not-quite-first-of-its-kind (Kickass got there first almost six years ago, but who’s counting?). And given the dizzying combination of hyperkinetic, physics-defying, slow-motion stuntwork of the first scene – spoiled multiple times via trailers and TV ads – it’s difficult, if not exactly impossible, to argue against them. Making the jump from visual effects to feature-filmmaking, director Tim Miller acquits himself exceedingly well from the get go, pacing the stunt work, verbal one-liners, and cartoon-level violence (albeit with more blood and gore) with admirable verve and energy, not to mention the dynamism typical of a far more experienced director.
One scene, no matter how well directed, however, does not make a film, and once Deadpool goes into voiceover-heavy, flashback mode, Deadpool (the movie) goes into free fall, detailing Deadpool’s origins, first as a mercenary with a heart of gold (insert yawn here, also insert studio note to make Deadpool more “relatable”), his meet cute with Vanessa (Morena Baccarin), a hooker with a heart of gold-pressed platinum, their sexual romps (because dating is for suckers), his eventual diagnosis (terminal cancer), the desperation that leads him into the willing arms of the Brit-accented villain, Ajax (Ed Skrein, atoning for the Transporter reboot debacle apparently), and Ajax’s right-hand (hench) woman, Angel Dust (Gina Carano), minor mutants both, and the extreme medical procedure that activates Wilson’s long-dormant mutant genes. Wilson’s newly activated mutant genes give him Wolverine’s primo regenerative abilities, but they also scar so horribly that he decides to play/pretend dead so Vanessa never has to see his ugly visage in person.
That, of course, leads to a mission of revenge against Ajax (he also wants his face repaired), a surface-deep motivation necessary to keep the negligible plot going between action beats while Deadpool cracks fourth-wall-breaking meta jokes, spits out juvenile one-liners, and cracks heads and spines, sometimes for fun, sometimes because the owners of said heads and spines know something that will get him one step closer to Ajax. Deadpool also has to contend with Colossus (voiced by Stefan Kapicic, under-rendered by a sub-contracting CGI company) and Colossus’s protégé, Negasonic Teenage Warhead (Brianna Hildebrand), a surly, sullen teen. Colossus somehow believes Deadpool should join the relatively sedate, definitely PG-13-rated X-Men (Deadpool smartly thinks otherwise), while Negasonic Teenage Warhead, despite probably the most memorable X-Men ever created, does little except sulk and pout (true to the “teenage” part of her superhero name).
It all culminates in a semi-yawn-inducing battle to end all battles between the forces of not-so-evil and evil, except it doesn’t. While the Deadpool-Ajax conflict receives a resoundingly conclusive ending, the rest feels too short, too brief, a likely consequence of late budget cuts that forced Miller and his two-man screenwriting team, Paul Wernick and Rhett Reese (Zombieland), to find creative ways to work around a suddenly slashed budget. Some moments, like Deadpool being forced to rely exclusively on his twin katanas, are all to the good. Others, like the effects-heavy finale involving a freighter of some kind in mid-construction, aren’t to the good, but at least the finale delivers, however unsatisfactorily, what moviegoers have, for better or for worse, come to expect from the superhero genre. It’s everything spliced between the opening and closing scenes that ultimately feels underwritten, over reliant on Reynolds’ charisma to sell a plethora of desperate, desperately unfunny one-liners (mostly of the put-down, name-calling variety). But hey, we can’t have everything. Sometimes something (an R-rated superhero from the Marvel Comics stable) is better than nothing at all (Deadpool in perpetual development hell).